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Control of Congress is up for grabs this fall. Georgia's senator feels the pressure


Democrats are under a lot of pressure. President Biden's polls are sagging. His legislative agenda has stalled, and control of Congress is up for grabs with the midterms this fall. Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock is on the frontlines of that fight as he faces reelection. WABE's Sam Gringlas went to a Warnock town hall and reports voters have a lot on their minds.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) Oh, say, can you see?

SAM GRINGLAS, BYLINE: It's a Friday night, and the auditorium of this municipal building is packed - well, as packed as it can be with the rows of socially distanced chairs. Everyone's wearing a mask, and staff at this town hall with Senator Warnock have given out raffle tickets for the chance to ask a question.

RAPHAEL WARNOCK: It's like "The Price Is Right." Come on down.

GRINGLAS: This is a friendly crowd in blue DeKalb County in the Atlanta suburbs, and voters had a grab bag of questions.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: What ideas do you have to gain support from more moderate Republicans?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: How will the "Build Back Better" - bill...

WARNOCK: "Build Back Better."

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: "...Build Back Better" act (laughter) create more...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: My question is related to infrastructure.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: Will you and your colleagues bring immigration relief legislation that protects immigrants...

GRINGLAS: Democrats like Warnock are staring down a difficult political climate. The pandemic is still raging, inflation is high, and Biden's "Build Back Better" agenda is dead.

WARNOCK: I can't solve in a year all of the issues that confront us.

GRINGLAS: While failures on Capitol Hill might be freshest, Warnock has set out to remind voters what Democrats have accomplished, like the bipartisan infrastructure law and the American Rescue Plan, a pandemic relief package.

WARNOCK: It seems perhaps like an eternity ago, but that was just last March.

GRINGLAS: A year ago, Linda Curry and her husband, Hayward, were ecstatic when Warnock and fellow Democrat Jon Ossoff narrowly flipped Georgia's two Senate seats blue, delivering Democrats the U.S. Senate. Today, they're worried. Biden's approval ratings are the lowest they've been. The Currys are disappointed a voting rights bill hasn't passed, and they're coming to terms with the limits of what a slim majority can accomplish.

LINDA CURRY: Biden's being blamed for a lot of things that, really, he has little, if any, control over.

HAYWARD CURRY: One guy can't do it all (laughter). That's a big challenge up there, to get people to cooperate.

GRINGLAS: Across the room, Anita DeMeyers says she's concerned about the midterms and the state of democracy, with some Republicans still peddling false claims about election fraud. She had been optimistic about Biden's pledge to stitch the country back together.

ANITA DEMEYERS: The biggest disappointment is seeing how divided the nation is right now. The president that we have now has a history of bringing people together, so I was really hopeful that we would see more of that.

GRINGLAS: Demire says Democrats' prospects this fall might perk up if they tackle...

DEMEYERS: You know, the grocery stores and inflation - the more that we can get that under control, the more, you know, regular people are going to be able to connect and see that there's some movement and some change.

GRINGLAS: Warnock says he hears voters' concerns.

WARNOCK: You know, I buy groceries, too. People are struggling, and so we're working to lower costs.

GRINGLAS: Warnock says he's working to patch the supply chain, slash student debt and drug costs and keep the expanded child tax credit. He says he knows people are tired of the pandemic, of politics, but Warnock tells the crowd they have to stay engaged. The Democrats' majority in the Senate is on the line. For NPR News, I'm Sam Gringlas in Decatur, Ga.


Sam Gringlas is a journalist at NPR's All Things Considered. In 2020, he helped cover the presidential election with NPR's Washington Desk and has also reported for NPR's business desk covering the workforce. He's produced and reported with NPR from across the country, as well as China and Mexico, covering topics like politics, trade, the environment, immigration and breaking news. He started as an intern at All Things Considered after graduating with a public policy degree from the University of Michigan, where he was the managing news editor at The Michigan Daily. He's a native Michigander.
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