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President-Elect Biden Could Take Office With His Party In Control Of Congress

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Two weeks from today, Joe Biden takes the oath of office as president of the United States. On this morning, it is possible that Biden could take office with his party in control of both houses of Congress. They needed to win two runoff elections to take control of the Senate, both in Georgia yesterday. The Associated Press now says Democrats won the first race and are leading in the second. Raphael Warnock becomes Georgia's first Black senator. He spoke with our colleague Noelle King on this program this morning.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

RAPHAEL WARNOCK: I was born and raised in the state. And they decided to send a kid who grew up in public housing to the United States Senate to represent the concerns of ordinary people. This is an electorate that has become increasingly diverse. It's the result of work we've been doing for about a decade now. Welcome to the new Georgia. It is more diverse, and it's more inclusive.

INSKEEP: And we turn now to Georgia Public Broadcasting's Stephen Fowler, who's been covering this election for months here. Good morning once again.

STEPHEN FOWLER, BYLINE: Hey, Steve.

INSKEEP: Where do the two races stand? What are the numbers?

FOWLER: So Raphael Warnock is ahead by - about four times as many votes as Joe Biden narrowly won the state last month. And Jon Ossoff is leading against David Perdue, but there are still enough votes out that it's too close to call and that the Ossoff race is within the half-a-percent margin for a recount.

INSKEEP: OK, so that one is still close, although Jon Ossoff has claimed victory. But again, the Associated Press, which we at NPR are following - following their lead because they've got a lot of people on the ground, they have not called the race. It's still too close to call at this point, but clearly a good day for Democrats. And let's talk about that a little bit - 4.4 million people voted yesterday and in the days leading up to yesterday. How does that compare to the electorate in November?

FOWLER: Well, it's actually really, really close to November, which really stunned a lot of people on the ground. Even with the hundreds of millions of dollars in investment and the high stakes of control of the U.S. Senate, a lot of people got out the vote, and much of that was done through early voting and absentee-by-mail voting. And it looks like the difference-maker here is who showed up through those early voting methods. And it seemed like way more Democrats took advantage of absentee by mail, and that ended up giving them this decisive margin.

INSKEEP: Let me ask about one other factor. President Trump has a talent for making news stories all about him, certainly did that in this case on Saturday, right before the election, called Georgia's secretary of state, asked the secretary of state to commit fraud, essentially, and add just enough votes for Trump to win the state in the presidential election. And the Republican candidates avoided that question on the last day or two of campaigning. Is there any sign as to whether all that affected the outcome of this race?

FOWLER: Well, I definitely think the president loomed large over this. Here's one number for you that could give a little credence to it. There was a third race on Georgia's ballot for the statewide public service commission. And the Republican incumbent there, Bubba McDonald, actually got more votes than either Kelly Loeffler or David Perdue, in part because he didn't really run much on President Trump.

INSKEEP: What happened when President Trump visited the state on Monday? Did that change the results at all?

FOWLER: Well, actually, the congressional district that he was at in the 14th Congressional District, a Republican stronghold, was a much lower turnout than some of the other congressional districts in the rest of the state. So it's possible that the president's rhetoric about a stolen election and not trusting in the election system kept some of his strongest supporters home.

INSKEEP: OK, some early conclusions anyway, although we should note the votes are still being counted, and one of the two Senate races is still undecided. Stephen Fowler, thanks so much for your reporting, really appreciate it.

FOWLER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.