Pence comes to Georgia as calm before potential Trump storm

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Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a briefing on COVID-19 at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Friday, Dec. 4, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

ATLANTA – Ahead of President Donald Trump wading into two high-profile Georgia Senate runoffs this weekend, Vice President Mike Pence on Friday urged Republicans to form a united front in the contests that will determine which party controls the Senate in January.

Pence campaigned Friday with Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, with the GOP roiled by Trump’s continued denial of his own defeat and his baseless attacks that Republican officials in Georgia, including the governor and secretary of state, enabled widespread voter fraud on behalf of President-elect Joe Biden. There have even been suggestions from some Trump allies that conservative voters should sit out the Jan. 5 Senate runoffs in protest, a notion Pence took head on.

“I know we’ve all got our doubts about the last election, and I hear some of you saying, ‘Just don’t vote,’” Pence declared in Savannah. “My fellow Americans, if you don’t vote, they win.”

Democrats countered with their own show of unity, as former President Barack Obama appeared in a virtual rally with Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. Biden, meanwhile, confirmed to reporters in Wilmington, Delaware, where he has based his transition, that he will come to Georgia ahead of the runoffs, though he didn't say when.

The flurry of top-flight surrogates underscores the stakes and why some Republicans remain concerned that Trump's emphasis on his own political prospects threatens the GOP's Senate majority.

“We cannot just sit back and not vote,” Republican Rep. Buddy Carter told those gathered to hear Pence on Friday afternoon in Savannah. “We’ve got to get out.”

Bubba McDonald, a Republican who faces a Public Service Commission runoff election in January alongside the senators, was more direct, imploring Republicans angered over the presidential election to “please get over it” and return to the polls.

Talking to Democrats, Obama struck a different tone, celebrating Biden's Georgia win but warning it's not enough. “Georgia is going to determine ultimately the course of the Biden presidency,” Obama said, reminding Democrats how Sen. Mitch McConnell stymied his agenda as majority leader.