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Trump is singlehandedly destroying Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue’s chances in Georgia

‘Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope,’ said one Republican aide after being asked whether they had authored any part of Trump’s teleprompter script

Andrew Feinberg
Washington DC
Tuesday 05 January 2021 20:10 GMT
The Trump campaign which shared the number with 4.6 million followers on Twitter and Facebook
The Trump campaign which shared the number with 4.6 million followers on Twitter and Facebook (AP)
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It only took a few seconds after Donald Trump strode onto the stage at his last political rally as President of the United States for his aides to know it would not go well.

Ostensibly a culminating campaign event for Georgia Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, Trump had been dispatched to bring out the base one last time to ensure that the United States Senate will be controlled by Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell for another two years. And with the race looking like a dead heat to most pollsters, his presence was desired by both candidates as the icing on the cake to close out their campaigns.

But any hopes that Trump would focus on the race at hand — rather than the one he lost just over two months ago — went out the window almost as soon as he stepped to the lectern.

“There’s no way we lost Georgia… This was a rigged election,” said the man who was there to convince voters that they should turn out to vote in yet another election.

Less than a fortnight ere he is evicted from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Trump spent the next hour and twenty minutes vacillating between a prepared script replete with attacks on Democratic candidates Rev Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff and airing his myriad grievances over the failure of Georgia elected officials to rig November’s general election after the fact.

Read more: Why Jon Ossoff makes such a deadly opponent for David Perdue

Over the course of those eighty minutes, he vowed to campaign against Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger — both dyed-in-the-wool Republicans — when they’re up for re-election in 2022. He attacked the United States Supreme Court and the myriad federal and state judges who have dismissed the more than 60 lawsuits he and his allies have brought in a quest to throw out votes from areas with large Black populations. He issued a vague threat to “not like” Vice President Mike Pence “as much” unless his loyal Number Two exercises power he does not have to somehow declare him the winner of the 2020 election on Wednesday.

Trump’s rambling, meandering performance was no surprise to people who’ve spent time around him in recent days. Since he became the first US leader in nearly three decades to fail in a re-election bid, he has all but abandoned the day-to-day responsibilities of the presidency and cast out any advisers who dared tell him that he lost from his inner circle. Instead, aides say he has taken comfort in a coalition of sycophants and cranks who routinely place before him print-outs of the latest dispatches from shady propaganda outlets and figures linked to the QAnon conspiracy theory, all of whom have given him the false hope that he will retain the presidency after January 20.

As Trump mounted his attacks on Georgia’s top elected officials, no fewer than three White House and campaign aides denied having any hand in the prepared remarks targeting fellow Republicans.

“Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope,” said one such figure after being asked whether they had authored any part of Trump’s teleprompter script.

Another, reached via text message, replied to a query about the speech’s provenance with an animated GIF file depicting cartoon dad Homer Simpson disappearing into a hedge.

Although Trump managed to recite all the prepared attack lines against Warnock and Ossoff and repeat the same predictions of doom and gloom under a Democratic-controlled Senate that Republicans have repeated at every turn since Georgia became the center of the political universe last November, it’s unclear whether his eleventh-hour effort will be enough to put Loeffler (who vowed to participate in a Republican-led, last-ditch attempt to reject multiple states’ electoral votes on Wednesday) and Perdue over the top.

Read more: Georgia Senate runoff: Kelly Loeffler’s far-right turn, explained

Ossoff, a documentary film producer who dropped a hotly contested special House election four years ago, managed to get enough votes to come in just two percentage points behind Perdue, even though the incumbent was forced into a runoff under Georgia’s Jim Crow-era election laws because neither candidate failed to garner more than 50 percent of votes.

Warnock, a political newcomer who has been the senior pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church — a position once held by Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr — since 2005, was the top vote-getter in his November primary contest, garnering 32.9 percent to Loeffler’s 25.9 percent. Another Republican candidate in the November “blanket primary,” former House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Doug Collins, had split the GOP field by pulling in another 20 percent, which forced that race into a runoff as well.

If history is a guide, the chances for Ossoff and Warnock to sweep both races (and in doing so flip the Senate via a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Kamala Harris) are slim. Republicans have long dominated Georgia’s runoff elections, which are a vestige of segregation meant to dilute the power of Black voters. The Peach state has not sent a Democrat to the Senate since Max Cleland won his first and only term in 1996.

But in a world where Joe Biden managed to flip the state’s electoral votes to a Democrat for the first time since 1992, history isn’t what it used to be.

Recent polling averages from Five Thirty Eight show both Democrats with slight leads, and early voting numbers show Democrats going in with a decent-sized margin. And according to political scientist Rachel Bitecofer, voter registration efforts by Democratic activists such as 2018 gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams look to be paying off as well.

Bitecofer said the data that is available on new voters who’ve registered since the November election appear to advantage Democrats.

“What we know about them… is that 40 percent of them are Black when the overall registration pool is 32 percent… and younger voters are also overperforming their registration significantly. Twenty-two percent of these new registrants are in that 25-and-under age group, and they’re not voting for Republicans,” she said.

And as for whether Trump’s appearance on Loeffler’s and Perdue’s behalf will make much difference, Trump confidantes say his lackluster performance stems mostly from his fixation on his baseless claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

According to one person familiar with his thinking, he is at least partly acting from a belief, however irrational, that if Republicans prevail in Georgia, it would undermine his contention that Democrats somehow rigged the presidential contest against him.

Even Trump himself seemed to hedge on whether his last-minute appearance was really meant to boost their chances.

“I don’t do rallies for other people,” he said. “I do them for me.”

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