Democrats have won at least one Senate victory in Georgia, with another likely to follow. And the Republicans point a frustrated finger at Donald Trump.
With control of the Senate at stake in the state’s two races, the president decided to spend weeks spreading unsubstantiated claims that Georgia’s electoral system had been tampered with in an online movement to boycott Tuesday’s elections fired. He demonized the state’s Republican leaders and broke the local GOP. He ignored calls from his allies to assemble in the state earlier. His support for Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue came mainly in the form of occasional tweets and two rallies, including one on Monday. He beat up Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for failing to heed his calls for increased stimulus controls.
When Democrat Raphael Warnock defeated Loeffler early Wednesday and Democrat Jon Ossoff had a good chance of overthrowing Perdue, Republicans were quick to blame Trump.
“Trump is the cause of it, lock, warehouse and barrel,” said a Republican strategist. “But if you rely on someone to win you for a race in the Senate that lost nationwide eight weeks earlier, you are not in a position of strength.”
The immediate accusation is a symbol of the intricate GOP dynamic that has emerged following Trump’s loss in the November election. Cracks form as Republicans decide whether it’s useful to hold on to Trump – even if he’s trying to undermine an election – or to distance himself. And if the Georgia races are signs, Republicans appear ready to turn Trump on if he can’t reliably run the voting for the candidates in the months and years to come.
When asked why the Republicans didn’t get their way on Tuesday, a senior Republican Senate adviser simply said, “Donald J. Trump.”
The frustration comes from the days after the November 3rd election. While Republicans tried to sit back and prepare for the two runoff elections in Georgia, the president sparked civil war within his own party when he launched a campaign of divisions to overthrow the 2020 elections.
Over the next few weeks, the president continued to focus on reversing his personal results in Georgia and other states. Just last weekend he harassed Georgian Foreign Minister Brad Raffensperger for an hour by phone and asked him to find enough votes to take the state away from President-elect Joe Biden.
Even at a Monday rally to rally votes for Loeffler and Perdue, the president was obsessed with his own political grievances and wiped out lawmakers from his own party, including Georgia Republican Governor Brian Kemp.
The behavior made Republicans shake their heads Tuesday night, enraging that it may have cost them two critical races.
They ticked off a variety of reasons why Trump was to blame and even offered conflicting theories. While some Republicans wished Trump had been more involved in the races, others argued that he should actually have pulled himself out of the situation.
“He’s the Dems’ best base animator,” said a GOP strategist who was involved in the Georgia races. “Look at how high the turnout was compared to historical trends. Check out how much their candidates have raised. He resigns after election day and denies them this oxygen. He didn’t do it. “
The GOP blame game has spread beyond Trump to include some of his party colyths. A party official suggested that RNC chairman Ronna McDaniel – Trump’s handpicked party chairman – step down just a day before the annual winter meeting of the Republican National Committee in Amelia Island, Florida.
“I think the guilt will spread, but a party leader who loses a presidential election and loses the Senate majority should offer their resignation out of honor, even if the committee does not accept it,” said the Republican official.
McDaniel spent the months leading up to the election supporting the president’s efforts to undermine the election while addressing concerns that his efforts might suppress the Republican vote in Georgia. In late November, McDaniel asked Republicans to vote in the runoff election after people reiterated Trump’s false claims in a campaign freeze and McDaniel said the choice was “already decided”.
The far right corners of the party only added to the skepticism and confusion of voters. At one point, pro-Trump attorneys Lin Wood and Sidney Powell held a rally in Alpharetta, Ga., Encouraging voters to boycott the runoff election unless Raffensperger changed the state’s electoral process.
“Why should you go back and vote on another rigged election?” Wood asked the cheering crowd.
“I encourage all Georgians to announce that you will not vote until your vote is certain,” said Powell, who advanced false conspiracy theories about the corruption of state voting machines by the dead Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez.
The proposal led the President to pick up the phone and ask Wood, “Stop doing that. ”
However, the damage may already have been done.
“It turns out that the party leader spends two months actively delegitimizing elections and saying that votes don’t matter. The voters listen,” said a Republican who worked on the runoff elections. “There was a determining factor in Georgia, and anyone who says otherwise is likely to share substances with Lin Wood.”
Josh Holmes, former McConnell chief of staff and campaign manager, pointed out how badly Trump’s embassy had played in the Georgia suburbs.
“Suburbs, my friends, the suburbs” Holmes tweeted. “I feel like a one-trick pony, but here we are again. We moved from Jobs and Business to QAnon election conspiracies in four short years and – it turns out – they listened! “
Trump’s closest allies pointed directly back at McConnell, arguing that his decision to block the Trump-backed $ 2,000 Covid stimulus checks doomed candidates in Georgia.
Behind the scenes, Georgia Republicans were also frustrated that Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son and one of the GOP’s most beloved deputies, left the state on the Sunday before the elections. Perdue personally asked Trump to reconsider, but Senator Tim Scott (RS.C.) stepped in instead.
In the end, Republicans were delighted with the looming results in two Senate races that most believed would favor the GOP at the start.
“That shouldn’t be close. This shouldn’t be a conversation for us at this point, ”former RNC chairman Michael Steele said on MSNBC. “We should go for a beer right now because the evening would have been over. And the reality is, it’s not because this President did something to the Republican Party. “
Sam Stein contributed to this report.