Democrats have pulled off at least one Senate win in Georgia, with another likely to follow. And Republicans are pointing a frustrated finger at Donald Trump.
With control of the Senate at stake in the state’s two races, the president chose to spend weeks peddling baseless claims that Georgia’s electoral system was rigged, fueling an online movement to boycott Tuesday’s election. He demonized the state’s Republican leaders and fractured the local GOP. He ignored calls from his allies to rally in the state sooner. His support for Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue mainly came in the form of the occasional tweet and two rallies, including one on Monday. He blasted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for not heeding his calls for boosted stimulus checks.
So when Democrat Raphael Warnock defeated Loeffler early on Wednesday — and with Democrat Jon Ossoff having a good chance of toppling Perdue — Republicans were quick to blame Trump.
“Trump is the cause of this, lock, stock and barrel,” said one Republican strategist. “But when you’re relying on someone to win you a Senate race that also lost statewide eight weeks prior, you’re not in a position of strength.”
The immediate recrimination is emblematic of the complicated GOP dynamics that have emerged after Trump’s loss in the November election. Fissures are forming as Republicans decide whether it’s useful to cling to Trump — even as he tries to subvert an election — or to distance themselves. And if the Georgia races are any indication, it appears Republicans are willing to turn on Trump if he can’t reliably turn out the vote for candidates in the months and years ahead.
When asked why Republicans didn’t prevail on Tuesday, a senior Senate Republican aide simply said: “Donald J. Trump.”
The frustration stems from the days after the Nov. 3 election. While Republicans tried to reset in Georgia and prepare for the two runoff races, the president set off a civil war within his own party as he launched a divisive campaign to overturn the 2020 election.
For the next few weeks, the president’s focus remained on trying to overturn his personal results in Georgia and other states. Just this past weekend, he badgered Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger by phone for an hour, imploring him to “find” enough votes to take the state away from President-elect Joe Biden.
Even at a Monday rally designed to drum up voting for Loeffler and Perdue, the president obsessed over his own political grievances, swiping at lawmakers from his own party, including Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.
The behavior left Republicans shaking their heads Tuesday night, incensed that it might have cost them two critical races.