Former President Barack Obama urged Georgians to vote in upcoming runoff Senate races, saying the outcomes will “determine ultimately the course of the Biden presidency.”
“You are now once again the center of our civic universe,” Obama told Georgia residents Friday during a virtual rally for Democratic Senate candidates Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.
Both candidates are in high-stakes runoff races for seats that will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate for at least the next two years. In the runoff, set for Jan. 5, Warnock and Ossoff are running against Republican incumbent Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, respectively.
President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be working with a GOP majority in the Senate unless Democrats win both their races in Georgia.
“I know something about the importance of the U.S. Senate,” Obama said. When he was in office, Republican lawmakers repeatedly sought to obstruct legislation key to his agenda, including on immigration reform and expanding access to health care.
Obama also said he had been frustrated by many of his own supporters while in office, saying it seemed as if they felt like they didn’t need to do anything after the presidential election because “we got Barack there.”
“This is not just about Georgia. This is about America, and this is about the world,” he said. “And it’s in your power to have an impact.”
Obama said a Senate led by the GOP could obstruct attempts to “deal with the aftermath of the pandemic.”
The Democratic-led House passed a major coronavirus relief bill, the Heroes Act, in May, but it stalled in the Republican-led Senate. The pandemic has only worsened, with cases and deaths skyrocketing nationwide, but Congress hasn’t passed another relief package since the spring.
This week, the U.S. hit two grim milestones: A record 100,000 Americans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, and the U.S. saw its highest single-day death toll from the virus, with over 2,800 people dying Wednesday.
Former Georgia state Rep. Stacey Abrams, who also spoke during the virtual rally, thanked volunteers for knocking on doors and registering people to vote ahead of the runoff. The deadline for registering to vote for the January elections in Georgia is Dec. 7.
“We did something no one expected: We turned Georgia blue,” Abrams said. Get-out-the-vote efforts from Abrams and other Black women have been widely credited with helping to flip the red state in last month’s presidential election.
Obama similarly sent “a message from the nation that we sure are proud of Georgia.”
“The vote is an expression that what each of us does matters,” Obama said, adding that Americans are too often given the message that they need to be wealthy to have power.
“But the premise of our nation is all people have a voice, all people have power in a government of, by and for the people.”