Hours before Georgia’s polls open, Trump focuses on a different election: ‘There’s no way we lost.’
Georgians head to the polls today for a critical election that will determine whether Republicans retain control of the Senate, just a day after President Trump and President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. converged on the state to campaign for their party’s candidates.
Mr. Trump on Monday appeared alongside the Republican candidates, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, in Dalton, Ga., but remained fixated on his own loss in Georgia in November and continued his pattern of prioritizing his personal grievances over the party’s drive to win the state’s two seats.
“There’s no way we lost Georgia,” Mr. Trump said just after taking the stage. “I’ve had two elections. I’ve won both of them. It’s amazing.”
Monday’s rallies were also shaken by the stunning revelation the day before that Mr. Trump had, in an hourlong phone call with Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, repeated a litany of conspiracy theories and asked Mr. Raffensperger to “find 11,780 votes” to overturn the will of Georgia voters, who chose Mr. Biden.
The president’s statement fueled anger among Democrats and helped feed the drive to defeat the two Republican candidates. Jon Ossoff, the Democrat challenging Mr. Perdue, drew parallels between Mr. Trump’s effort and the bitter history of disenfranchisement in the state, citing poll closures and cumbersome voting rules.
“The president of the United States on the phone trying to intimidate Georgia’s election officials to throw out your votes,” Mr. Ossoff told supporters at a canvassing event in Conyers, a suburb east of Atlanta. “Let’s send a message: Don’t come down to Georgia and try to mess with our voting rights.”
Mr. Perdue and Ms. Loeffler have closely aligned themselves with Mr. Trump. On Monday, Ms. Loeffler promised to vote against the Electoral College certification process in the Senate on Wednesday, joining a dozen Republican senators in voting to overturn electors for Mr. Biden.
Mr. Trump muscled his way to power by bullying the Republican establishment — and the party’s leaders now worry that he might drag them down with him. Republican turnout has been low in Georgia’s early voting, prompted by skepticism among Mr. Trump’s own die-hards about the validity of the November results.
During a midday appearance at a church in Milner, Ga., Vice President Mike Pence implored Georgia voters to help maintain a Republican majority in the Senate as a “last line of defense.”
In his appearance in Atlanta on Monday, Mr. Biden made no direct mention of Mr. Trump’s telephone call but did obliquely criticize the president’s strongman tactics.
“As our opposition friends are finding out, all power flows from the people,” said the president-elect, adding that politicians cannot “seize power.”
Mostly, though, Mr. Biden, clad in a black mask emblazoned with “VOTE,” encouraged his audience to do just that.
Some of the attendees at the Biden rally waved signs in support of the two Democratic candidates, Mr. Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, but many indicated that they got involved in the runoffs because they had been galvanized by Mr. Trump.
“We’re supporting democracy because we’ve seen it dwindle these last four years,” said Deshunn Wilkerson, a 36-year-old social worker, who wore a sweatshirt with the pink-and-green letters of the sorority she shares with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Alpha Kappa Alpha.
Emily Cochrane Maggie Astor and Rick Rojas contributed reporting.
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