Republicans got two pieces of good news from Donald Trump yesterday. With the election mostly behind everyone except Trump himself, the GOP needs to focus on the last question still to be settled — control of the Senate. Two runoffs in Georgia on January 5th will determine whether Mitch McConnell or Chuck Schumer control the Senate floor, and Republicans worried that Trump might turn off his most dedicated followers with his repeated claims of election fraud in the Peach State.
Yesterday, Trump told reporters that he will hold at least one get-out-the-vote rally for Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, as soon as tomorrow:
President Trump said Thursday he will visit Georgia to campaign for incumbent GOP Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, likely this weekend ahead of their Jan. 5 run-offs.
The commander in chief announced his plans while speaking to reporters following a Thanksgiving video conference with military members stationed abroad, saying he would head out “probably Saturday.”
“Speaking of Georgia, we’re going there. I spoke with the two great senators today. I’ll probably be going on Saturday,” Trump said, adding that he planned to hold some type of campaign rally.
He went on to argue that people in the Peach State felt “very disappointed we were robbed,” appearing to allude to his losing Georgia to President-elect Joe Biden.
The big risk in Georgia is that Republican voters get discouraged about voting in a state where Trump claims Republican leaders like Gov. Brian Kemp allowed massive fraud to steal the election from him. That is no way to gin up enthusiasm for a second round of turnout, and about the only prescription to reverse that buzzkill is to have Trump hit the stump to call his supporters to the polls. Perdue and Loeffler need to get full MAGA backing to contend with what’s expected to be a better-than-usual turnout effort by Democrats on January 5th; absentee ballot requests have already reached a record:
— Nicole Carr (@NicoleFCarr) November 23, 2020
That looks like leftover momentum from the 2020 general election, which points up one potential risk for putting Trump on the campaign trail — his ability to catalyze Democrat turnout, too. The story of the 2020 election appears to be high turnout by a cooped-up electorate eager to engage, with Republicans winning almost everything but the presidency. Democrats will only get limited mileage out of Trump without him actually being on the ballot, however, and even some of this early absentee enthusiasm might melt away. If Trump can rekindle the enthusiasm in MAGA-land, it should work out as a net gain for the GOP.
The second piece of good news? Trump confirmed that he’ll abide by the Electoral College vote, eliminating a Democrat and media talking point. The New York Times assumed that Trump’s focus might shift to “badly undermining” his successor instead:
President Trump said on Thursday that he would leave the White House if the Electoral College formalized Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s election as president, even as he reiterated baseless claims of fraud that he said would make it “very hard” to concede.
Taking questions from reporters for the first time since Election Day, Mr. Trump also threw himself into the battle for Senate control, saying he would soon travel to Georgia to support Republican candidates in two runoff elections scheduled there on Jan. 5.
When asked whether he would leave office in January after the Electoral College cast its votes for Mr. Biden on Dec. 14 as expected, Mr. Trump replied: “Certainly I will. Certainly I will.” …
If Mr. Trump sees the end of his presidency as inevitable, he clearly still believes he can bolster his legacy — and badly undermine Mr. Biden, the man who is ending it — by helping to preserve a Republican Senate that could serve as a wall against the new Democratic agenda.
Ahem. Perhaps Trump sees value in keeping Biden’s radical allies in check, and he’s hardly alone in that. A 56/44 majority of registered voters nationwide want the Senate in Republican hands, and it’s pretty clear that 56% of registered voters don’t want to “badly undermine Mr. Biden.” That includes 16% of Democrats and 66% of independents in the Harvard CAPS/Harris poll, taken two weeks after Election Day. It also includes 30% of black voters, 54% of women, majorities in every age group, and 44% of urban voters. There are plenty of reasons to worry about a lack of an effective check on a Biden/Harris administration, and the Senate is the last opportunity to have one in place.
Thankfully, Trump’s at least giving some attention to what still can be won at this stage of the cycle, even if he’s still trying to tilt at windmills simultaneously.
Update: Make that three pieces of good news. Just as this was getting published, Trump pushed back against calls to boycott the runoffs:
Will that be enough to shut down the boycott efforts, as marginal as those might be?