Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler have spent the entire Georgia Senate runoffs running as close as they can to Donald Trump, while at the same time avoiding a complete adoption of Trump’s baseless conspiracy theories about electoral fraud.
That careful tightrope snapped when a group of GOP senators made the calculated decision to vote against counting electoral votes next week when Congress is expected to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory — despite no credible evidence suggesting widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.
That move forced Perdue and Loeffler into a position where they had to clearly define if they supported Trump and his ill-fated effort to overturn the November results.
For weeks Perdue and Loeffler have evaded questions on the topic. Perdue initially punted, saying that because of the timing of the runoff that he wouldn’t have a say in the matter. Perdue’s first term ended Sunday. The results of the runoff won’t be certified in time for the vote on January 6 therefore Perdue won’t have a vote.
However, despite attempting to use the technicality of timing as a shield to prevent taking a stand, Perdue finally sided with the objectors, telling Fox News he supports their efforts.
“I’m encouraging my colleagues to object. This is something that the American people demand right now,” said Perdue. “There are huge irregularities in Georgia. They need to be investigated, and they need to be corrected in my opinion.”
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, has overseen three different recounts of the vote in the state and conducted several other reviews of the process. He recently tasked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to conduct an audit of the signature match system in Cobb County which determined the system was 99.9% accurate and revealed no evidence of fraud.
According to an audio recording of a phone call obtained by The Washington Post, Trump pushed Raffensperger to “find” votes to overturn the election results after his loss to Biden.
Perdue said he not only would object to Trump’s loss, but also claimed that he should have won in November, despite not reaching the 50% threshold required to avoid a runoff election.
When asked what Republicans had done to secure the integrity of the election, Perdue said the state has hired additional poll workers and ballot counting monitors.
“There are still Republicans that are upset and mad about what happened in November, as I am,” Perdue said. “Look, I don’t think I should be in this runoff, if everything had happened the way it should have in November.”
“But the only recourse we have is to get out and fight, and rise up and vote,” he added.
Perdue’s new position objecting to the presidential election’s results is even a step further than his fellow Republican Loeffler, who will be in a position to vote on Wednesday. Loeffler is filling the unexpired term of Sen. Johnny Isakson, and as a result, will stay in office until the runoff results are certified. That means she will be the senator from Georgia the day the Electoral College vote comes up regardless of Tuesday’s results.
Loeffler has repeatedly left open the idea of objecting but has yet to firmly commit. She chose not to sign on to the plan led by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz that was announced on Saturday. Loeffler campaigned with Cruz on Saturday morning before he announced his plans. Later that day she refused to take a firm position on the move, instead saying she is focused only on her election January 5.
“Everything is on the table right now,” Loeffler told reporters. “You know this President has fought for us. I’m fighting for him every day. I stood by him 100% of the time.”
Perdue and Loeffler are respectively facing Democrats Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock. If both Democrats win their races, the Senate will be split 50-50, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris breaking tie votes.
A Democrat has not won a Senate seat in Georgia in 20 years. But Trump lost the state to President-elect Joe Biden in November, the first time for a Republican presidential candidate since 1996.
Trump has repeatedly put the Senate GOP candidates in tough positions. They’re nervous about losing the support of his base, but also understand that Georgia is a rapidly diversifying state. If Perdue and Loeffler delve too deep into Trump conspiracies, they run the risk of not only alienating moderate voters but inspiring the growing base of Democrats.
Crossing Trump is a risk they have decided is not worth taking. Loeffler and Perdue have both refused to stand up to Trump as he continues to attack their ally, GOP Gov. Brian Kemp, and Raffensperger.
In some instances, the senators have been forced to contradict their own positions. They both advocated and voted for the omnibus spending bill that included a $600 direct payment to millions of Americans. When Trump announced his desire for bigger, $2,000 checks, they quickly agreed.
The duo also supported the National Defense Authorization Act, but when Trump vetoed the bill, both were absent when their colleagues voted to override it. Perdue was in quarantine because of a Covid-19 exposure and could not be in Washington. Loeffler was able to go but skipped the vote to campaign.
When asked by Fox News how she would’ve voted, she simply replied, “I don’t know.”