ATLANA – President Donald Trump is cutting time at the White House as his candidacy for him begins: a crusade against scorched earth against members of his own party.
Because party control of the Senate depends on a pair of runoffs in Georgia, Trump has spent the past few weeks trying to undermine the credibility of the election he lost and attack Republican officials here he once approved.
In interviews, Republicans in Georgia predicted confidence that Trump’s false allegations of widespread fraud and his continued efforts to cast doubt on the integrity of Georgia̵
However, some expressed concerns, while others called for party unity. In a country where the divide between Democrat and Republican voters is as strong as possible, they know that if even a small segment of Trump supporters – or ticket distributors – give up, victory is harder.
“This is by far the toughest race I will ever run,” said a Republican operative familiar with Senator David Purdue’s re-election campaign. “This is the most important and the most difficult thing.
“It’s a very straight line, but it’s a very windy road to get there,” the man added. “Right now, I would say, I’ve never seen the Republican Party more united in understanding what is at stake and in understanding what needs to be done to stop it. … People, meanwhile, have different priorities in what they do. “
Trump and some allies lobbied baseless allegations of fraudulent elections across the country, targeting Georgia after losing the country to President-elect Joe Biden by less than 13,000 votes. Trump has saved some of his strongest anger at Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Rafensperger, both Republicans, and urged them to take action to repeal the election, which men said would be illegal.
Trump wrote on Twitter on Tuesday that if Kemp simply handles the November election as he wants – effectively disenfranchising a significant number of Democratic voters, many of whom are black, he could “cancel” the run-offs.
Gabriel Sterling, a Republican who runs the state voting system, rebuked Trump at a news conference Tuesday.
“It must stop,” he said of the outrage against civil servants, pointing to the threats Rafensperger, his family and other election workers have received. “Mr President, you have not condemned these actions or this language.”
Trump responded by calling the election rigged on Twitter and suggesting that government officials were involved.
Lt. Col. Jeff Duncan, a Republican, has resolutely dispelled the theories that Trump and his allies have been promoting in recent days. In an interview, he said he “feared” that the rhetoric “negatively affected these runoff races”.
“And I strongly encourage both the president and his team, as well as Republicans in general, and senators to redirect their energy to re-election and not embark on this massive wave of disinformation, because that’s exactly what it is,” Duncan said. “This is a massive, unwarranted wave of disinformation. Here in Georgia, there are no signs of systemic or organized fraud. And as the country’s deputy governor, I am proud of that, despite the fact that the person I voted for did not win. . “
A call for party unity
Trump is due to visit Georgia on Saturday to campaign for Purdue and Sen. Kelly Lofler, R-Ga., Who face Democrats John Osoff and Rafael Warnock, respectively, after no candidate reached the 50 percent threshold last month. .
State Republicans hope he will focus his message on electing the two, not on last month’s election. In an open letter shared Wednesday with NBC News, 18 former Republican leaders called on the party to rally around the goal.
Former Senator Saxby Chamblis was one of the signatories. In an interview, he said the letter was a response to “comments coming from several different camps about the fact that people should consider not voting on January 5.”
“It makes absolutely no sense,” he said. “And then those of us who were talking about it, it occurred to us that we needed to do something about it.”
Chamblis said he wanted Trump to end his attacks on Kemp and Rafensperger, both of whom he defended as law-abiding. He said allegations of widespread voter fraud “remain unfounded”.
He said he expects Trump to explain why the election of Purdue and Löfler is important, especially to those who plan not to vote.
“He needs to remind them that he has a legacy he wants to maintain,” Chamblis said.
Others repeated the mood.
“I want him to focus on the future and defend the values he has served and worked on,” said Loeffler’s campaign adviser Eric Johnson, a former GOP leader in the state Senate who signed the letter. “Where Trump can be defeated, Republicans have voted well. So for me, that says whether they like the president or not, they don’t like the left’s agenda.
“No matter what happens to the election, control the US Senate – Republicans are not stupid,” he added. “They can do math. They know that 52 to 48 is better than 50-50.”
Jay Williams, a strategist at Georgia’s GP, said he did not expect Republican voters to choose to “cut our noses to make our faces angry.”
The only really harmful thing Trump could say on Saturday would be “stay home,” he added.
“I can’t tell you how many ordinary people I talk to and employees who are absolutely convinced that this is a huge voter fraud,” he said. “So obviously it has some effect. And I think the one who comes here actually helps alleviate that, unless he says something crazy, but we’ll find out.”
“I hope and pray it stops immediately”
Republicans in the state are promoting the importance of keeping the Senate under the control of the GP to ensure the Democratic president is screened. But the candidates themselves are seeking to draw a fine line on the announcement, as it acknowledges that Trump will no longer be in the White House next year.
The delicacy of this position was shown last week when a man interrupted Purdue during an election event to ask what he was doing “to help Donald Trump in this fraud case.”
The audience began to applaud. Perdue said he had called for Raffensperger’s resignation and said he wanted to see additional lawsuits seeking the annulment of the results.
Meanwhile, influential conservatives such as L. Lynn Wood, a Georgian lawyer and Trump’s ally, advised supporters not to vote in January on Wednesday.
During the rally, Wood said that Lefler and Perdue had not yet “won your vote.”
“Why would he go back and vote in a new fraudulent election, for God’s sake?” Said Wood, who is seeking an order to stop the runoff. “Fix it! You have to fix it!”
Duncan said he was worried about such rhetoric.
“Many intelligent, successful, accomplished people that I only know in everyday life become attached to these random, one-time posts on Twitter or posts on Facebook that take someone 10 seconds and suck,” he said. And I don’t know where that comes from. I don’t know where the energy is, but I hope and pray it stops immediately. “
Some on the left have even taken advantage of this energy. Billboards paid for by the truly American PAC labeled “Perdue / Loeffler Don’t Deliver to Trump, Don’t Deliver to Them” began to appear in the state recently.
Justin Horwitz, the group’s founder and president, said there were nine such billboards and that the group planned to put up at least 20, all in areas that voted for Trump more than 70 percent last month.
A Republican strategist from Georgia said, “Democrats do it like they’re right nuts. That’s brilliant. It’s brilliant because that’s what Lynn Wood would say.”
The strategist said Trump “can decide if he wants to be a plus or a minus” during his trip to the state, adding: “He has the ability to no doubt come down here and blow this thing up.”
Some Republicans are ready to turn the page
Voters interviewed in Forsythe County, northeast of Atlanta, where Trump won about 66 percent of the vote, said they would vote for Purdue and Löfler.
Ken Prevet, a Republican, said he did not think much about Perdue and Lofler, but believed the country needed checks and balances and that a united government would not be good. He said he was “reluctant” to vote for Trump, praising some of his efforts while condemning him as a human being.
“His inability to admit that he is not as great as he thinks the election will cost him,” Prevet said. “So, now this Senate election is pretty important to me.”
Prevet added that it was a long time before Trump accepted the election results.
“I thought it showed a lack of Stacey Abrams’ class when she refused to admit she lost the gubernatorial election last time,” he said. “And I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t say I felt the same way about Trump and what he did. I understand it was a very close election, but I think his ego was interfering with reality.”
Georgia’s runoff has historically benefited Republicans. But with increased national exposure, the flow of donor money, increased voter registration efforts and a shooting president, Republicans have acknowledged that this time may be different.
“I’ve been doing this for 20 years,” said Williams, one of the strategists. “I’ve never seen anything as crazy as that.”
Trump posted a tweet Wednesday that may help allay some Republican concerns.
“We will go to Georgia for a big Trump rally in support of our two great Republican senators, David and Kelly,” he said. “They are fantastic people who love their country and their country. We have to work hard and make sure they win.”