Democrats have pulled off at least one Senate win in Georgia, with another likely to follow. And Republicans are pointing a frustrated finger at Donald Trump.
With control of the Senate at stake in the state’s two races, the president chose to spend weeks peddling baseless claims that Georgia’s electoral system was rigged, fueling an online movement to boycott Tuesday’s election. He demonized the state’s Republican leaders and fractured the local GOP. He ignored calls from his allies to rally in the state sooner. His support for Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue mainly came in the form of the occasional tweet and two rallies, including one on Monday. He blasted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for not heeding his calls for boosted stimulus checks.
“He is the Dems’ best base animator,” said one GOP strategist involved in the Georgia races. “Look at how high turnout was on their side compared to historical trends. Look at how much their candidates raised. He steps back after Election Day and denies them that oxygen. He didn’t.”
Trump’s refusal to concede the November result in Georgia, having lost to Biden there by 11,779 votes, also created headaches for the party as they lost a key messaging opportunity. According to a Senate GOP campaign official, the most persuasive message to Republican voters in the Peach State was to return Perdue and Loeffler to Washington to hold the Senate majority as checks on a Democratic executive branch. But Republicans could not sustain that message because Trump will not acknowledge Biden’s victory and continues to baselessly lob claims of widespread voter fraud.
During his speech on Monday, Trump denounced Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who probably still have some supporters within the GOP electorate:
There is no place like a Trump rally, but you know what? This is a Kelly rally and a David rally. I wouldn’t do it unless I loved them both. I wouldn’t do it. But I’m going to be here in a year and a half and I’m going to be campaigning against your governor and your crazy secretary of state, that I can tell you.
Infighting did not help either. At Politico: Marianne Levin and James Arkin reported on November 9:
Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue of Georgia called on the state’s GOP secretary of state to resign on Monday, citing “failures” in the election process but not providing any specific evidence to support their claims.
“There have been too many failures in Georgia elections this year and the most recent election has shined a national light on the problems,” Loeffler and Perdue said in a joint statement. “The Secretary of State has failed to deliver honest and transparent elections. He has failed the people of Georgia, and he should step down immediately."
If you are trying to motivate people to vote, maybe the best course is not to say that the election is illegal and invalid:
....is therefore both illegal and invalid, and that would include the two current Senatorial Elections. In Wisconsin, Voters not asking for applications invalidates the Election. All of this without even discussing the millions of fraudulent votes that were cast or altered!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 1, 2021