US President Donald Trump campaigned in Georgia on Saturday for two Republican senators at a rally that some in his party feared could end up not helping their chances by focusing on his efforts to reverse his own election defeat.
In his first rally since losing to Democrat Joe Biden in the presidential race on November 3, Republican Trump reminded the singing crowd that he was coming to southern Georgia to persuade them to vote Republicans in runoff on January 5.
But he quickly turned to his repeated allegations, made without evidence, of widespread fraud during the presidential election.
“They cheated and rigged our presidential election but we will still win it. And they will try to rig this election as well,” Trump told the audience in Valdosta, chanting “We love you!” and “four more years!”
He reiterated his attacks on Republicans who have refused to support him, including Georgia’s governor Brian Kemp. Earlier on Saturday, Trump called Kemp and pressured the governor on Twitter to take further action to help him reverse the election result.
The outgoing president’s allegations of widespread electoral fraud have been rejected by government and federal officials across the country, and his campaign’s many legal challenges have almost all failed.
Biden was the first Democratic presidential candidate to win in Georgia since 1992. Statewide reports, including a careful hand-scrutiny of about 5 million ballot papers, showed no significant irregularities.
The January runoff pits two Republican senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, against well-funded Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, who are trying to capture a state that has not elected a Democratic senator in 20 years.
The contest will determine which party controls the US Senate. Democrats, who already have a majority in the House of Representatives, must win both seats to control the Senate. If Republicans win a seat, they will retain their majority and be able to block much of Biden’s legislative agenda.
Biden said he would visit Georgia to fight for the Democratic candidates, but did not provide a timetable for his trip.
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Governor Kemp did not attend the rally due to the death of a car crash by Harrison Deal, a close family friend of the governor and Loeffler’s staff. He had an active exchange with Trump on Twitter earlier in the day.
“I will quickly and quickly win Georgia if Governor @ BrianKempGA or the Secretary of State allow a simple signature verification … Why do these two” Republicans “say no?” Trump wrote on Twitter.
After Kemp replied that he had “publicly called for a signature revision three times”, Trump said it was not good enough and added in a second tweet that Kemp would immediately call for a special session for state legislators.
“Your people refuse to do what you ask. What are they hiding?” In Trump.
In an unprecedented move in modern American history, the Trump team has tried, without success, to get Republican-controlled legislatures in battlefield states that Biden won to oust the results and declare Trump the winner.
Biden won the election with 306 votes – more than the 270 required – for Trump’s 232. The Electoral College will meet on December 14 to formalize the result.
Trump told Saturday’s meeting that his challenge was on its way to the US Supreme Court “very soon” without elaboration. However, legal experts do not see the way to the country’s highest court.
Richard Hasen of the UC Irvine School of Law said it was unclear which case Trump was referring to, but added: “I do not think any of these efforts have any chance of success.”
Trump’s penchant for making his political meetings all about him – and now, about his claims that the US electoral system is rigged – had raised concerns among some Republicans that his appearance in Georgia could stop shutting voters or make them feel that it is not any meaning voting.
Prior to the meeting, Matt Towery, a former Republican lawmaker in Georgia who is now a political analyst and poll, said Trump could help if he praised the candidates, but warned:
“If he talks about them for ten minutes and spends the rest of the time telling everyone how awful Brian Kemp is, it will only make things worse.”
When Loeffler and Perdue briefly took the stage and handed over the microphone of Trump, many in the audience drowned out their words with songs of “Fight for Trump!”
Two Trump lawyers, L. Lin Wood and Sidney Powell, have argued that Georgians should not vote in the run-off until issues from the 2020 election are resolved in the state, even after lawsuits they have filed to overturn the results have failed.
Trump said on Saturday that voters could and should refuse to accept what he called the “rigged” presidential election results while voting for Perdue and Loeffler in the run-off.
“If you do not vote, the Socialists and the Communists will win,” he said. “We can fight for the presidency and fight to elect our two great senators, and we can do it at the same time.”