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Politics Trump roils Georgia GOP as party waits to see if presidential visit helps — or hurts — in crucial Senate runoffs

14:50  03 december  2020
14:50  03 december  2020 Source:   washingtonpost.com

What Do Georgia's New Rules for Absentee Voting in the Runoff Races Mean?

  What Do Georgia's New Rules for Absentee Voting in the Runoff Races Mean? On Monday, Georgia extended two emergency rules to continue the use of secure drop boxes and to require counties begin processing absentee ballots eight days before Election Day.In a Monday meeting, the five members of the board, which is chaired by Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, voted to continue the use of secure absentee ballot drop boxes and to require counties to process absentee ballots a week before the day of the two elections.

President Trump ’s sustained assault on his own party in Georgia , and his repeated claims of election fraud in the state, have intensified worries among Republicans that he could be hurting their ability to win two crucial Senate runoff races next month.

With Georgia ’s crucial Senate runoff vote just weeks away, a progressive political action committee has launched a billboard campaign in a tongue-in-cheek bid to convince President Trump ’s backers not to lend their support to incumbent Republican candidates Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue.

President Trump’s planned trip to Georgia on Saturday to campaign for two Senate candidates embroiled in tight runoff races has put some Republicans on edge that he could do more harm than good by repeating false claims about the voting system, attacking GOP officials and further inflaming a simmering civil war within the state party.

That war showed no signs of abating this week, with competing GOP factions growing increasingly angry and distrustful of one another.

Leading the charge on one side were two attorneys who say they support Trump, offering a fiery news conference Wednesday urging Republicans to withhold their votes from the Jan. 5 runoffs if leaders don’t fight to overturn the November election results in which Trump narrowly lost Georgia to President-elect Joe Biden.

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  Fact check: Some inauguration prep is underway, but a viral photo of it is actually from 1993. A photo purports to show preparations for Joe Biden's inauguration. But, it's actually from Bill Clinton's inauguration in 1993.Dump Trump — a page on Facebook that opposes President Donald Trump — posted a photo that purports to show preparations for the day occurring on the lawn behind the White House on Nov. 21.

See Melania Trump 's last White House holiday decorations. Arizona's Mark Kelly is sworn into Senate . Associated Press. CDC urges Americans not to travel during holiday season due to Next 4 years will look very different depending on who wins Georgia Senate runoffs : Pavlich.

5 Georgia runoffs , ballots allow voters the options of selecting either Loeffler or Warnock in one race, or Perdue or Ossoff in the other ( see the sample ballot More than a week later, as Trump prepared for a Dec. 5 visit to Georgia to campaign alongside Perdue and Loeffler, the president echoed that

[Trump escalates baseless attacks on election with 46-minute video rant]

Republican state lawmakers, meanwhile, aligning themselves with Trump’s baseless claims, scheduled a Thursday hearing in the state Capitol to hear testimony about alleged voting irregularities.

Other Republicans denounced the claims. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and a senior member of his staff, Gabriel Sterling, blamed Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric for a surge of threats against state and local election officials and even Raffensperger’s wife and grown children. And more than a dozen longtime Georgia Republicans penned a letter urging the party to come together and focus on winning the Senate seats.

“Without every vote cast for President Trump and all our Republican candidates on November 3 also being cast in the U.S. Senate runoffs, the trajectory of our State and Nation will be irreparably altered on January 5th,” said the letter, which was signed by such prominent Republicans as former governor Nathan Deal and former senators Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson.

Trump tells Georgia not to boycott the runoffs or GOP will lose Senate

  Trump tells Georgia not to boycott the runoffs or GOP will lose Senate The president tweeted his support of the two Republican candidates Friday morning calling them 'GREAT people' and saying he will visit the state this week ahead of January's runoffs.The president tweeted his support of the two Republican candidates Friday morning calling them 'GREAT people' and saying he will make a trip to the state this weekend, after his election fraud claims have led some of his own supporters to consider abstaining from voting in January.

Senate Race Ratings. CNN Georgia Poll of Polls As Of 10/28/20. The CNN Poll of Polls tracks the average poll result in the race for president between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. Polls shown below track voters’ 2020 presidential election views in Georgia .

Georgia is vitally important to help rebuild and I hope that Georgians understand how important they are for these special elections. Republicans come out for runoffs in Georgia . They've been using runoffs to tamp down the black vote for decades.

At the center of it all is an embittered, lame-duck president who is furious with some Republican leaders in Georgia for not helping him overturn the election — and has often been less interested in GOP efforts when they do not benefit him.

The president, Republican advisers say, is key to convincing his die-hard supporters to vote for Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in a lower-turnout special election that will determine which party controls the Senate for the next two years. Republicans currently hold 50 Senate seats, with Democrats holding 48. But Trump could also do considerable damage, some in the party fear, pushing some moderate Republicans to stay home or vote for the Democratic candidates, Jon Ossoff, who is challenging Perdue, and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, who is up against Loeffler.

[Trump’s baseless election fraud claims in Georgia turn Senate runoffs into a ‘high-wire act’ for Republicans]

A large portion of Trump’s backers is urging other Republicans — including Loeffler and Perdue to propagate his unsubstantiated claims of election fraud and fight harder to overturn the results of the election. At rallies for both candidates, Trump receives louder chants than anyone else. They often yell, without prompting, “Stop the steal” even as other Republican candidates try to focus the crowd.

Trump’s Tantrum Over Loss Could Smash Georgia GOP

  Trump’s Tantrum Over Loss Could Smash Georgia GOP ATLANTA—Two years after he made Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, President Donald Trump now appears dead-set on breaking him. The president has seethed at his loss to President-elect Joe Biden in Georgia, throwing out bizarre conspiracy theories to argue he was robbed and urging Kemp to do something—anything—to reverse the devastating loss, even if it means shattering Republicans in the Peach State in the process. On Sunday, after weeks of needling Kemp yielded nothing, Trump decided to go nuclear. “The governor’s done nothing, he’s done absolutely nothing,” the president complained to Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo. “I’m ashamed that I endorsed him.

The elections director of Georgia 's most populous county said Friday he expects officials will upload their final 4,600 ballots before the end of the night — despite online trolls robbing him of the services of one of his fastest workers. Fulton County elections director Richard Barron told reporters he expects

Georgia 's Republican lieutenant governor on Tuesday joined a growing list of GOP officials in the As Americans we need to see leaders that inspire us and not talk down." Duncan also indicated he will not join Trump and Vice President Mike Pence when they visit Georgia this weekend to campaign

Trump has repeatedly spread conspiracy theories about voting in the state and attacked Republicans, particularly Gov. Brian Kemp. That could depress turnout among suburban voters in places outside Atlanta where he is far less popular and that cost him the election, some Republicans fear.

At a rally Wednesday in Alpharetta, a few miles north of Atlanta, pro-Trump attorneys Lin Wood and Sidney Powell cast doubt on the legitimacy of any election held with the equipment and rules used on Nov. 3. It was, essentially, a don’t-get-out-and-vote rally. Wood encouraged the crowd of hundreds to protest outside of Kemp’s home, demanding a special session on the election, then the governor’s resignation. Wood also told the crowd not to vote for the Senate candidates unless they demand a special session of the Georgia legislature on Dominion Voting Systems, the voting machine company that Trump and his allies have falsely claimed rigged the election in Georgia and elsewhere.

“As far as I’m concerned, lock him up,” Wood said of Kemp, who certified Biden’s win in Georgia two weeks ago.

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Wood paced back and forth onstage, repeatedly calling for Kemp to leave office.

“He’ll never get my vote again,” Wood said. “He’s never going to get your vote again, is he!”

[GOP election official in Georgia blames Trump for fostering violent threats]

A chorus of “No!” rang out from the crowd.

Powell insisted results in Georgia and other states were altered, although the hand audit of all Georgia ballots completed last month disproved that. She suggested an election be conducted entirely with paper ballots “that are signed and have a thumb print on them,” which would violate Georgia’s constitutional requirement of a secret ballot.

“I would encourage all Georgians to make it known that you will not vote at all unless your vote is secure,” Powell said. “There should not be a runoff. Certainly not on Dominion machines.”

Trump campaign and Republican National Committee officials say the attorneys — Powell and Wood — do not represent them or the president, though Trump at one point said Powell was on his legal team, only to reverse course.

Georgia State Sen. William Ligon (R), who is scheduled to chair Thursday’s Senate hearing, said the theme of the allegations being leveled by the president “is reflected in what we’re seeing at the ground level.” Ligon said he had never gotten so many angry calls from constituents about an issue.

Republicans may have shot themselves in the foot by hitching their wagons to Trump ahead of the Georgia Senate runoffs

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Some Georgia Republicans have begun to push back.

Lawrence “Lane” Flynn, the chair of the DeKalb County Republican Party, said he has been dealing with issues with the DeKalb County Board of Elections for the past month, mostly concerning the volunteers needed — sometimes on short notice — to help settle questions over ballots.

“You’ve got these lunatics out there, Lin Wood and Sidney Powell, just inventing absolute fiction. Anytime it goes to court, it gets laughed out, and so they don’t take it to court, they just have rallies and speeches where they can say whatever they want with no fact-checking and that apparently is what some people want to hear, and so they believe it.”

Flynn added that only a handful of people have told him they might skip the runoff, saying that the “loudest and angriest voices get heard the most, no matter how many or few of them there are.”

The letter this week from longtime Georgia GOP figures was designed to signal concern on behalf of the party that the two Senate seats are in jeopardy.

“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,” the group wrote.

Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, this week warned of the perils of Trump’s rhetoric beyond the potential political fallout for Republicans in the short-term.

“Even after this office requested that President Trump try and quell the violent rhetoric, being born out of his continuing claims of winning states where he obviously lost, he tweeted out: ‘Expose the massive voter fraud in Georgia,’ ” Raffensperger said. “This is exactly the kind of language that is at the base of growing threat environments of election workers who are simply doing their jobs.”

Failing to convince Gov. Kemp to flip election, Trump vows to 'win back the White House' at Georgia rally

  Failing to convince Gov. Kemp to flip election, Trump vows to 'win back the White House' at Georgia rally In a phone call, Gov. Kemp refused Trump's request for a legislative session to appoint a pro-Trump slate to the Electoral College, reports said.Trump did promote incumbent Georgia Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler – whose Jan. 5 re-election bids will decide control of the Senate – but framed most of the rally around his own legacy and false allegations about the election.

The visit Saturday by Trump — who will host a rally in the conservative southern Georgia city of Valdosta — will be a pivotal moment.

Aides say RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and others have talked Trump into making the trip by arguing he would be credited for the win if he went — and blamed for the loss regardless.

Some allies have also noted to Trump that Republican control in the Senate could help in 2024 should he run again and would limit his exposure to investigations after he is out of office from that chamber, said advisers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly. Advisers have also argued to Trump that a GOP majority in the Senate will keep Biden from reversing his policies.

Aides note that in his tweets so far, Trump has encouraged Georgians to vote and pushed back on arguments from supporters that it is not worth it. His eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and others close to the president are working to elect the senators, with a political action committee airing ads with Trump Jr.

“It’s imperative we’re united in this fight to save our country from Democrats’ lurch toward socialism, and President Trump’s visit will remind Republican voters what’s at stake,” said Jesse Hunt, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

The RNC has sent a team of about 600 canvassers into the state. Other groups, such as Americans for Prosperity, are knocking doors, as well.

How much Trump is willing to help remains unclear.

He has shown less interest in keeping a Republican Senate than other GOP leaders. Advisers say he has been frustrated at how some GOP senators have criticized him, and others have said that Trump this year appeared distracted or disinterested when party leaders tried to involve him in their plans to win Senate races.

The president would regularly stop meetings with Senate advisers to complain, officials said, at how senators such as Republican Thom Tillis of North Carolina criticized his “perfect” phone call that led to his impeachment.

The Georgia runoffs will decide who controls the Senate. Here's what you should know.

  The Georgia runoffs will decide who controls the Senate. Here's what you should know. All eyes are on Georgia as voters will ultimately determine which party will have the Senate majority.The races pit two Republican incumbents, Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, against Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock. If Ossoff and Warnock win, the Senate will be split 50-50, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris having the power to cast a deciding vote. If Perdue and Loeffler win, though, the Republicans will hold a slim 52-48 majority.

In one meeting, as aides were talking about keeping Susan Collins in her seat, he homed in on Sara Gideon, the Democrat challenging the Maine senator, to describe her as “very attractive,” according to two people present. He turned to several of the men in the room and jokingly winked, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private meetings.

The Trump team’s dismissiveness of Senate races was apparent in Michigan, as well. Even though NRSC officials saw John James early in the race as the top Senate candidate there, Trump’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, circulated a six-page memo warning against a James candidacy and said he could hurt the president’s chances — and that it wasn’t worth it.

Even in Georgia, with the extraordinary confluence of two Senate races on the ballot in a presidential swing state, there were signs over the summer that Trump was not focused on anything other than his own political needs.

In a White House meeting about keeping the Senate with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. Todd C. Young (R-Ind.) and other aides, a discussion about the state took a wild turn when Trump brought up House candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene’s support of the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory, according to people familiar with the discussion.

“Q-an-uhn,” he said, mispronouncing the name of the group, telling those present that it is made up of people who “basically believe in good government.” The room was silent again before Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, leaned forward to say he had never heard it described that way. Trump had similarly praised QAnon, which the FBI has identified as a potential domestic terrorist threat, during an August news conference.

[What you need to know about Dominion, the company that Trump and his lawyers baselessly claim ‘stole’ the election]

Despite Trump’s apparent ambivalence about the Senate races, national Republican strategists have found ways to send resources into Georgia. The RNC, for instance, gave $7 million each to the NRSC and the party’s House campaign arm in October, even though some Trump advisers preferred the Trump operation keep all the money.

But Trump has privately complained about Loeffler, particularly that Kemp picked her to replace the retiring Isakson without adequately consulting the president, according to multiple advisers. Trump grew annoyed with Perdue, whom he likes and regularly golfs with, after Perdue said in a leaked call that Republicans may face challenging odds in Georgia, aides said. Officials say he wants both to win but is angry that Georgia voted against him.

Neither Loeffler nor Perdue talks about electoral fraud on the campaign trail — unless forced by questions from voters or journalists or provoked by Trump supporters in the crowd.

After McDaniel was recently in the state, she told others she was surprised at the voter anger — and some of the conspiracy theories that Trump’s supporters believed. On several occasions during a visit last month by Vice President Pence, the crowd interrupted him to argue for more efforts on Trump’s behalf. He awkwardly waited for the chants to stop.

Repeatedly, the politicians tried to focus on the Senate, and what Democratic control of the U.S. government could mean, while voters returned to helping Trump.

After a call from Trump’s supporters of “Stop the steal!” during an event in Georgia last month, Perdue replied with more ambiguous language. “Hold the line,” he said. The crowd stuck with “Stop the steal!”

Dave Weigel contributed to this report.

Mike Pence, David Perdue standing in front of a crowd posing for the camera: Vice President Pence rallies with Georgia Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler, center, and David Perdue on Nov. 21 in Canton, Ga. © Tami Chappell/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock Vice President Pence rallies with Georgia Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler, center, and David Perdue on Nov. 21 in Canton, Ga.

The Georgia runoffs will decide who controls the Senate. Here's what you should know. .
All eyes are on Georgia as voters will ultimately determine which party will have the Senate majority.The races pit two Republican incumbents, Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, against Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock. If Ossoff and Warnock win, the Senate will be split 50-50, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris having the power to cast a deciding vote. If Perdue and Loeffler win, though, the Republicans will hold a slim 52-48 majority.

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