- Jun 20, 2020
(Jan. 4) Watch live as President Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Dalton, Georgia, for Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler on Monday, January 4, 2020, ahead of Tuesday's historic Georgia Senate runoff elections that will decide whether Republicans retain control of the U.S. Senate.
For Trump, the visit comes days after pressuring top Georgia officials in an extraordinary 62-minute call to find enough votes to overturn his loss to Biden in the state -- the latest in an increasingly desperate series of moves to change the results in his favor.
During the call on Saturday, Trump repeated his unfounded claims of vote fraud and told Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger he was running a “big risk” by not intervening in the election.
“I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break,” Trump said on the call.
Republicans need Trump to stoke turnout among his base for the Tuesday Senate elections so that GOP senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler can successfully defend their seats. Yet many in the party fear his efforts to alter the outcome of the presidential race could turn off their voters.
Biden will be stumping on behalf of challengers Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff as he takes a break from assembling his cabinet ahead of his Jan. 20 inauguration.
Georgia has been a key target for Trump as he has advanced baseless claims that voter fraud cost him re-election in November. Trump has accused the state’s Republican leaders, including Governor Brian Kemp, of being in league with a Democratic conspiracy to rig the election.
“The president is creating a lot of turmoil among Republicans,” said Edward Lindsey, a Republican strategist and former GOP leader in the Georgia assembly. “That cannot help but to have somewhat of a dampening impact on the president’s most ardent supporters.”
He called Trump’s rally -- only the president’s second appearance in the state during the runoff campaign -- “a double-edged sword.”
Trump took his efforts to a new level over the weekend, pressing Raffensperger and other Georgia officials in a call on Saturday to “find” enough votes to overturn the result.
“Look, all I want to do is this: I just want to find 11,780 votes,” Trump told Raffensperger. An official recount has affirmed that Biden beat Trump by 11,779 votes in the traditionally Republican state.
Raffensperger was asked on ABC Monday whether he felt intimidated by the call. “No, we have to follow the process, follow the law,” he replied. “Everything we’ve done for the last 12 months follows the Constitution of the state of Georgia, follows the United States Constitution, follows state law.”
But the claims risk dissuading Republican voters from returning to the polls, if they buy Trump’s assertions that Georgia’s elections can’t be trusted.
Biden is likely to focus on Trump’s conduct during his Monday visit as he urges Democrats to the polls. And Trump, at a rally in the town of Dalton, is likely to be just as focused on his own political future as those of Perdue and Loeffler.
On Wednesday, the day after the Georgia runoff, Congress will convene in a joint session to ratify Biden’s Electoral College victory. Trump has urged Republican lawmakers to challenge Electoral College tallies from several battleground states, including Georgia, and has encouraged his supporters to stage a large protest in Washington.
Trump is likely to split his rally time between the Georgia election and the Jan. 6 certification of the Electoral College results, a person familiar with his thinking said. The person asked not to be identified because Trump frequently ad libs at his rallies.
“Keeping a Republican majority in the Senate has been a priority for the president from the beginning,” Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said. “He will be rallying voters to support Senators Perdue and Loeffler and warning that their opponents are leftist extremists who support higher taxes, the job-crushing Green New Deal, and amnesty for 11 million illegal aliens.”
In a Dec. 5 rally for the two candidates, Trump praised them, but spent just as much time attacking Georgia’s voting system and complaining about his loss.