Mission accomplished? The sound we hear coming from Georgia may be sighs of relief from Republicans. Donald Trump rallied his supporters to fight hard to win the runoffs, telling them that they had to turn out and vote for David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, both of whom he endorsed in warm, personal terms:
— Matt Whitlock (@mattdizwhitlock) December 6, 2020
If Democrats win the two Senate seats and then control of the upper chamber, Trump warned them that all-out destruction would follow. Trump weaved that message around plenty of complaints about the election — playing videos alleging fraud at one point — but told the audience that’s why they needed to vote in overwhelming numbers on January 5:
Trump pleaded with his backers to vote even as he tore into Georgia’s voting system and some of his allies suggested that they shouldn’t because of concerns over fraud. Trump dismissed that idea, saying if GOP voters stay home, “the radical left wins.”
Trump told people to request absentee ballots for the Senate race — while in the same speech criticizing mail-in ballots as “phony” and “fake.” State Republicans have acknowledged they need better support among absentee voters to win the two Senate races.
If Democrats prevail, Trump said, “we will have total Socialist one-party control.” He warned of “draconian military cuts” and said “they’ll wage war on American energy” and end religious liberty.
The point wasn’t subtle:
President Trump says “If you don’t vote the socialists and the communists win. They win!” #GAsen
— Madelaine Pisani (@MadelainePisani) December 6, 2020
That’s not to say that Trump’s airing of grievances didn’t hit Festivus levels at times. Bloomberg also reports on the extensive complaints Trump made about the November 3 election and his repeated claims of having the election stolen from him in the rally. At one point, David Perdue had trouble getting the crowd to listen to him; instead, they kept chanting, “Fight for Trump!”
However, Bloomberg also noted that Trump seemed a bit more resigned to the outcome of the general election:
Trump openly mused about running for president again in 2024 but said he did not want to because he hoped to be inaugurated again in January — another jarring refusal to accept his loss.
But at another point, Trump appeared to acknowledge his defeat when he lamented Iran would have rushed to make a deal with his administration “if I won.” But he quickly added, “perhaps I still will.”
Republicans in Georgia worried that his rally would overlook the runoffs entirely and end up as nothing more than an argument not to vote in the election. On that measure, at least, the rally appeared to be a success. Trump even encouraged Republicans to get absentee ballots, a change from the general election when Trump encouraged Republicans to strictly vote in person. And while Trump did continue to claim he would win the Georgia election, he did focus on pushing voters to turn out in the runoffs as well.
Media observers noted the apparent impact:
Will say: Trump is definitely doing enough to help Loeffler/Perdue despite his airing of grievances. Just explained why people need to show up in January, and making the case for the two GOP senators.
— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) December 6, 2020
Two things I’ve found, and every reporter I’ve talked to has found, this weekend in GA.
1) Most Trump voters don’t just think he won; they say he’ll still win the challenges and get a second term.
2) None of these voters plan to skip the Jan 5 runoff.
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) December 6, 2020
I suspect that the desire to stick it to the Democrats will outweigh the desire to stick it to Kemp in the end. That almost certainly describes Trump too; he has just one more opportunity to stick his thumb in the eyes of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and doesn’t want it wasted. Trump also knows that he owes a big debt to Mitch McConnell over the last four years for the one area of lasting impact from his administration — the reshaping of the federal judiciary. More practically, Trump needs McConnell to keep holding the reins to make sure that doesn’t get undone by extremist judiciary picks from Joe Biden. The next president will have lots of pressure to name hardline progressives to the bench if Schumer controls the Senate floor — and it only takes majority votes to confirm judges, don’t forget.
Trump basically checked the boxes last night and did what he could to get his base engaged in the runoffs. Assuming he doesn’t swing into Lin Wood territory, it’s now up to Perdue and Loeffler to keep those voters engaged.