Fear over losing the Senate majority by falling short in the upcoming runoff elections for two U.S. Senate seats in Georgia has become a driving and democracy-testing force inside the GOP, with party leaders on Tuesday seeking to delegitimize President-elect Joe Biden’s victory as they labored to rally voters in the state.
Those intertwined efforts threaten to disrupt Biden’s hopes of establishing a smooth transition as Republicans in Washington and Georgia, worried about dispiriting the president’s core supporters, increasingly echo his unfounded claims of election fraud and back his refusal to concede.
With their power on the line and Trump still the party’s lodestar, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his allies have made clear that they are now fixated on Jan. 5 — the date of the runoff elections — rather than on Jan. 20, when Biden will be sworn in as the nation’s 46th president.
“These runoffs have become the political equivalent of ‘Braveheart’ where everyone paints their face blue and just charges across the field,” said Ralph Reed, a Georgia-based Republican and founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. “If we can get the Trump vote back out in the suburbs, we should be able to get this done. But it will be very hard and extremely competitive.”
Two Republican losses in January would split the Senate equally between Democrats and Republicans, giving the incoming vice president, Kamala D. Harris, a tie-breaking vote and Democrats control of all levers of government.
McConnell threw his support behind Trump’s legal challenges and said the president is “100 percent within his right” to pursue litigation, even though the Trump campaign has not produced evidence of widespread fraud. And while his position interferes with Biden’s attempt to organize an administration amid a global pandemic, McConnell said Tuesday his stance “should not be alarming.”
Those remarks came as the two GOP incumbents facing runoff campaigns, Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, stood by their call for Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to resign, after alleging mismanagement and a lack of transparency without providing any evidence.
Raffensperger, a Republican, said that he will stay in office and that the process of reporting results had been orderly and legal. But he faces continued scrutiny, with several U.S. House members from Georgia and the state party issuing a letter Tuesday calling for more investigations of the election.