President Donald Trump is scheduled to headline a 9 p.m. ET rally for a pair of Georgia Republican Senate candidates, but his election eve appearance has GOP officials in Georgia and in Washington worried in the wake of his recently publicized call pressuring an election official over the November results.
The President’s presence at the Dalton, Georgia, rally would normally be a welcome sight for Republicans just one day before the runoffs — races that will determine which party controls the Senate. A big crowd for the President is expected and there is evidence that Trump’s presence will help turn out GOP voters.
But some Republicans are convinced the President, who unsuccessfully pressured Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” votes that would tilt the balance in Trump’s favor, will spend far more time focused on his baseless electoral fraud claims as opposed to rallying his supporters to vote for the Republican ticket of Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.
Public statements and private observations by sources familiar with the situation suggest that Trump is fixated with the issues he laid out on the call.
Trump repeatedly pushed for the call with the Georgia secretary of state, two sources familiar said. And between Election Day and Saturday’s phone call, there were 18 attempted calls from the White House to Raffensperger’s office, a source with knowledge and a Georgia state official confirmed to CNN.
The existence of the phone call and the number of attempted calls were first reported by The Washington Post.
On Monday, Raffensperger told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that this was his first call on the matter with Trump personally, and several senior White House officials were unaware the call happened until Trump tweeted about it.
“The President’s ability to exceed expectations when it comes to how unhelpful he’ll be remains undefeated,” one GOP operative working on the runoff told CNN.
It is a worry shared on the ground in Georgia. Local Republican leaders have quarreled with Trump over the administration of the election in November but share the President’s desire to see Loeffler and Perdue elected.
“That phone call did absolutely nothing to help, you know, drive turnout for Republicans here in Georgia, for Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue,” Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who will not join Trump’s rally Monday night, told CNN. “I was disappointed and quite honestly, I can’t imagine anyone on that staff encouraging that call or not giving him the advice to hang up and move on to the next subject.”
After the call was publicized, many Georgia Republicans have given up all hope that Trump’s visit on Monday night will be a positive contribution to that effort.
“No one has any rational reason to believe it will go well,” said one Georgia Republican. “The likelihood of a total, complete, absolute sh*t show is off the charts. If disaster is avoided, it will be sheer dumb luck.”
On the phone call with Raffensperger, Trump cited the anticipated crowd for the rally Monday night in Dalton as evidence that he actually won the election in November. He warned the secretary of state that he planned on bringing up his grievances at the event.
“The people of Georgia are angry, and these numbers are gonna be repeated on Monday night along with others that we’re gonna have by that time, which are much more substantial even, and the people of Georgia are angry,” Trump said.
Trump’s last visit to Georgia was less than ideal — he spent most of the rally airing grievances about the November vote. That included playing lengthy video segments from conservative outlets such as Newsmax, which peddled completely false stories about alleged fraud. When Perdue and Loeffler were brought on stage they were drowned out by calls of “stop the steal’ and “stand up for Trump”.
The Trump campaign promised the President visit Monday would be a help to the GOP ticket.
“Keeping a Republican majority in the Senate has been a priority for the President from the beginning,” said Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign communications director.
The universal opinion of Republicans is that the frenzy over the call Trump made to Raffensperger guarantees that any hope of Trump delivering a simple, get-out-the-vote message directed at his passionate supporters without the added distractions of election fraud are gone.