After undecided results last week, there are two races in Georgia in January that will determine the fate of the Senate. POLITICO’s Elena Schneider breaks down how both parties want to win – and how Trump’s refusal to admit could affect campaigns.
A majority of Republicans believe the election was not fair, according to new polls. Party officials attack each other for failing a litmus test in defense of Trump’s interests. Legislators in Congress and in states across the country are rushing to the cause.
“It kind of reminds you of the hanging chads in 2000,” said Scott Frostman, Republican Party leader in Sauk County, Wisconsin.
Republicans “outside of DC, in the small towns and cities,” said Frostman, “want the process to happen to make sure every vote counts.”
However, the rhetoric of many high-ranking GOP officials is far more provocative and often suggests to the party that the election was stolen or that the outcome could be reversed. Allen West, chairman of the Texas Republican Party, said this weekend that Biden and his runmate Kamala Harris have “a permanent star on their names.”
“Today the American republic is the victim of a grand scheme,” West said followed up on Monday“And anyone who refuses is a pointless lemming.”
The Republican leader in the California Senate has framed the conflict in biblical terms. Legislator Shannon Grove tweeted a photo of Trump next to a picture of Moses with arms held high by Aaron and Hur, writing, “I still believe @realDonaldTrump will be the president’s enemy [sic] the next 4 years. “
The reverberation ripples through the party, and Republicans who stand in the way are dragged through the mud.
In Georgia, Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue called for the resignation of Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger after the two senators were forced into runoff elections and Trump fell behind Biden in the state.
The two senators cited no evidence, but complained that “there have been too many failed Georgia elections this year”. On Tuesday, members of the State House delegation followed with one Letter to Raffensperger request a “thorough review”.
The fight is waged even in states where there is no dispute about the outcome – because the president won. In Ohio, the state’s Republican governor Mike DeWine criticized the Republicans for congratulating Biden. In Tennessee, the GOP legislators signed one Letter to their constituents stand with Trump “absolutely and unequivocally” “when he denies the unofficial results of the 2020 presidential election”.
Meanwhile, defeated Republicans parrot Trump’s claims that they cast doubts on their own election results to tarnish the entire ballot. Kim Klacik, who was crushed by her opponent in her Congressional race in a heavily Democratic district in Maryland, complained about irregularities at her election and vowed to “investigate” after losing more than 40 percentage points. And that doesn’t mean anything from the “Stop the Steal” rallies that take place in cities across the country or in cities Disinformation spreads online.
With a wounded president breaking out, Trump’s complaints are no longer his. They are now the cause of the entire Party – with the full blessings of the leadership.
“Virtually every prediction about what will happen in the election has been wrong,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), A member of the GOP leadership. “The president was not defeated by large numbers, in fact he may not have been defeated at all.”
Trevor Potter, a former chairman of the federal election commission who served as general counsel for Republican John McCain’s two presidential campaigns, has described the GOP leadership in recent days as “quite reluctant to face the pressure they are under” from Trump.
But Republicans “hang their hats on the idea that there is a recount process,” he said, is different from Trump’s baseless allegations of electoral fraud. And the entire episode makes it hard for the GOP to move on.
“The party is doing worse in the sense that after the election a party usually wants to go around the corner and bring up new leaders, new news, and new topics,” said Potter. “And the signs are that at least this time it’s all about Trump and his feeling of grievance. And the lawsuits and the news and the local activists who said the election was stolen make it hard for the party to get involved in anything else, in my opinion. … It takes a lot of oxygen out of the room. “
The friction for the GOP is that Trump and his supporters are nowhere near leaving the elections behind. The president has stuck to the baseless notion that he has been deprived of choice and Republicans have little political benefit in crossing it. His support – and that of his supporters – is viewed as critical to the party’s prospects in the Georgia Senate runoff elections on January 5 and beyond.
Undoubtedly, the base with Trump is after the president’s four years of spreading conspiracy theories and unfounded complaints about “rigged” elections and widespread election fraud. After Biden’s victory on Saturday, after four days of voting, a poll by POLITICO / Morning Consult found that 70 percent of Republicans said they do not believe the election was free or fair. And of this group, 85 percent said that mail-in polls led to widespread election fraud.
“I think that in today’s political climate it is very easy to turn a conspiracy theory into reality in a very short time,” said Rory Cooper, former advisor to then Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). “And Republican officials aren’t afraid of Trump. They are afraid of Trump voters and Trump voters currently believe that there is widespread fraud. “
However, looking at the Georgia race, Cooper said the Republicans were “shooting themselves in the foot”.
“The two races in Georgia stand between Joe Biden, who has full access to his agenda, and Republicans who review it,” he said. “And instead they are arguing an election that is clearly over.”
Most experts believe that the likelihood that legal or political maneuvers will change the election result is low. Rick Hasen, an expert on suffrage at the University of California’s Irvine School of Law, said it would be “the equivalent of throwing three hailstones of Marys in a row”.
But efforts to contest the elections are hampering the transition between administrations – and still have the potential to blow the Republican Party away for weeks to come.
Scott Jennings, who worked for George W. Bush and is affiliated with the Trump White House, said most Republicans are “not trying to reverse the election,” they are “Think that the same processes and procedures that are available to any candidate” should be available to the President.
“Ultimately, the votes have to be counted, the claims have to be decided, and once those two things happen there will be a winner,” Jennings said. “And the idea that you would throw a wrench into the machinery of the next steps is ridiculous in my opinion.”
Jennings predicted “little tolerance for extra-procedural or extrajudicial gimmicks”.
It’s going to be all of November to find out. Georgia is scheduled to certify the results on November 20, and Pennsylvania and Michigan three days later. On Monday, the Trump campaign in Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit asking a court to prevent officials in that state from confirming the election result. On the same day, attorneys general from 10 states filed a brief for the Trump campaign in the US Supreme Court in another case filed in Pennsylvania.
Arizona and Wisconsin, two other states that have ended the race, won’t certify until November 30th and December 1st, respectively, giving lawmakers three weeks to protest.
“Everyone just needs to be patient,” said Phillip Stephens, the GOP chairman in Robeson County, NC. We just have to deal with that. “
Burgess Everett and Jeremy B. White contributed to this report.