AILSA CHANG, HOST:
Georgia is at the center of the political world today. President Trump is there tonight for the two Republican senators on the ballot for tomorrow's critical runoff elections. President-elect Biden campaigned this afternoon in Atlanta on behalf of the two Democrats, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, who are challenging Republican senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue.
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PRESIDENT-ELECT JOE BIDEN: This is it. It's a new year. And tomorrow can be a new day for Atlanta, for Georgia and for America.
CHANG: Georgia's runoffs will decide control of the U.S. Senate. And it's all happening just after the explosive release of a recorded phone call this weekend. In it, President Trump can be heard pressuring Georgia's Republican secretary of state to find thousands of additional votes for him and repeating false claims about the election. NPR's Sarah McCammon is in Dalton, Ga., the site of Trump's rally.
SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Hi there, Ailsa.
CHANG: Hi. OK. So we have so much going on in Georgia right now. Can you just step back a little and remind us where we are right now as we are heading into tomorrow's runoffs?
MCCAMMON: Right. This is such an unusual election for so many reasons. And it just keeps getting more unusual, arguably. So first of all, there are two Senate races at the same time. That almost never happens. That's the case right now because of some quirks of Georgia's primary system and also because of a resignation about a year and a half ago from one of Georgia's senators. So you have two incumbent Georgia Republicans on the ballot - tomorrow's runoff ballot - running against two Democrats.
And this is also unusual because it will, of course, as you said, decide control of the U.S. Senate. Republicans need to - want to hang on to both of those seats. Democrats are hoping to pull out of, you know, what would have been seen at one time as a surprise victory. If they can win both of those seats, then Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would be the tie-breaking vote, giving Democrats control of the Senate.
CHANG: Exactly. OK. And normally that alone would make Georgia the center of the political universe. But then this weekend, we just heard that pretty, you know, unforgettable tape - we've been hearing pretty unforgettable tape of President Trump pressuring Georgia's secretary of state to overturn Biden's victory. How is that reshaping these final hours of the campaign? Is it at all?
MCCAMMON: Well, it's certainly in the air. I mean, I think for - I think Democrats would say, and many Republicans as well, that it's putting a cloud over this election for Republicans. And a number of voters - Republican Trump voters - that I've talked to continue to believe the president, even though there's no evidence to back up his claims; they've been debunked repeatedly.
But, yes, Ailsa, that tape, it's remarkable. It's unprecedented, to use a word we use a lot. And it cannot be stated too often that President Trump is going against his own party here. These are Republican elections officials in Georgia that he was on the phone with over the weekend. The governor is a Republican. They've all affirmed the state - the validity of the state's election process. And just this afternoon, Gabriel Sterling, an official with the Georgia secretary of state's office, spoke to reporters about this.
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GABRIEL STERLING: This is all easily, provably false. Yet the president persists. And by doing so, undermines Georgians' faith in the election system, especially Republican Georgians in this case, which is important because we have a big election coming up tomorrow.
MCCAMMON: So as we heard, Ailsa, it's certainly on people's minds heading into tomorrow.
CHANG: That is NPR's Sarah McCammon.
Thank you so much, Sarah.
MCCAMMON: Thank you.
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