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

The concerns come ahead of Trump’s planned visit to Georgia on Saturday to campaign alongside Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who are facing strong Democratic rivals in the Jan.5 election that will determine which party controls the Senate when start of Biden’s presidency.

Republicans recognize Trump as the biggest driver of GOP turnout, including in Georgia, where Biden won by fewer than 13,000 votes out of some 5 million cast. That means all the buzz from one of Trump’s iconic rallies could matter. But some Republicans worry that Trump is using the platform to amplify his baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud – arguments flatly rejected in state and federal courts across the country. That could make it difficult for Perdue and Loeffler to maintain a clear focus on the stakes in January and could even discourage Republicans from voting.

Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue are fighting for their seats and, consequently, control of the Senate.
Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue are fighting for their seats and, consequently, control of the Senate. (AP)

“The president has basically taken hostages in this race,” said Brendan Buck, once a top adviser to former Speaker Paul Ryan.

Especially tense are Trump’s continued attacks on Georgia’s Republican state officials and the state’s electoral system, potentially detracting from public praise for Loeffler and Perdue.

“Trump’s comments are damaging the Republican brand,” argued Republican donor Dan Eberhart, adding that the president is “acting with bad sportsmanship and bad faith” instead of emphasizing the need for Republicans to maintain control of the Senate.

Donald Trump has not granted the election.
Donald Trump has not granted the election. (AP)

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

Trump on Monday criticized Governor Brian Kemp as “unfortunate” for failing to intervene to “invalidate” Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s certification of Biden’s victory. A day earlier, Trump told Fox News he was “embarrassed” to have endorsed Kemp in his 2018 Republican primary for governor. Kemp’s office noted in response that state law does not give Kemp the authority to override election results, despite Trump’s claim 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 tried to stay above the fray.

Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff are the Democratic candidates for the Georgia Senate.
Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff are the Democratic candidates for the Georgia Senate. (AP)

They have long aligned themselves with Trump and even echoed some of his blanket criticism of the fall election, jointly demanding Raffensperger’s resignation. But the crux of his runoff argument – that Republicans should prevent Democrats from controlling the Capitol and the White House – is itself a tacit admission that Biden, not Trump, will take office on January 20. And at a recent campaign stop, Perdue heard from vocal Trump supporters who demanded that he do more to help Trump in some way claim Georgia’s 16 electoral votes.

Republicans see three possible negative outcomes in Trump fanning the flames.

Some Republican voters could be deterred from voting again if they accept Trump’s claims that the system is hopelessly corrupt. Among Republicans more loyal to Trump than to the party, some might skip the runoff out of anger at a party establishment that the president continues to attack. Finally, at the other end of the Republican spectrum are moderate Republicans who have already crossed paths to help Biden win Georgia and could be even more alienated if the second round turns into another referendum on Trump.

Jon Ossoff would be Georgia's first Jewish senator, if elected.
Jon Ossoff would be Georgia’s first Jewish senator, if elected. (AP)

Josh Holmes, one of the top aides to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said Republicans “have not seen any evidence of a lack of enthusiasm in the Senate election.”

But none of those possible negative effects would have to be generalized to tip the second round if they end as close as the presidential race in Georgia.

“We will see how it develops. It changes from day to day and week to week. But so far everything is fine, “said Holmes.

In Georgia, any Republican concern is more circumspect.

Brian Robinson, a former adviser to Kemp’s Republican predecessor as governor, said Trump should “deliver a strong and progressive message” about the stakes for a Republican base that is “fervently dedicated to him.”

Raphael Warnock is the Democratic front-runner in Georgia's special senator election.
Raphael Warnock is a prominent pastor and the Democratic candidate for the Georgia Senate race. (AP)

“The best thing you can do for the party,” Robinson said, “is to talk about the importance of having a Republican majority in the Senate to project your political legacy and make sure that the Democrats cannot reverse much of what you have proposed. in the place that Republicans support. “

When asked what Trump should avoid, Robinson returned to what he thinks the president should say.

Former US Representative Jack Kingston, a Trump ally, played down the potential for splitting the Republican Party, framing a “feud within the family” as a sideshow to the “incredible” consequences that define splits.

“Trump supporters will follow Trump, but they are not blind to what is at stake. And neither is he, ”Kingston said. “He knows how to preserve his legacy. You have to get these people re-elected. “Trump, Kingston argued, is” keeping the rank and file interested, “a necessary component of any successful runoff campaign, as second rounds of elections often see a drop in turnout from voters.

Robinson added that Democrats face their own challenge by replicating Biden’s record turnout.

Rusty Albietz, from Blairsville, Georgia, looks at his flag as he meets with supporters of President Donald Trump in front of the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta.
Rusty Albietz, from Blairsville, Georgia, looks at his flag as he meets with supporters of President Donald Trump in front of the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta. (AP)

What is the best motivator? Fear, ”he said. Before November, Democrats feared a second Trump term more than Republicans feared Trump would lose, Robinson reasoned. “Republicans have reason to be scared right now,” he said, given the prospect that Democrats could control both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

“That could make a difference in turnout” regardless of what Trump says, Robinson concluded.

For their part, the senators continue to publicly accept everything related to Trump before the visit.

“I couldn’t be more excited to welcome ‘the president’ back to Georgia,” Loeffler wrote on Twitter after Trump confirmed his plans. The Perdue campaign quickly retweeted the comment, which Loeffler punctuated with a reminder that the second round is “a hands-on moment.”

However, it is not clear if all Republicans will be present.

Votes are counted in Atlanta, Georgia.
Votes are counted in Atlanta, Georgia. (AP)

Kemp, the governor who appointed Loeffler after Senator Johnny Isakson’s retirement last year, on previous Trump visits greeted the president as he disembarks from Air Force One. When asked Monday if Georgians will see a similar scene on Saturday, Kemp spokesman Cody Hall said he could not comment “yet.”


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