With a win for President-Elect Joe Biden in the rearview and a double-header Senate runoff ahead, the Georgia campaigns are trying to predict what role President Donald Trump’s absence from the ticket will play in Republican turnout for the January races.
“Do Republicans come out and vote if Trump is not on the ticket?” a campaign official for the Jon Ossoff campaign mused to TPM. “I don’t think they turned out aggressively in 2018, and we saw what happened there.”
While 2018 was considered a blue wave year for Democrats, there were some disappointments in the Peach State — namely Stacey Abrams’ loss to Gov. Brian Kemp (R). Abrams and others have since accused Kemp of using his position as secretary of state to deliberately suppress votes to ensure his victory.
For the incumbent Republican senators, gaming out how Trump’s absence from the ticket will play involves some verbal contortions, as both Sens. David Perdue (R-GA) and Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) are still pretending that there’s some doubt as to who won the presidential election. Both senators have called for the resignation of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, for general “lack of transparency” and “mismanagement” in his election administration. They’ve come up with no specific issues, and the move seems to be an attempt to amplify their solidarity with Trump and his supporters more than a full-throated attempt to get Raffensperger fired.
In a private call, the details of which were obtained by the Washington Post, Perdue tried to thread the needle of supporting Trump’s delusion while looking ahead to the dynamics of the race.
“What we’re going to have to do is make sure we get all the votes out from the general and get them back out,” Perdue said of Republican voters. “That’s always a hard thing to do in a presidential year, particularly this year, given that President Trump, it looks like now, may not be able to hold out.”
Perdue added, though, that there is an “anti-Trump” contingent in Georgia, Republican voters in the suburbs who were turned off by Trump but who may come home to roost if there are blander Republican candidates on the ballot.
That Trump’s brand didn’t ultimately play as well in Georgia as in other southern states may be a silver lining for the incumbent Republicans. While President-Elect Joe Biden took home the big prize there, down-ballot Democrats didn’t fare so well.
Republicans fended off a Democratic attempt to flip the Georgia House, and picked off the House Minority Leader in an embarrassing loss for liberals. With control of both chambers, Republicans will control the redrawing of congressional and legislative districts. In addition, neither Ossoff nor Rev. Raphael Warnock matched Biden’s vote totals.
Sheila Levy, secretary of the Dekalb County Democrats, noticed the trend when she was serving on voter review panels for the presidential elections: a check mark for Biden, then a reversion back to Republican candidates further down the ballot.
“We’re not gonna have same slant that we had because people decided to vote for Biden to get the cancer out of the White House and to restore some type of order there, but then they continued to vote for down-ballot Republicans because they do believe in the Republican cause,” she told TPM.
While Trump certainly won’t be on the ballot for the January runoffs, it’s less clear if he’ll travel to the state himself to campaign.
The White House has remained mum on the subject, and, per the Associated Press, the Georgia senators have not directly asked Trump to come. Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to join a two-rally bus tour for Perdue and Loeffler in Canton and Gainesville, Georgia on Friday.
“I have no idea what he plans on doing — he’s a selfish person,” the Ossoff campaign official said. “With that being said, it’s important to note that Joe Biden won the state and folks here rejected Donald Trump’s agenda.”
This post has been updated.