U.S. President Donald Trump visits the key southeastern state of Georgia Saturday to campaign alongside two Republican senators running against Democratic challengers in the January runoff election that will decide which party controls the Senate at the beginning of Joe Biden’s presidency.
Biden, a former vice president, unofficially won Georgia by fewer than 12,000 votes out of about 5 million cast. But Trump’s campaign said it filed a lawsuit Friday in Georgia to nullify the Nov. 3 presidential election results in the state.
Trump, a Republican, travels to Georgia as he continues his post-election campaign to block Democrat Biden’s victory in the state and in other battleground states, and to challenge the results of the national election.
The president on Saturday called Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, urging him to call a special session of the state legislature to get lawmakers to override the vote results in Georgia and appoint electors who would back him, according to The Washington Post. The White House declined to comment on the report.
The Republican Party needs one more seat to maintain its majority in the U.S. Senate. Republican Senator David Perdue must defeat Jon Ossoff in the Jan. 5 runoff election in Georgia, while Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler must overcome a stiff challenge from Raphael Warnock. If the Republicans lose, resulting in a 50-50 Senate, Democratic Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would cast the tie-breaking vote.
Trump repeatedly has said without evidence there was widespread fraud in the November election, a claim frequently rejected by federal and state officials. The Trump campaign and its supporters have filed dozens of similar lawsuits in various states, most of which have been rejected. As the campaign filed the lawsuit Friday in Georgia, Trump’s legal battles were defeated in Michigan and Nevada.
The suit in Georgia is the latest legal attempt to reverse Biden’s defeat of Trump. Trump’s campaign said the suit would include sworn statements from Georgia voters claiming fraud. But Georgia elections officials, including the state’s Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, have said several times they have found no evidence of significant irregularities.
Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, said earlier this week that “to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”
Trump denounced Kemp, the Georgia governor, earlier this week as “hapless” for not acting to “overrule” Raffensperger’s certification of Biden’s victory. Trump tweeted Tuesday that the Republican governor allowed Georgia to be “scammed.”
Biden’s narrow win in Georgia, where a recount Trump’s campaign requested shows Biden winning by 11,769 votes, means any additional support Trump can garner in the state could increase Perdue’s and Loeffler’s chances of victory.
Some Republicans are concerned Trump’s appearance in Georgia, however, could discourage voter turnout for the runoff.
“Trump’s comments are damaging the Republican brand,” Republican donor Dan Eberhart told The Associated Press. He said Trump is “acting in bad sportsmanship and bad faith” instead of working to maintain Republican control of the Senate.
Alan Abramowitz, a political science professor at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia,
said Trump’s attacks on the integrity of the state election dampen Perdue’s and Loeffler’s chances of winning the runoff.
“The more Trump talks about the presidential election and gets into criticism of how the election was run here, the bigger a problem that is for the senate candidates, and the greater likelihood that he could reduce enthusiasm among a segment of the electorate,” Abramowitz said in an interview with Reuters.
But a top adviser to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, Josh Holmes, told the AP that Republicans “haven’t seen any evidence of lack of enthusiasm in the Senate races.”
Vice President Mike Pence also is campaigning on behalf of the Republican senators in Georgia. Pence held a campaign rally Friday in Savannah and was greeted by supporters who chanted “stop the steal.”
While former Democratic President Barack Obama hosted a virtual event Friday with Ossoff and Warnock, Biden said he would travel to Georgia to campaign for the Democratic candidates but did not disclose a specific date.
Trump’s visit to Georgia comes one day after California certified Biden’s win in that state, giving him more than the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the presidency.
Presidential electors meet in each state on Dec. 14 to cast their votes. On Jan. 6, the newly elected Congress will officially count the electoral votes and formally name the president.