DALTON, Ga. — President Donald Trump on Monday headlined a rally ostensibly to drum up support for the two incumbent Republicans the night before their crucial Senate runoffs, but quickly shifted to attacking members of his own party, spreading misinformation about voter fraud and re-litigating both the 2016 and 2020 elections.
“The fact is we won the presidential election, we won it big. And we’re going to win tomorrow,” Trump said at an outdoor rally Monday night. “The Democrats are trying to steal the White House. You just cannot let them steal the Senate.”
President-elect Joe Biden won Georgia by nearly 12,000 votes and is set to be sworn into office later this month despite Trump’s repeated attempts to overturn the results.
Trump has spent weeks pressuring Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Republican David Perdue, whose Senate term expired Sunday, to entertain his unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud or risk turning off his devoted base.
That pressure appeared to be effective.
In her brief speech on Monday, Loeffler announced she would object to certifying the Electoral College votes on Wednesday, joining a growing number of Republican senators who have caved to Trump’s demands that they do more to overturn the election in his favor. The vote is largely performative and does not have any real risk of taking the presidency away from Biden.
Perdue, who did not attend the rally in-person due to a close contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus, addressed the crowd in a video message.
“If you’re as mad as I am about November, then rise up with us and fight,” Perdue said. “If we don’t get up and vote tomorrow then everything President Trump has done to make America great again is gone.”
Perdue is facing Democrat Jon Ossoff while Loeffler is up against Raphael Warnock after the candidates failed in November to reach the 50 percent vote-getting threshold needed for an outright win.
Trump brushed off concerns from some Republicans that he would use his final rally to sabotage the party by telling his supporters to not participate in a voting process that he has spent the past two months railing against.
“No,” Trump said in response. “You know what I want? I want a great country.”
The president’s refusal to accept the election results reached concerning new heights on Saturday when he begged Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in a phone call to “find 11,780 votes” and threatened to continue to spread voter fraud conspiracy theories.
Trump made good on that promise, using much of his roughly 70-minute speech to spout off numbers of ballots he claimed were missing from the final vote counts, despite there being no evidence to back up his allegations.
“I’m going to be here in a year and a half and I’m going to be campaigning against your governors and your crazy secretaries,” Trump said, spelling out a fear that many Republicans have had that defending the integrity of the November election could come at the risk of losing the president’s support. In addition to his attacks on Raffensperger and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, both Republicans, Trump also took a swipe at Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who has not joined the effort to contest the results on Wedesday.
“I’m a little mad at you right now, Mike,” Trump said. He also targeted Vice President Mike Pence and his role in certifying the election on Wednesday: “I hope Mike Pence comes through for us. I have to tell you. I hope that our great vice president comes through for us. He’s a great guy. Of course, if he doesn’t come through, I won’t like him quite as much.”
Still, it remains unclear how much Trump’s words will impact the outcome. More than 3 million people have already voted in the Georgia runoffs, shattering turnout records for an off-cycle race, and many supporters at the Monday night event said they had already cast their ballot for Perdue and Loeffler.
“They may be RINOs, but at least they’re not communists,” said Gilbert Deloye, 68, of the Republican Senate candidates.
“Those votes in November were stolen,” he added. “You can’t put lipstick on a pig. So, yea, I still voted this time because I know the Democrats are already working on stealing this one and our best hope is that they get caught red-handed.”