Donald Trump’s shadow looms over Georgia Senate runoffs

Will the President engage?

President Donald Trump won’t be on the ballot in January when Georgia voters settle two Senate runoffs that will determine control of the U.S. Senate. But both Republicans and Democrats are hoping voters forget that.

After watching turnout surge in last week’s election, the parties are banking on using Trump — both rage against him and devotion to him — as key drivers in their push to get voters to return to the polls. For Republicans, that means feeding off frustrations over Trump’s defeat, baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud and fear of President-elect Joe Biden’s policy agenda. But their biggest draw — Trump himself — has not committed publicly to using his influence to turn out voters, a silence that has some Republicans worried.

Democrats, meanwhile, are hoping to retain the intensity of a ground operation fueled by opposition to Trump and his policies — even though the President has lost the White House.

The two Senate contests offer an early measure of Trump’s lasting political imprint and whether both parties can sustain momentum in the post-Trump era.

The President’s plans are still unclear. As he fumes about his loss, he has been noticeably silent on the runoffs between incumbent Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler and their respective challengers, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. The President is chiefly focused on his own political future, including the possibility of running for President again in 2024, according to three White House and campaign aides who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about private deliberations.

GOP allies are urging him to engage, hoping he sees the races as a way to mitigate his own loss and preserve his policies.

“I can’t think of a better way for him to get revenge on Democrats than to get those two seats,” said Republican strategist Scott Jennings, a longtime political adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The Kentucky Republican needs either Perdue or Loeffler to win reelection to secure the GOP majority that would allow him to block Biden’s most ambitious proposals, such as expanding the Affordable Care Act, overhauling the nation’s energy grid and repealing some Trump tax cuts.

Two Democratic victories would yield a 50-50 Senate, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris holding the tie-breaking vote. That would tilt the chamber to Democrats and assure Biden’s agenda would at least get a Senate hearing under would-be Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York.

Some in the White House see Georgia as a final stand for a political operation wounded by national rejection. Vice President Mike Pence is slated to campaign in Georgia next week, Perdue’s campaign confirmed Thursday in a statement that also noted the senator “would welcome (Trump) to Georgia anytime.”

Yet Trump’s advisers aren’t sure if the President will hold any in-person rallies with Perdue or Loeffler like the two he staged in Georgia in the closing days of his own campaign blitz. They said the President values the Georgia senators’ loyalty and took note when Perdue openly mocked Harris’ first name at a Trump rally in October.

The Georgia senators have not yet asked the White House directly for the President to travel, according to a Republican with knowledge of the campaigns who was not authorized to discuss private campaign planning and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee said Friday it’s funding more than 600 staffers in the state with an investment of at least $20 million ahead of the Jan. 5 runoffs. Republicans are mindful that a push from Trump may be necessary to overcome a well-financed Democratic infrastructure in Georgia that, after years of organizing, finally turned the GOP stronghold into a battleground. Results are not yet certified, and a hand recount is looming, but Biden leads Trump by about 14,000 votes out of 5 million cast.

Neither Ossoff nor Warnock matched Biden’s vote totals, a source of encouragement for Republicans. But GOP players also credit Trump with a surge in rural and small-town votes that nearly exceeded Biden’s strength in the cities and suburbs.

Trump, in fact, won more Georgia votes than any Republican in history, and Republicans concede they don’t know what a runoff turnout would look like without the President in the mix.


Published with permission of the Associated Press.

Associated Press

One comment

  • Sonja Fitch

    November 13, 2020 at 3:18 pm

    Lol Perdue and Loffler loooossssers of the goptrump death cult! Perdue and Loffler do not care if Georgians live or die! Perdue and Loffler line their pockets with tax payer money ! Vote Democrat for the common good!

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