Republicans Brace For Trump Rally In Georgia That Could Make Or Break Senate Runoff
President Trump will fly into Georgia on Saturday in a test of whether his star power and bully pulpit are enough to unite a splintering local Republican Party that threatens to undermine GOP hopes of holding two Senate seats and overall control of the upper chamber of Congress.
The tensions offer a foreshadowing of what some insiders fear will be months of score-settling as Trump loyalists accuse mainstream Republicans of failing to back the president’s claims of a rigged election.
Trump will hold a rally in the conservative city of Valdosta, where Republicans hope he can mobilize supporters to vote for Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in crucial runoff elections. At the same time, however, they fear his barrage of attacks on the state party over his election defeat could keep his base at home.
Local Republican strategist Brian Robinson said Trump’s appearance was a pivotal moment, potentially dividing the Senate races into “before Saturday” and “after Saturday” phases.
“If he comes down here and paints a stark picture of what a Democrat-controlled Washington would mean, the importance of reelecting Loeffler and Perdue to preserve his legacy, to protect the conservative victory that he enacted for the past four years, then that is a turnout message,” he said. “It needs to be forward-looking, not backwards-looking, and it needs to unify Georgia Republicans.”
But the unspoken fear for Saturday’s rally is a crowd of thousands directing “Lock him up” chants at state officials, such as Gov. Brian Kemp, while Trump delivers a 90-minute diatribe against disloyal Republicans who have not overturned his election defeat.
Days of Twitter attacks and public fraud hearings have already heaped pressure on local officials.
The result has been lawmakers twisting themselves into pretzels to offer Trump support, deflecting attacks by promising to do everything they can to find fraud despite having already certified the state’s election results.
On Thursday, it was Kemp’s turn after days of being on the receiving end of Twitter and public demonstrations.
“I called early on for a signature audit,” he said on Fox News, after Trump supporters, including Rudy Giuliani, claimed to have video evidence of ballots being counted without oversight.
“Obviously, the secretary of state, per the laws of the Constitution, would have to order that. He has not done that. I think it should be done.”
However, it is unclear how a signature audit is even possible when signatures are detached from ballots at an early stage to preserve the anonymity of voting.
Mainstream Republicans see a governor trying to walk a fine line before facing reelection in 2022.
Veteran GOP strategist Rich Galen said: “Kemp finds himself on the wrong side of Trumpism, where he doesn’t want to be. He also is a sworn public official, and he can’t undo the election, which is what Trump wants him to do, so he is looking for any string he can hang on to so he can stop the Trump attacks and stop the pain.”
Kemp and his Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger are among officials across the country who have been targeted by the president and his supporters for holding the line against Trump’s unfounded claims of widespread election fraud.
In Georgia, a crowd this week directed chants of “Lock him up” at Kemp before attorneys Lin Wood and Sidney Powell called on demonstrators not to vote in the runoff election.
Powell was part of the Trump campaign’s legal team until she was dropped for making a string of bizarre allegations, based on discreditedconspiracy theories, about voter fraud.
“We’re not going to go vote on Jan. 5 on another machine made by China. You’re not going to fool Georgians again,” said Wood. “Why would you go back and vote in another rigged election?
Such calls alarm GOP strategists who know that Democrats could flip the Senate if Republican infighting dooms Perdue and Loeffler to defeat next month.
On Wednesday, 19 prominent Georgia Republicans, including a former governor and two former senators, warned that single-minded focus on fraud allegations could overshadow the runoffs.
“We have watched with increasing concern as the debate surrounding the state’s electoral system has made some within our party consider whether voting in the coming runoff election matters,” they wrote in an open letter, warning that anything less than full Republican turnout threatened their hold on the Senate.
Such is the importance that Vice President Mike Pence is making his second recent visit to the state on Friday to bolster the campaign.
Don Cole, a former Crisp County GOP chairman who lost out on a run for Congress this month, said he expected Trump’s visit to reenergize the base.
“It is the ones who came in recently for Trump, who had high hopes and think the election was stolen from him, who may give up. That’s who he will be turning out,” he said.
Author: Rob Crilly
Source: Washington Examiner: Republicans brace for Trump rally in Georgia that could make or break Senate runoffs