Trump Headed to GA as Turnout Driver 12/01 06:16

Trump Headed to GA as Turnout Driver   12/01 06:16

   Some establishment Republicans are sounding alarms that President Donald 
Trump's conspiratorial denials of his own defeat could threaten the party's 
ability to win a Senate majority and counter President-elect Joe Biden's 
administration.

   ATLANTA (AP) -- Some establishment Republicans are sounding alarms that 
President Donald Trump's conspiratorial denials of his own defeat could 
threaten the party's ability to win a Senate majority and counter 
President-elect Joe Biden's administration.

   The concerns come ahead of Trump's planned Saturday visit to Georgia to 
campaign alongside Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who face strong 
Democratic challengers in Jan. 5 runoffs that will determine which party 
controls the Senate at the outset of Biden's presidency.

   Republicans acknowledge Trump as the GOP's biggest turnout driver, including 
in Georgia, where Biden won by fewer than 13,000 votes out of about 5 million 
cast. That means every bit of enthusiasm from one of Trump's signature rallies 
could matter. But some Republicans worry Trump will use the platform to amplify 
his baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud --- arguments roundly 
rejected in state and federal courts across the country. That could make it 
harder for Perdue and Loeffler to keep a clear focus on the stakes in January 
and could even discourage Republicans from voting.

   "The president has basically taken hostage this race," said Brendan Buck, 
once a top adviser to former House Speaker Paul Ryan.

   Especially fraught are Trump's continued attacks on Georgia's Republican 
state officials and the state's election system, potentially taking away from 
his public praise of Loeffler and Perdue.

   "Trump's comments are damaging the Republican brand," argued Republican 
donor Dan Eberhart, who added that the president is "acting in bad 
sportsmanship and bad faith" instead of emphasizing Republicans' need to 
maintain Senate control.

   The GOP needs one more seat for a majority. Democrats need Jon Ossoff to 
defeat Perdue and Raphael Warnock to defeat Loeffler to force a 50-50 Senate, 
positioning Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as the tie-breaking majority 
vote.

   Trump on Monday blasted Gov. Brian Kemp as "hapless" for not intervening to 
"overrule" Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger's certification of Biden's 
win. A day earlier, Trump told Fox News he was "ashamed" he'd endorsed Kemp in 
his 2018 GOP primary for governor. Kemp's office noted in response that state 
law gives Kemp no authority to overturn election results, despite Trump's 
contention that Kemp could "easily" invoke "emergency powers." Meanwhile, 
Raffensperger, a Trump supporter like Kemp, has accused the president of 
throwing him "under the bus" for doing his job.

   Perdue and Loeffler have attempted to stay above the fray.

   They've long aligned themselves with Trump and even echoed some of his 
general criticisms of the fall elections, jointly demanding Raffensperger's 
resignation. But the crux of their runoff argument --- that Republicans must 
prevent Democrats from controlling Capitol Hill and the White House --- is 
itself a tacit admission that Biden, not Trump, will be inaugurated Jan. 20. 
And at one recent campaign stop, Perdue heard from vocal Trump supporters who 
demanded that he do more to help Trump somehow claim Georgia's 16 electoral 
votes.

   Republicans see three potential negative outcomes to Trump fanning the 
flames.

   Some GOP voters could be dissuaded from voting again if they accept Trump's 
claims that the system is hopelessly corrupted. Among Republicans more loyal to 
Trump than to the party, some could skip the runoff altogether out of anger at 
a party establishment the president continues to assail. Lastly, at the other 
end of the GOP spectrum are the moderate Republicans who already crossed over 
to help Biden win Georgia and could be further alienated if the runoff becomes 
another referendum on Trump.

   Josh Holmes, a top adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said 
Republicans "haven't seen any evidence of lack of enthusiasm in the Senate 
races."

   But none of those potential bad effects would have to be sweeping to tilt 
the runoffs if they end up as close as the presidential contest in Georgia.

   "We'll see how it plays out. It changes day by day and week by week. But so 
far, so good," Holmes said.

   In Georgia, any Republican concerns are more circumspect.

   Brian Robinson, a former adviser to Kemp's Republican predecessor as 
governor, said Trump should "drive a strong, forward-looking message" about 
what's at stake for a Republican base that "is fervently devoted to him."

   "The best thing he can do for the party," Robinson said, "is to talk about 
the importance of having a Republican Senate majority to project his policy 
legacy and to make sure the Democrats can't reverse a lot of what he has put in 
place that Republicans support."

   Asked what Trump should avoid, Robinson circled back to what he believes the 
president should say.

   Former U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, a Trump ally, downplayed the potential for 
GOP splintering, framing an "inner-family squabble" as a sideshow to the 
"incredible" consequences that define the runoffs.

   "Followers of Trump will follow Trump, but they're not blind to the huge 
stakes. And neither is he," Kingston said. "He knows to keep his legacy. He's 
got to get these people reelected." Trump, Kingston argued, is "keeping the 
base interested," a necessary component of any successful runoff campaign since 
second rounds of elections often see a drop-off in voter participation.

   Robinson added that Democrats face their own challenge in replicating record 
turnout for Biden.

   "What's the best motivator? Fear," he said. Before November, Democrats 
dreaded a second Trump term more than Republicans feared Trump losing, Robinson 
reasoned. "Republicans have reason to be scared now," he said, because of the 
prospect that Democrats could control both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

   "That could make a difference in turnout" beyond anything Trump says, 
Robinson concluded.

   For their parts, the senators continue their public embrace of all things 
Trump ahead of the visit.

   "I couldn't be more excited to welcome" the president "back to Georgia," 
Loeffler wrote on Twitter after Trump confirmed his plans. Perdue's campaign 
quickly retweeted the comment, which Loeffler punctuated with a reminder that 
the runoffs are "an all-hands-on-deck moment."

   It's not clear, though, if all Republicans will be on hand at all.

   Kemp, the governor who appointed Loeffler upon Sen. Johnny Isakson's 
retirement last year, has on previous Trump visits greeted the president as he 
disembarks from Air Force One. Asked Monday whether Georgians will see a 
similar scene Saturday, Kemp spokesman Cody Hall said he could not comment 
"yet."

   ___

   Fram reported from Washington.

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