“As Georgia Republicans aim to unite, Trump’s ‘rigged’ claims drive a wedge”

AJC:

At a gun range in North Georgia, Republicans roared in applause Saturday as once-bitter rivals Doug Collins and Kelly Loeffler shook hands and then embraced over their shared determination to keep the U.S. Senate in GOP control in Jan. 5 runoffs.

At a suburban Atlanta strip mall around the same time, a pep rally turned anxious question-and-answer session with national GOP chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel served as a reminder that other infighting could come back to haunt Loeffler and fellow U.S. Sen. David Perdue.

While Loeffler and Collins formally buried the hatchet after more than a year of brutal intraparty warfare, McDaniel faced questions at the Cobb GOP headquarters from skeptical Republicans who bought into President Donald Trump’s claims of a “rigged” election.

In one sharp exchange, a Trump backer quizzed McDaniel on why Georgia voters should bother to invest more “money and work when it’s already decided.”

“It’s not decided. This is the key — it’s not decided,” McDaniel told the crowd of dozens, nodding toward Perdue’s roughly 88,000-vote advantage over Democrat Jon Ossoff in the first round of voting.ADVERTISING

“So if you lose your faith and you don’t vote and people walk away, that will decide it.”…

And in Cobb, one of the nation’s top Republican officials tried to persuade loyal Trump supporters to return to the polls in January to defeat Ossoff and Democrat Raphael Warnock despite the president’s allegations that the vote was marred by droves of illegal mail-in ballots.

The GOP candidates have tried to navigate those conflicting messages for weeks, appeasing Trump by calling for Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to resign and refusing to acknowledge the president’s defeat, while also presenting themselves as a “Senate firewall” and a check on a “potential President Biden.”

In a week, Trump will get a crack at the competing narratives — urging Republicans to trust a “very fraudulent” election system he claims is poisoned against him — when he stages a rally for the incumbents that will likely be held in South Georgia.

He’s not toned down his criticism, including calling Raffensperger an “enemy of the people” at a Thanksgiving Day press conference.

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