Vice President Pence on Thursday sought to reassure skeptical Georgia voters that it was safe to cast a ballot in the state's upcoming Senate runoff elections, seeking to send the message to conservatives to vote as President Trump has sown doubts about the results of the presidential election.
Pence made his visit to Georgia for the fourth time in recent weeks, explicitly urging voters to take advantage of early voting options, including voting by mail. He read off address of an early voting site in Columbus, noting it’s “right across from the Wal-Mart and a Pizza Hut.”
The vice president has largely taken on the role as chief surrogate for boosting Sens. David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) in their January runoff elections, which will determine control of the upper chamber in the next Congress.
At no point did Pence explicitly acknowledge that President-elect Joe Biden would be in the White House come January. Instead, Pence argued that ongoing challenges by Trump and his legal team to the presidential outcome should not prevent supporters from voting in the Senate runoffs.
"We can fight for our president, and we can fight for more Republicans in the United States Senate at the same time," Pence said. "We’ve been doing both and we’re going to keep doing both, and we’re going to keep making America great again."
The closest Pence came to laying out the stakes of the race came when he referenced Biden's visit to Atlanta to support Democratic Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock.
"I saw Joe Biden was in Atlanta just the other day. He said that we didn’t need to send Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue back to Washington because he said we don’t need two senators that are 'just going to get in the way,' " Pence said.
"Well Georgia, that’s exactly what we need in the United States Senate," he continued. "We need David Perdue to get in the way of higher taxes. We need David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler to get in the way of open borders, socialized medicine, a green new deal or packing the courts."
Trump has been absent from the trail save for one rally he held in Valdosta earlier this month. Trump has otherwise weighed in on the Georgia race mostly to excoriate Gov. Brian Kemp (R) and suggest the state's voting system is untrustworthy.
"What a fool Governor @BrianKempGA of Georgia is. Could have been so easy, but now we have to do it the hard way," Trump tweeted Monday. "Demand this clown call a Special Session and open up signature verification, NOW. Otherwise, could be a bad day for two GREAT Senators on January 5th."
Those comments have raised some concerns in GOP circles that Republicans might not turn out to vote in the Georgia contests because they do not trust the election system.
Those fears were exacerbated with Trump allies Sidney Powell and Lin Wood suggested last month that Republicans in Georgia should sit out the Senate runoffs, citing allegations of fraud in the presidential election. But the Trump campaign's litigation in the Peach State was dismissed, and they have not presented evidence of fraud in court.
Pence worked to smooth over concerns among voters Thursday, insisting Republicans would be on the lookout for potential irregularities.
"You request a ballot, we’re on them this time. We’re watching," Pence said. "We’re going to secure our polls, secure our drop boxes, and you can be confident you mail in that absentee ballot, every single one of them will be confident."
The Senate that will convene in January currently sits at 50 Republicans and 46 Democrats, plus two Independents who align with the Democratic caucus. Should Democrats Ossoff and Warnock win next month's runoff elections in Georgia, the chamber would be split 50-50 and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would serve as the tie-breaking vote.