By Greg Bluestein, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Nick Avila for (CNT) City News and Talk #atlanta-ga
The first Republican rally for control of the U.S. Senate kicked off Wednesday in Cobb County with a visit from U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who appealed to suburban conservatives to turn out in January for Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue.
The Florida Republican didn’t once mention President Donald Trump in his remarks, instead issuing a broader argument for conservatives to return to the polls for the Jan. 5 races against Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock to prevent the nation from hurtling in a “radical” direction.
“Normal people that want to own a home and raise their family in a safe community and retire with dignity and have a country that’s safe and stable and give their children a chance at a better life, they’re going to vote against people that are crazy and want to undermine all of that,” he said.
“That’s what’s at stake in this election. And if we don’t control the U.S. Senate, that is the agenda that’s going to be pushed. If doesn’t even matter if the majority if the Democrats, if you polled them and gave them truth serum, are not in favor of it.”
It was no accident that Republicans held their first event in Cobb County, a once-reliably conservative stronghold that has steadily turned more Democratic.
After narrowly flipping blue in 2016, Joe Biden won the county with 56% of the vote last week. And it’s one of the four Georgia counties that Rubio carried in the 2016 primary when he was competing against Trump for president.
Rubio proved a big draw. Hundreds of supporters, many not wearing masks, crowded the cramped headquarters of the Cobb GOP, tucked into a strip mall outside Marietta. Dozens of reporters and camera crews showed up, too, to capture the first Republican rally of the runoff season.
Ossoff, who launched a socially-distanced tour of Georgia on Tuesday, issued a broadside at the Republicans for the crowded rally. Ossoff spokesman Jake Best called it “incredibly dangerous” to stage an event in the middle of a worsening pandemic.
Perdue did not attend the rally and has not conducted any interviews or staged any events since the Nov. 3 election, when he didn’t appear at his own election-watch party. His wife, Bonnie, told the crowd that Perdue’s “entire life has prepared him for this moment.”
Loeffler, meanwhile, offered a reminder to the crowd that the two different runoffs might as well be the same race. She borrowed one of Perdue’s favorite lines, saying that a vote for Republicans is a vote to ensure “the road to socialism does not run through Georgia.”
“Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi: You’re not going to take Georgia,” she said. “We don’t need high taxes. We don’t need job-crushing regulations. What we need is the American Dream – that opportunity that can lift every single American.”
Rubio had a similar line of attack in his biggest applause line: “To be fair, not all Democrats are socialists. But all the socialists are Democrats.”
Neither political party captured a majority of the Senate in November, meaning the two head-to-head matchups will determine whether Biden can press his agenda in Congress next year or whether Republicans will maintain control of the chamber.
The nine-week campaign is being waged even as Trump and other Republicans are baselessly claiming that voter fraud and irregularities tainted the outcome of the election, even as state officials in Georgia and around the nation say there’s no evidence of any systemic problems with the vote.
Pressed on whether Republican concerns that falsely claiming fraud could wind up backfiring in the runoffs, Rubio called for patience but didn’t directly address the baseless claims of irregularities.
“Everyone needs to relax,” he said, adding: “The process should be allowed to work and in the end, we’re going to have a determination that I want every American to have full confidence in.”