Democrats in Georgia say voters are concerned about COVID and getting economic relief above all other issues – and that Donald Trump’s nightly demand for more direct payments helps them with his existing message.
Since the start of the second round of the Senate in Georgia, Democrats and Progressives have told their supporters that there are only three people on the road so that Democrats in Congress have a chance to expand relief and direct assistance efforts in the next session of Congress: Sens. David Perdue, Kelly Loeffler and Mitch McConnell.
Defense groups converged on Georgia last month, when Congress negotiated a major COVID aid program that includes unemployment insurance and business assistance – and a direct payment of $ 600 for those whose income falls below a certain threshold. These payments, which were added to the last agreement after a joint effort by Sens. Bernie Sanders and Josh Hawley, became the last-minute breaking point.
In a video posted on Twitter on Tuesday night, Trump called the $ 900 billion relief bill a “disgrace” and threatened to veto the bill if Congress did not increase direct payments to $ 2,000 out of the proposed $ 600, which he called ” ridiculously low “.
Democrats in Georgia, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, immediately announced that they supported the president’s appeal.
“President Trump is, as usual, erratic and confused. But at this point, tonight, he’s right, ”said Ossoff in a CNN Interview Tuesday night. “$ 600 is a joke. They should send checks for $ 2,000 to the American people now, because people are suffering. ” He added that Perdue objected and obstructed direct payments.
Perdue and Loeffler are now in an uncomfortable position as they campaign to keep their chairs. McConnell reportedly asked Republican senators to support another round of direct payments because Loeffler and Perdue were “being martyred” for months’ delay in aid, as direct payments, to Americans.
In the election campaign and in announcements recently launched after the agreement was announced, Loeffler and Perdue praised the relief bill and highlighted the second round of direct relief that would be issued to Americans.
After Trump’s announcement, Loeffler said the press that she would “look” to support increased direct payments “if that redefines unnecessary spending”. A spokesman for Perdue in the Senate did not respond to comment on whether he supported the president’s request for increased direct payments.
“This key that Trump threw into his plans gave Ossoff and Warnock a chance to remind Georgia voters that they are both on board with the increase in direct payments,” a Warnock campaign spokesman told BuzzFeed News. “In the meantime, Loeffler and Perdue are now in a difficult situation trying to explain why they are pushing for Georgians to have less relief than even Trump is opposed.”
COVID’s expanded relief and stagnation to implement another relief package were already a major point of tension in the run-off elections before Trump’s announcement and the recently approved relief bill.
“We’ve had about 2 million conversations over the course of 2020 and tons of focus groups and tons of research since March,” said Nsé Ufot, the executive director of the New Georgia Project, to BuzzFeed News. “The number one issue in all areas, race, age, gender and geography has been COVID.”
“Our job at this point has been to connect voting with the changes that people want to see around COVID, like health and the economy,” added Ufot.
Progressive groups like the Working Families Party, Sunrise Movement and Georgians for Registration and Increased Turnout (GRIT) have worked on the pandemic and relief efforts on roadmaps and prospecting literature while knocking on doors and making calls across the state.
“The end result, in a very concise way, is that people are struggling. People are unemployed, they don’t have health insurance, sometimes they don’t know where their next meal will come from, and that is sometimes compounded by COVID, ”said Britney Whaley, senior political strategist who runs the Working Families Party prospecting operation in Georgia. “It shows who is suffering the most. People know. They do not need to read a 500-page invoice to know that this is inappropriate. “
She said that the party’s nearly 200 canvassers and its telephone banking program connected candidates to the issue and that they would continue to do so before the race, but many of the Georgians they are talking to have established the connection on their own.
“These two senators were in DC and, in some cases, are creating road blocks and the opposition. It is not difficult to connect that we have two senators who have been in DC for months and that there have been comings and goings while we are fighting for our survival, ”said Whaley. “This is not something we have to say to the average Georgian when we are at his door. This is something they tell us. “
Support for a new aid package was widespread across the country prior to the general election and a New York Times poll found that 7 out of 10 voters supported a new stimulus program while Congress was stalling aid measures. In Georgia, where 3.9 million people have lost their jobs since the start of the pandemic, a mid-November Data for Progress survey found that 63% of likely voters in Georgia’s second round said they were more likely to support a candidate supporting an additional $ 1,200 stimulus check.
In a memo in early December, progressive organizations, including Justice Democrats and Sunrise Movement, urged Democrats to campaign around an independent bill to issue a new round of $ 1,200 checks that would give Democrats “a message. clear about something tangible that the Democrats will do for you “that they believed would help the party win the two runoff elections in Georgia.
Shanté Wolfe, coordinated campaign director for the Sunrise Movement, said they decided to sign the letter to highlight a new strategy to connect their movement with voters in the South while motivating them to go to the polls.
“Sometimes it’s not the message, it’s the messenger,” said Wolfe. “When we’re at the doors and phones, we talk about Ossoff and Warnock and the big picture of this race and how it would guarantee a 50-50 split, and we also talk about utilities and how they are going to pay the bills, which are at the top of the mind of people as we move towards 2021. ”She added that the group will push conversations about the new stimulus bill in the final days of the race.
For groups like GRIT, the effects of COVID on people’s lives have been one of the main issues they talk to voters about when knocking on condo doors, and it is something that concerns voters. COVID’s new relief bill and Trump’s criticisms of it only offer them more talking points.
“I can assure you that in the first person I hit to talk about the election and COVID’s stimulus when I leave the campaign again, I will tell them that this new agreement that was made was nonsense and that we need to do better and not there is no chance in hell that we can do better if we don’t get Warnock and Ossoff, ”Ben Davidson, one of the leaders of GRIT, a hyperlocal organizing group that started knocking on apartment complexes in the rapidly diversifying Atlanta suburbs said to BuzzFeed News before Trump’s announcement.
“This is good for us,” said Davidson in an interview after Trump’s announcement. “It helps people and shows that Loeffler and Perdue don’t have people’s best interests at heart. This does not change anything for us and, if much, gives us more ammunition. “
Warnock and Ossoff made the expansion of COVID’s relief a cornerstone of their campaigns and pushed the spot in ads and the campaign – Congressional Republicans pushed for minor relief checks during COVID negotiations throughout the year. Democrats campaigning in the state, including President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, have characterized the two run-off elections as key to passing any legislation that broadens relief efforts.
“I need two senators from this state who want to do something – not two senators who are just going to get in the way. Because, see, doing nothing just hurts Georgia. See what’s going on in Congress now, ”Biden told supporters at a drive-in rally in Atlanta last week, while listing the political priorities they could help approve with Senate Democratic control.
Ossoff and Warnock’s campaigns see questions about direct payments and requests for expanded economic relief as a benefit to connect the impact their disputes could have on Senate control with tangible results for voters if elected. The campaigns plan to continue to criticize Perdue and Loeffler on the issue in the last days before the election.
“The focus will be on how we can ensure that Georgians get what they need and do not suffer from these agreements and legislation behind the scenes that do not meet the needs of our community,” said a spokesman for Warnock.