They outperformed expectations in the 2020 Senate, House and state legislative races, but Republicans have found themselves in the fight of their lives with Tuesday’s Georgia Senate runoffs, a contest that they warn could keep Democrats in power indefinitely.
Republicans hammered home the point Sunday, warning that Democrats would control the three levers of government — the House, Senate and White House — if they win both Georgia Senate seats, paving the way for the sweeping structural changes and bigger government sought by the left.
“I think these two Georgia Senate races on Jan. 5 are, without exaggeration, the most important Senate races of our entire lifetime,” Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, said on Fox’s “Sunday Morning Futures.” “If we see a Democratic majority, a Chuck Schumer majority, I think they will do generational damage.”
He said he planned to return later Sunday to Georgia to campaign on behalf of Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. Republicans need at least one seat to retain the majority, while Democrats must capture both seats to control the Senate.
If the latter happens, Mr. Cruz warned, “it will empower the extreme angry leftist voices in the Democratic Party.”
“I would say to folks at home, if you are in Georgia, please, please, please come out and bring your friends and your family and your neighbors, because we’re seeing massive Democratic turnout,” the Texan said.
Underlining the urgency: Both President Trump and President-elect Joseph R. Biden are scheduled to make campaign stops Monday. Mr. Trump will lead a rally in Dalton, and Mr. Biden will appear in Atlanta.
The Senate candidates made their closing arguments on the Sunday news talk shows, with one notable exception: Raphael Warnock, the Democrat who is challenging Ms. Loeffler and who has been dogged by a police video of a domestic dispute from March with his now ex-wife.
Ms. Loeffler warned that if the Democrats capture both seats, they would seek to pack the Supreme Court and add Senate seats by, for example, granting statehood to the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, making it “impossible for Republicans to win the majority again.”
“We won’t get a second chance,” Ms. Loeffler said on “Fox News Sunday.” “If we lose this election, we could lose the future of the country because we know Chuck Schumer wants to abolish the filibuster, get rid of the Electoral College, have D.C. statehood, raise our taxes, and the list goes on.”
Democrats, meanwhile, continued to pound Republicans and promote the idea of a “new Georgia.” They also touted their advantage in early voting. So far, 3 million voters have cast ballots, mostly in Democratic areas, fewer than in the November race but a record for a statewide runoff election.
Stacey Abrams, founder of Fair Fight and a former Georgia gubernatorial candidate, said Democrats had “no concern, just a great deal of urgency” about the election.
“We did very well in vote-by-mail,” Ms. Abrams said on ABC’s “This Week.” “We did very well in the early vote. But we know Election Day is going to be the likely high turnout day for Republicans, so we need Democrats who haven’t cast their ballot to turn out.”
Democrat Jon Ossoff, who is challenging Mr. Perdue, credited the “unprecedented movement energy” behind the Democratic candidates for bringing “so many young people into the electorate.”
“We have hired thousands of young people, predominantly people of color, to organize their own communities and their own peer groups,” Mr. Ossoff said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “It feels in Georgia like we are on the cusp of a historic victory that will usher in a new era in American history, after four years of gross incompetence and racism and hatred and bigotry.”
He was challenged by CNN host Jake Tapper about his repeated claim that Ms. Loeffler has campaigned with a Klansman, which Mr. Tapper said was “not true.” A recent CNN fact-check rated the claim as false.
“You said that, quote, Kelly Loeffler has been campaigning with a Klansman, unquote. That’s not true,” said Mr. Tapper. “It is true that a former member of the Klan took a photo with Sen. Loeffler at a campaign event. Her campaign says she didn’t know who he was at the time and she’s condemned him.”
Mr. Tapper added, “I’m sure you’ve taken photos with thousands of strangers. Isn’t it important for candidates to tell the truth?”
A defiant Mr. Ossoff ducked in his reply by saying, “It is, and it’s even more distressing that this isn’t an isolated incident.” He then accused Ms. Loeffler of “campaigning beside radical white supremacists.”
“All right, just to be clear, she wasn’t campaigning with a Klansman. That wasn’t true what you said,” Mr. Tapper said.
Mr. Trump, meanwhile, continued to complicate the race for the Republicans by urging Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes for the incumbent to win a state that was captured by Mr. Biden.
On Friday, Mr. Trump vetoed the National Defense Authorization Act, which both Georgia Republicans supported. The Republican-controlled Senate overrode the veto Friday without votes from Mr. Perdue, who has self-quarantined after being exposed to the novel coronavirus, and Ms. Loeffler, who was on the campaign trail.
“I voted to support the NDAA. The bill that came out of conference was very different from what we’ve been promised,” she said.
Asked by Fox News host Bret Baier whether she would have voted to sustain the veto, she sidestepped the question by saying, “Look, what’s at stake here is our military and our freedoms.
“I have fought for our military and made sure that we get the funding we need, and we are going to continue to do that,” Ms. Loeffler said. “But if we don’t win on Jan. 5, our military will be defunded and worse.”
Another issue: pandemic relief. Ms. Abrams said Republicans have done her party a favor with the congressional fight over $2,000 checks, which both Ms. Loeffler and Mr. Perdue have supported.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, blocked the vote. He said the Senate would “not be bullied into rushing out more borrowed money into the hands of Democrats‘ rich friends who don’t need the help.”
While the early voting trend favors Democrats, Ms. Loeffler predicted that Republican voters would show up in full force on Election Day.
“Georgians are fired up. They are ready to get out and vote on Tuesday because they know the future of the country is on the ballot here in Georgia,” she said. “It’s a choice. It’s a stark contrast between the freedoms, our way of life here in Georgia, or socialism, government control.”
Georgia Republicans continue to worry about voting irregularities after disputes over the November elections. Mr. Perdue said his party has doubled the number of poll workers and added cameras and people to watch drop boxes “to make sure that what happened in November didn’t happen.”
“The big issue here is, there are still Republicans that are upset and mad about what happened in November, as I am,” Mr. Perdue said on “Sunday Morning Futures.” “Look, I don’t think I should be in this runoff if everything had happened the way it should have in November.”
At this point, he said, “the only recourse we have is to get out and fight and rise up and vote on Jan. 5, this coming Tuesday.”
• Dave Boyer contributed to this report.