President Donald Trump traveled to Valdosta, Ga., for a Saturday night rally that was organized to boost the chances of the Republican candidates in a pair of Senate runoffs in a month’s time but in which the president focused heavily on the circumstances surrounding his own loss in the state to President-elect Joe Biden.
The in-person event, hosted by the Republican National Committee at a regional airport, was billed as a “Victory Rally.”
Mask and social-distancing requirements were advertised in advance
of the rally, yet many of the attendees, including the president and first lady Melania Trump, did not wear face coverings. The bleachers behind the president, where supporters held signs that read, “Save America,” “Defend Democracy” and “Make America Great Again,” were filled with supporters without masks on.
Trump was in the state to campaign for incumbent Republican senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, who are headed to runoffs on Jan. 5 against Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, respectively.
Supporters of the president were looking forward to his appearance as a chance to galvanize Republican voters who may not be as engaged as they were in November with Trump not on the ballot.
“President Trump’s return to the Peach State underscores the importance of getting out the vote for Senators Loeffler and Perdue on Jan. 5,” said state campaign press secretary Samantha Viar. “Georgians understand the need to keep these Senate seats red.”
Trump spent two hours speaking to the crowd about topics ranging from voting early — early voting in the runoffs begins on Dec. 14 — to allegations of voter fraud. He told rally attendees that, had he lost fairly, he’d be gracious and repair to his home in Florida and “take it easy.”
“But,” he added, “you can’t ever accept when they steal and rig and rob.”
The Wi-Fi password given to media members was “StolenElection!”
Despite an absence of proof of voter fraud in Georgia or any other state, and an uninterrupted string of courtroom losses for the president’s legal team and its claims of voting and election irregularities, Trump remained insisted on Saturday that he rightfully has been re-elected.
Biden has amassed 306 votes in the Electoral College to Trump’s 232, and the Democrat’s popular-vote margin now exceeds 7 million.
Earlier this week U.S. Attorney General William Barr declared that the Justice Department has looked into allegations and has found no evidence of voter fraud. Barr has been a staunch defender of the president since his nomination by Trump to succeed Jeff Sessions two years ago Monday.
With Loeffler, Perdue and a host of local politicians on hand, including former two-term Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, the current U.S. secretary of agriculture and a David Perdue cousin, Trump made sure to veer
back to the topic at hand every so often. “Everything that we’ve achieved together is on the line on June 5 and in this election you can send a message to the fake news media and there’s a lot of them back there.
“We must re-elect Kelly and David,” he said. “We can’t let it happen to two of the greatest and most respected people in Washington.”
“The next great victory for our movement,” Trump said in Valdosta, “begins tonight.”
Loeffler has yet to win an election in the state, having been appointed a year ago by Gov. Brian Kemp to complete the term of the retiring Johnny Isakson and coming in second behind Warnock in a crowded special election on Nov. 3, with Trump-aligned Rep. Doug Collins coming in a close third.
Loeffler, a wealthy business executive whose husband heads the company that owns the New York Stock Exchange and other major financial exchanges
was not Trump’s favored candidate, having reportedly lobbied Kemp to pick Collins, a staunch Trump defender during the president’s impeachment a year ago, and before and since.
Of Kemp, who was backed by the president during his gubernatorial
campaign in 2018, Trump said, “Your governor should be ashamed of himself.” (It was reported that Trump had called Kemp before traveling to Georgia and urged him to call a special legislative session to set aside the certified election in the state and allow Republican lawmakers to appoint an alternative set of Electoral College delegates.)
The president made disparaging remarks about not just Kemp but a fellow Georgia Republican, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, throughout the speech, echoing his previous unsubstantiated allegation that the pair had helped the Democratic Party “steal the election.”
There had been concern ahead of the president’s travel to Georgia that he would place the focus on himself rather than the Republicans he was ostensibly there to support, and could even discourage voting by casting further doubt on the legitimacy of the process.
Still, among his base, the president remains a big draw, and the candidates he openly backs have tended to fare well.
And to an extent Trump did seek to deliver for the Senate Republicans. Of Loeffler, Trump said: “There was nobody that fought harder for me.”
Of Perdue: “David has been my friend for a long time. There’s nobody in
Washington that’s more respected.”
The Trumps walked off the stage to the strain sof “YMCA” by the Village People.
Earlier in the day both Ossoff and Warnock, along with Daniel Blackman, who is preparing for a Jan. 5 runoff with Lauren “Bubba” McDonald for the Public Service Commission District 4 seat, were at an outdoor rally in Covington, Ga.