“I wish he had won, especially in Georgia,” Rafensperger told CNN’s Amara Walker on Friday. “I certainly voted for him, but the results are what the results are.”
By stating the simple truth that Biden won Georgia, even if the margin was thin by 12,000 votes, Rafensperger opened up to the wrath of his own party, turning this self-proclaimed “conservative, Christian Republican” into a party within Georgia’s GNI.
The worst pressure comes from the president.
Even after the presidential race is certified, pressure is not ruled out by the GOP secretary of state. The January 5 runoff election for both US Senate seats in the United States will determine which party controls the Senate, which means that all eyes in the world of politics will remain on Georgia until then.
Although Rafensperger’s refusal to humor Trump’s dubious demands won him applause from many in the country, it had the opposite effect among Republicans in Georgia, some of whom say the 65-year-old gentleman, who once had ambitions to run for office, the governor has written his political obituary.
“If you can find someone who is 18 years old and has a pulse that says he supports Donald Trump, he will beat Brad in the primary stage in 2022,” said a former Republican, elected and longtime activist in Georgia. “I don’t see how he can survive politically.”
A GOP operative who spoke to CNN wondered if Rafensperger, a successful businessman who had spent an unprecedented $ 3 million of his own money on his 2018 race, would even run for re-election in two years.
Nevertheless, Rafensperger maintains his chin and insists that his obligations to the public require him to speak embarrassing truths to his Republicans.
“I was a supporter of President Trump, an early supporter of both our (non) financial resources and our voice in 2016 and then in 2020,” Rafensperger told CNN on Friday. “But in the end, our office needs to make sure that the election is fair and accurate, and that’s what we did.”
Friendly fire from the Republicans
Trump tells a completely different story. For him, the elections in Georgia were fraudulent, tormented by missing votes and questionable counting.
Among the countries where Trump’s campaign is challenging the results, Georgia is the only one where the top election official (Rafensperger) is a Republican.
This led to an unusual amount of friendly fire.
On November 9, Georgia’s Republican David Purdue and Kelly Löfler called on Rafensperger to resign over vague allegations of “failure” and questions about the integrity of the election. Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican who was previously secretary of state, has stopped demanding the resignation of his successor. But he reiterated calls from Perdue, Loeffler and Trump to investigate a potential fraud.
Rafensperger responded publicly, defending the election and saying he would not leave his job. However, he agreed to count his hands two days later, on November 11.
For Eric Tanenblatt, a veteran of the Atlanta GOP who was close to Löfler, given the amount of pressure he was building, Rafensperger had little choice but to stick to some of his early demands.
“I will say that the temperature was quite high at that time,” Tanenblatt said. “There were a lot of people in the state, Republicans, Trump supporters, who believed there were real problems.”
Both Perdue and Loeffler ran in the January runoff election, and Republicans in Georgia are hypersensitive to maintaining Trump’s loyalty and reaping political benefits from his constituency.
Fallen man for GOP
The intense focus on Rafensperger comes at an uncertain time for Republicans in Georgia. Although the party dominates state-level control, occupying each state office and majorities in both houses of the general assembly, Biden’s victory there carries with it a hint of danger to Georgia’s Supreme National Assembly. It was the first time in nearly three decades that a Democratic presidential candidate had won Georgia, and it was happening as Republican victory declined in the last few cycles. Now that Republican control of the U.S. Senate hangs over the result of the two run-offs in January, the spotlight on Georgia’s Republican Party is hot.
So it may come as no surprise that the Republicans they are fighting in will turn on their own.
“The Republican People’s Party wants someone to fall for Georgia, and (Rafensperger) will be that,” said Eric Erickson, a radio host at the WSB station in Atlanta and a longtime conservative activist.
Tanenblatt, a GOP operative in Atlanta, said Rafensperger was a victim of the national attention he had focused on after the election.
“When you’re a state secretary in a state and you suddenly become a nationally famous figure in a fight with the president of the United States, that doesn’t put you in a positive light,” Tannenblatt said.
Rafensperger entered the elections in 2020 with high expectations, but also with little baggage during his first two years in office. During the June primary, democratic and liberal activists accused him of long queues and faulty machines, especially in majority and minority constituencies. Some Republicans, on the other hand, were concerned that Rafensperger had for the first time allowed counties to use boxes for absentee ballots during the primary.
“The primary party in June was very messy on election day, very long queues, people were very upset,” said the former GP candidate. “People are very upset at the thought of putting your voice in a drop. People feel like it’s not safe.”
In the days after the initial trials, Rafensperger suggested that the problems were with several district election officials, not the secretary of state’s office.
Rafensperger’s moves on the ballot papers also angered many state Republicans. In March, his office sent nearly 7 million absentee ballots to unregistered registered voters, much to the surprise of many Republican state leaders.
As Rafensperger tried to hold elections in the middle of the pandemic – envisioning more mail-off ballots than ever – his actions did not inspire confidence among many state Republicans, according to the former GOP official in Georgia.
The former official told CNN that Rafensperger had failed to communicate effectively. “You are in an environment where people are on the edge,” the former official said. “There is this large number of ballots to send by mail and now this is the strength of these ballots [that Biden wins]. “
Rafensperger continues to defend his performance and remains committed to the idea that the election was fair and offered a warning to those accused of otherwise, without evidence.
“I think we really need to be careful what we tell people, that we don’t really need to turn people around,” he told CNN on Friday. “We just haven’t found anything system-wide, systemic, that has risen to the level that actually overturns the results we have today that Vice President Biden held the state of Georgia.”
CNN’s Amara Walker and Jason Morris contributed to this story.