WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump re-inserted himself into Georgia politics Saturday by again trying – and again failing – to reverse his loss in the state by pressuring the Republican governor and the state legislature.
Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, rejected Trump’s request to call a special legislative session to approve the appointment of a pro-Trump slate to the Electoral College, in defiance of Biden’s victory among Georgia’s voters, according to news reports.
Trump phoned Kemp just hours before flying to Valdosta, Georgia, for a rally on behalf of two Republican senators who face tough re-election battles to determine control of the U.S. Senate – candidates who have been burdened by Trump’s unprecedented attempts to flip the results of the presidential election in Georgia.
Kemp, in a tweet, did say he agreed with Trump’s call for a “signature audit” of Biden’s win, but he does not have the power to order one in a race that he and other state officials have already certified.
Replying by tweet, Trump told the governor: “Your people are refusing to do what you ask. What are they hiding?”
Trump also confirmed his request for electoral vote legislation by tweeting at Kemp: “At least immediately ask for a Special Session of the Legislature. That you can easily, and immediately, do.”
The governor did not comment on Trump’s request to have the GOP legislature approve Trump electors, as reported by The Washington Post and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Kemp is not scheduled to attend the rally in Valdosta.
The Georgia legislature lacks the constitutional authority to submit its own slate of electors in any case; Biden is entitled to the state’s 16 electoral votes because of his popular vote victory. Those votes also would not change the election overall, as Biden won 306 electoral voters nationwide.
Trump’s latest attempt to overturn Biden’s win in Georgia adds more tension to a pair of run-off races in which he has created problems for the state’s Republican senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, each of whom is a key to GOP control of the Senate.
Trump’s complaints about his loss to Biden in Georgia – and his attacks on the state’s Republican leaders like Kemp – threaten to reduce turnout for Perdue and Loeffler, making them vulnerable to Democratic opponents Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.
If the Democrats prevail, the Senate will be tied 50-50 between the parties – a tie to be broken by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, giving the Democrats control of the chamber when it comes to setting the agenda.
“Donald Trump is the major driving force of voter turn out in Georgia,” said pollster Frank Luntz. “If Republicans win, they should thank him. If Republicans lose, they can blame him.”
The Valdosta trip also presents a rhetorical challenge for Trump: Arguing that the two Senate races are essential to control of the Senate, without admitting, publicly, that Biden and Harris will take office on Jan. 20, something he has refused to concede since Election Day last month.
On Saturday, Trump again tweeted protests about the Georgia electoral system, allegations that have been rejected by judges and Republican elected officials. The president has made similar complaints in other states, including Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Nevada, and faced similar defeats.
Aboard Air Force One en route to Georgia, Trump issued a pair of tweets attacking Kemp and another Republican governor, Doug Ducey of Arizona.
“If they were with us, we would have already won both Arizona and Georgia,” Trump claimed, although a variety of officials said Biden carried both states in free and fair elections.
Trump added: “Republicans will NEVER forget this.”
For weeks, Trump has attacked Kemp and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, both of whom signed off on certification on voting results that showed a Biden victory. Raffensperger and other Republicans said they have received death threats in the wake of Trump’s attacks, and urged the president to stop them before someone gets hurt.
Trump’s criticisms appear to be hurting the governor’s standing. According to the Morning Consult Political Intelligence’s daily tracking poll, the governor’s approval rating among Georgia Republicans has dropped from 86% to 77% since Election Day on Nov. 3.
Morning Consult also said “perceptions of Sens. Loeffler and Perdue have been largely immune from the disarray” over Trump’s criticism of the Georgia electoral process.
Meanwhile, some allies of Trump, including attorneys Sidney Powell and Lin Wood, urged Republicans not to vote in the runoffs as a protest against the presidential balloting.
At the Valdosta rally, Trump is expected to urge Republicans to vote against the prospect of a Democratic Senate, even though that would happen only if Biden and Harris indeed become president and vice president.
None of the Georgia Senate candidates received more than 50% of the vote in last month’s election, requiring state-mandated run-offs to be held Jan. 5.
Democrats in Georgia said their turnout machine produced Biden’s victory by some 12,000 votes, and will deliver Ossoff and Warnock to the U.S. Senate. “We make history one month from today,” the Georgia Democratic Party tweeted in the hours before Trump’s visit.
Trump’s refusal to concede has created problems for Sens. Perdue and Loeffler as they seek reelection. They have backed Trump’s protests and, like most Republican lawmakers, refused to recognize Biden as president-elect – and are therefore unable to argue that their elections are essential to Republican control of the Senate.
“President Trump won’t let them make their best argument,” GOP pollster Whit Ayres said. “He puts them in a bind.”