Trump has a rally in Valdosta, Georgia on Saturday, ostensibly to boost the runoff campaigns of knee jerk supporters Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. Valdosta is the county seat of Lowndes way down on the Florida border. Much of Woody Harrelson's Zombieland was filmed there. In 2016, Lowndes County went for Trump 21,308 (57.9%) to 14,614 (39.7%). I'm sure it's just a coincidence, but the Lowndes population is 58.1% white.
Johnny Isakson was reelected to the Senate on that day too-- with 59.5% of the vote. Two years later, the "blue wave" never did hit south Georgia and Lowndes gave Brian Kemp a strong win-- 20,488 (57.3%) to 15,024 (42.0%)-- against Stacey Abrams in the gubernatorial race. And then, last month, Lowndes turned out for the GOP again. Trump beat Biden 25,691 (55.4%) to 20,117 (43.4%); Perdue beat Ossoff 25,620 (56.0%) to 19,124 (41.8%) and the special wouldn't have even put Warnock, who came in #1 statewide, into the runoff:
Loeffler (R)- 12,607 (27.9%)
Collins (R)- 10,085 (22.3%)
Warnock (D)- 7,931 (17.6%)
Jackson (D)- 4,899 (10.9%)
So a Trump rally-- albeit in the midst of a COVID-surge that is devastating Georgia (5,734 new cases yesterday, bringing the statewide total to 482,139 which translates into 45,410 cases per million Georgians; Lowndes County is averaging 39 new cases a day and Echols County next door is averaging 68 per day-- considered helpful, right? Well... maybe.
Trump allies, crackpots Lin Wood and Sidney Powell are loudly promoting a "Stop the Steal" movement in Georgia that includes boycotting the January 5th runoff. Today at a raucous rally/press event in Alpharetta they urged Trump supporters to stay home and not take part in another "rigged election." Wood denounced Loeffler and Perdue for not being at the rally. Wood: "Do not be fooled twice. This is Georgia. We ain't dumb. We're not going to vote on Jan. 5 on another machine made by China. You're not going to fool Georgians again. If Kelly Loeffler wants your vote, if David Perdue wants your vote, they've got to earn it." Wood has been screeching that Loeffler and Perdue must help forced Kemp to call a special legislative session to overturn the election. "And if they do not do it, they have not earned your vote. Don't you give it to them. Why would you go back and vote in another rigged election? For God's sake, fix it. You've got to fix it before you do it again."
If I thought Schumer was shrewd enough too be behind this, I'd guess Wood and Powell were working for him.
This morning, Washington Post reporters Josh Dawsey, Amy Gardner and Cleve Wootson wrote that Republicans are on edge that Trump 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... with competing GOP factions growing increasingly angry and distrustful of one another." Wood is demanding Kemp resign and that he be arrested and imprisoned.
Today Trumpist legislators are fanning the flames by holding a hearing in the state Capitol to hear testimony about Trump's baseless assertions of voting irregularities. Dawsey, Gardner and Wootson reported that Republican "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... 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.
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 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.
...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.”
...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.”
...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.
...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.
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-IN) 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.
...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.
Please consider contributing to the campaigns of Warnock and Ossoff by clicking on the ActBlue Senate thermometer above. Meanwhile William Rivers Pitt's analysis for Truthout readers noted that "There’s a real possibility that Trump the arsonist could once again go for the kerosene and the matches, if only to hear the cheers as the flames burn his party to the ground. Any network coverage of his visit there this weekend is appointment television... There is no way to say how this will all play out, and betting odds still favor the GOP to win at least one of those Georgia runoffs. Trump will make that easier or harder on Saturday. I will say this much, however: If Trump’s poor-loser shenanigans lead to a double-barreled GOP defeat in Georgia, all forms of hell are going to break loose within that party."
We all know that polling doesn't mean anything. That said, a new Survey USA poll, released this morning, shows that Warnock has increased his lead over Loeffler, and is now a full 7 points-- 52-45%. Ossoff is ahead of Perdue as well-- albeit within the margin of error: 50-48%.