Georgia's two incumbent Republican Senators, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, are in a bit of a bind. On the one hand, their core strategy for the January 5 runoff elections is to cling tightly to Trump. They need his supporters to win. On the other hand, Trump and his allies continue to say that the voting system — including absentee ballot processing and voting machines — is completely rigged. And if that's the case, why vote at all?
While Trump is officially supporting Loeffler and Perdue's reelection, and appeared at a campaign event for them, he is sending mixed messages. In a tweet sent shortly after midnight Monday, Trump demanded that Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (R) "call a Special Session and open up signature verification, NOW" or it "could be a bad day for two GREAT Senators on January 5th."
Kemp, a conservative Republican and vocal Trump supporter, has repeatedly declined to intervene in the Georgia election. The absentee ballot signatures were verified when they were submitted. But then, to preserve the anonymity of the vote, the ballots were separated from the signed envelopes, making what Trump is requesting impossible.
Trump also claims that the voting machines in Georgia, produced by Dominion, are rigged to switch votes to Democratic candidates. He outlined the theory, championed by former Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell, in a December 2 speech. Trump posted the speech on social media, touting it as "the most important speech I've ever made."
We have a company that’s very suspect. Its name is Dominion. With the turn of a dial or the change of a chip, you could press a button for Trump and the vote goes to Biden.
Neither Trump's tweets nor a series of lawsuits have made a difference. On Monday, Georgia's 16 electors officially cast their ballots for Joe Biden.
In separate appearances on Fox & Friends on Monday morning, Loeffler and Perdue attempted to validate Trump's hopeless claim that voting in Georgia is a sham while still encouraging their supporters to show up on January 5. It did not go well.
Perdue claimed that he was "working in the courts right now" to improve election procedures. Perdue and Loeffler filed suit on Thursday seeking to change voting procedures ahead of January's election. The suit "seeks additional procedures to check the work of election officials who verify the signatures of voters who cast absentee ballots." But 200,000 Georgians have already returned their ballots, so it appears that the lawsuit was filed too late. And, of course, it would have no impact on in-person voting, which Trump also claims is rigged.
Perdue added that "all these intransigencies occurred in November and we still won." Perdue didn't specify what "intransigencies" occurred or what he might do to fix them. He also didn't explain how the election was rigged enough to steal the election from Trump but not sink his own candidacy. "We have to get our vote out," Perdue concluded.
Loeffler didn't fare any better. "So what's different now than it was in November where it's no longer rigged?" the Fox News host asked. Loeffler cited her lawsuit with Perdue, which is unlikely to have any impact on January's vote. "If we vote, we will win. If we don't vote, we will lose the country," Loeffler added.
So Loeffler is confident that if her voters show up she will win. But she, along with Perdue, joined Texas' lawsuit last week which claimed the voting process in Georgia was so flawed that the votes of millions of Georgians should be discarded. It's an incoherent message.
The Republican boycott
Trump's official position is that Republicans should vote in the January 5 run off election. But Sidney Powell, who until recently was a member of Trump's legal team, has a different message. She said all voters should boycott the January 5 election unless the vote was "secure."
I would encourage all Georgians to make it known that you will not vote at all until your vote is secure – and I mean that regardless of party. We can't live in a republic, a free republic unless we know our votes are legal and secure.
Powell said a secure election would mean taking the Dominion voting machines out of use and switching to an all paper voting system. That will not happen.
Attorney Lin Wood, who has also filed litigation claiming Biden's victory in Georgia was invalid, echoed Powell. "Why would you go back and vote in another rigged election?” Wood said. Wood has appeared at Trump campaign events.
While Powell was removed from Trump's legal team, Trump has continued to promote Powell, Wood and their theories about a stolen election.
Will Trump's conspiracy theories cost Republicans the Senate?
There is no evidence that a substantial number of Republicans are planning to boycott the run-off election in protest. But it may not take a substantial number of Republicans to make a difference. Biden defeated Trump by just 12,000 votes and polling suggests two very close races in the January 5 election.
And there is evidence that at least some Republicans may sit this one out. "We really believe this election was crooked. I won’t [vote] next time unless they give us a clean election with paper ballots, IDs and fingerprints. I’m not doing Dominion machines," Lauren Voyle, a Georgia voter who attended Trump's December rally, said.
Jason Shepherd, who chairs the Cobb County Republican Party in Georgia, says he "has been receiving a few emails a day from members claiming they won’t vote because they believe the process is corrupt." Buzz Brockway, a former Republican state representative in Georgia, says there is a significant number of voters in the state who support Trump and not "the broader Republican Party."
Is all of this enough to sink Loeffler and Perdue in January? Time will tell.