Global Affairs

Opinion: Trump has set Republicans up to fail in Georgia

The truly strange part of this prolonged battle for the Senate is that if Democrats win, it will be in large part thanks to the bizarre behavior of a Republican president, who didn’t just energize Democrats and repel many moderate Republicans, but, through his consistent undermining of the electoral results in Georgia, triggered a mind-boggling campaign that persuaded some Republicans not to vote at all.

In short, Donald Trump and his malignant campaign to overturn the results of the election have thrown the state Republicans into chaos, complicated their ability to craft a believable message and may well cost Republicans control of the Senate.

Undoubtedly, they are both tight races, so it’s foolish to predict the outcome. But since I already did, I will double down and say the odds now favor Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.
That’s remarkable not only because Georgia Democrats have faced a steep climb in statewide races for decades, but because both candidates are facing incumbents who enjoy enormous advantages in name recognition and ad spending.
The headwinds pushing against Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue have been gusting out of the Oval Office, Mar-a-Lago and the golf course from where Trump has been battling the results of the November election with a barrage of falsehoods and limp lawsuits.

While Georgia Democrats remain exhilarated and energized after pushing Biden across the finish line in November, Trump seems determined to form a circular firing squad. It’s further evidence of Trump’s flailing efforts to stay in power, which show little concern for the collateral damage he is causing his party or the country’s democracy, for that matter.

He has viciously attacked Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger — both Republicans — and repeatedly questioned the credibility of Georgia’s election systems.

That, to put it mildly, is not the best way to turn out the vote.

In a pathetic effort to curry favor with a president they fear, one who displayed little interest in them when he campaigned in Georgia earlier this month, Loeffler and Perdue demanded that Raffensperger resign, unctuously bowing to Trump. Even Kemp, after being mercilessly humiliated by Trump, showed what looked to me like an embarrassing lack of self-respect, posting a picture of himself and his daughter at a White House Christmas party.
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Trump’s fiercest advocates have launched their Samson option: If he can’t keep power, they’ll bring down the party with him by calling for a boycott of the election. Yes, incredibly, there’s a Republican call for a boycott of the elections. Trump attorney Lin Wood, a favorite of the QAnon crowd, is advising Georgians not to vote for Perdue and Loeffler. It’s unclear how many will heed the call, but it’s worth remembering that Georgia just elected to Congress a QAnon devotee, Rep.-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene. In a close election, the boycott could make the difference.
Trump has scheduled a campaign visit for January 4, but that may be too late. Millions have already voted. Besides, the President is looking politically worn and weak after delaying signing the Covid relief bill and facing the first veto override of his presidency.

Trump’s refusal to accept defeat has also created another problem for GOP candidates, depriving them of what could be their most persuasive argument to voters. With Democrats controlling the White House and the House of Representatives, Loeffler and Perdue could tell voters that putting them in office would help Republicans act as a check on Democrats.

After all, many voters like divided government. But since Loeffler and Perdue can’t openly acknowledge that Trump lost, they can’t make that case forcefully.
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Instead, Republicans are reduced to ugly tactics: commercials filled with falsehoods and a campaign to suppress voters, particularly in blue-leaning counties.
Georgians are on the pummeled side of a firehose of campaign commercials. Negative ads are the order of the day, but the GOP’s are filled with an astonishing proportion of falsehoods, such as claiming that Warnock has a “Marxist ideology.”
Then there’s the national campaign of voter purging, which is suffering setbacks in court. Just this week, a judge ordered two Georgia counties to reinstate 4,000 voters they had purged from the rolls claiming they had changed address. Most of the voters reside in a county Biden won by a large margin.

As for Democrats, they know the stakes and the odds and are taking nothing for granted.

Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight organization is going to court to fight a push by a Texas group to make 364,000 voters ineligible. And the campaign to register voters, which helped win Georgia for Biden, has continued even after November. More than 75,000 people have registered to vote just for the January 5 election, most of them are under 35 years of age, a demographic that often favors Democrats.
Runoff elections are usually sedate, mostly-ignored affairs. Not this time. Yard signs are growing like Kudzu across the state, thousands more stapled to light poles, particularly in intensely Democratic Atlanta.

Republicans are angry and divided. Democrats are motivated and unified.

Nobody knows how it will turn out. In the first round, Perdue won 49.7% of the vote, beating Ossoff by more than 85,000. Loeffler came in second to Warnock in the special election, but there were 20 candidates in an atomized vote.

This is an election like no other. Hyperbole is common in elections, but it’s hard to remember a Senate election, much less a runoff, whose outcome carried such powerful consequences.

In a fittingly bizarre twist for this bizarre year, if Democrats win, they may just have to send Trump a thank you note. After all, it is Georgia, good manners are expected.

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