With the American Presidential election all but decided, even it has not been conceded by President Donald Trump, the action has shifted to the southern state of Georgia, where two crucial Senate seats are up for grabs.
The importance of these contests, which will be decided before 20 January when the inaugural takes place, is that they will determine who controls the Senate. A Republican win will mean that the Joe Biden presidency will be hobbled by a potentially obstructionist Congress.
A Democratic win ~ of both seats ~ would ensure relatively smooth sailing for Mr Biden as he pursues his administrative and legislative agenda to repair what he believes are grievous wounds inflicted by the incumbent. The importance of the contests is underscored by the amount of effort and money both parties are pouring into the campaign.
Reports suggest that in just over four weeks between October and November, the four campaigns received online donations totalling nearly $200 million. More than $300 million will be spent on television, radio and digital advertisements alone.
And already Georgia’s estimated 5 million voters are said to be feeling the heat of bombardment by spam mail, telephone pitches and text messages from one or other of the contestants. One frustrated voter tweeted: “I can’t watch anything without being pounded with political ads. I get it but I am soooooo tired.”
The importance of these elections has drawn star campaigners such as Vice President Mike Pence and former President Barack Obama into the fray, with the latter telling a virtual rally how his initiatives were stymied by a Republican controlled Senate. Mr Obama told voters, “If the Senate is controlled by Republicans who are interested in obstruction and gridlock, rather than progress and helping people, they can block just about anything.”
Reports suggest that Mr Trump, obsessed since last month with somehow overturning the result of the Presidential vote, was initially reluctant to campaign. But now he appears to have been persuaded to pitch in after he was advised that Republican successes would buttress his claims of the Georgia vote having been stolen from him.
A second recount has confirmed that Mr Biden won the state by a margin of over 12,000 votes but the Trump campaign is now calling for a third. While many Republicans will hope that Mr Trump is able to tilt the scales in favour of his party’s candidates, others in the party are worried that if he rails against Georgia officials, including the Governor who he has already described as “hapless” and top election officials, it may backfire.
Already, the Trump narrative of the past four weeks has painted the President as a sore loser, and some in his party fear that if he takes up this well worn thread, it will deflect focus from the critical need to retain control of the Senate to keep a check on the Democrats.