VALDOSTA, Ga. — Georgia Republicans are facing a dilemma at a historic turning point in their state’s politics, having to choose between loyalty to their party and loyalty to their party’s national leader — President Trump, who will be out of office next month.
At least, that’s what the election results indicate, including in their own state. But many refuse to believe it.
“At the end of all this, on January 20th, you will see Trump being sworn in again,” a Trump supporter who only gave the name “Doc” told Yahoo News at Saturday’s “Victory Rally” in Valdosta. “It’s going to be brilliant … because Trump has never let them beat him in any situation before, including the impeachment.”
Doc represents tens of thousands of Republicans nationwide and throughout Georgia who are convinced that Trump will be inaugurated for a second term despite losing the Nov. 3 election to Joe Biden.
“[Trump has] had four years to prepare for this moment,” Doc added. “Trust me. He’s not gonna let Wile E. Coyote beat him on the biggest stage.”
The insistence by many Republicans that Democrats stole the election complicates the effort to hold on to the Senate. Both Georgia seats will be decided in a runoff on Jan. 5, and if Democrats win both, they will control the Senate majority. Last week two self-proclaimed Trump supporters, lawyers Lin Wood and Sidney Powell, told Republicans not to vote in the runoff unless state officials take steps to deliver the state’s 16 Electoral College votes to Trump.
On Monday, a week before electors are to cast their votes for president and vice president, Georgia officials certified the state’s election results for a third time in favor of Biden, following the second recount. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, dismissed Trump’s claims of voting fraud at a Monday morning briefing, saying, “We have now counted legally cast ballots three times and the results remain unchanged.”
Monday was also the last day for Georgians to register to vote in the upcoming runoff election.
The false sense of hope for a second Trump term emanating from the president himself and from his supporters in the state has created an alternate reality for Republicans that may spell doom for them in the runoffs.
“The president has every right to every legal recourse, and that’s what’s taking place,” GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler said Sunday night during a debate against her Democratic opponent, the Rev. Raphael Warnock, in response to a question about Trump’s unfounded accusations of voting fraud. Loeffler was mocked for not acknowledging Trump’s loss.
As of Dec. 6, Trump and his allies have lost 46 of 47 legal challenges to the presidential election results.
On Saturday, the president headlined a rally in Valdosta for Loeffler and the other Republican senator up for reelection, David Perdue. Trump encouraged Georgians to vote for the senators but spent most of his 90-minute speech on baseless claims of misconduct by Georgia election officials, blaming them for his own loss in the state. At a rally that was supposedly for their reelection, Loeffler and Perdue were barely given any speaking time at the podium.
“Let them steal Georgia again, you’ll never be able to look yourself in the mirror,” Trump told thousands of maskless rally attendees.
Vice President Mike Pence made similar claims at an event in Savannah, Ga., last week.
“I know we’ve all got our doubts about the last election, and I hear some of you saying, ‘Just don’t vote,’” Pence said while campaigning with Perdue. “If you don’t vote, they win.
“As our election contests continue, here in Georgia and in courts across the country, I’ll make you a promise,” Pence continued. “We’re going to keep fighting until every legal vote is counted. We’re going to keep fighting until every illegal vote is thrown out.”
Despite Trump’s continued losses in court, he has convinced his supporters that he has a chance to overturn November’s presidential election results. Many of Saturday’s rally attendees, notwithstanding the evidence to the contrary, believe he will be sworn in for a second time on Jan. 20.
“I don’t believe that Biden won [the election],” Miles Cook, 53, told Yahoo News. “I think it’s been cheated, and I think Trump will become the next president.”
“For the time being, we just have to get through this [Senate race],” Chuck Webber, 62, told Yahoo News. “As long as Trump stays president, we’re going to get rid of everybody, [including critics like Gov. Brian Kemp].”
Michael Gross, 64, from McDonough, Ga., said he doesn’t trust the election process in his state at all. Still, he plans to vote Republican for the two Senate seats on Jan. 5. If the two Democrats win, he said, “I would probably look for somewhere else to move.”
Gross added that he also believes Trump will get a second term and that he’s more loyal to Trump than to the Republican Party.
“Something will happen between now and [January] that will change the whole outlook,” he said.
For many critics, Trump’s fame has always been a pain point. His entry into a race even he didn’t expect to win led to speculation that his real interest was in raising his profile as a celebrity rather than governing. But his supporters view it as a badge of honor, and see Trump as bigger than the Republican Party.
“Under President Trump, the Republican party has grown exponentially,” Republican National Committee spokesperson Savannah Viar told Yahoo News in an email. “President Trump expanded his support this election because he embodies and has pursued the conservative agenda.”
On Saturday, Trump told his supporters exactly what they wanted to hear.
“I think they say that if you win Florida and if you win Ohio, in history you’ve never lost an election,” he said. “This has got to be a first time. But the truth is, they were right. We’ve never lost an election. We’re winning this election.”
Linnette Rodriguez, 53, from Valdosta, said her allegiance is to Trump more than to the party.
“I’m a conservative,” she said. “I’m more conservative than I am Republican.”
Below are key dates for Georgians to remember ahead of the state’s Senate runoff elections on Jan. 5, 2021:
Cover thumbnail photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images (2)
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