Senate Republicans urge Trump to go all-in on Georgia
Republicans are urging President Trump to get involved in boosting the GOP candidates in two Senate races in Georgia, where he's narrowly trailing President-elect Joe Biden as the Senate majority hangs in the balance.
Senate Republicans are pulling out all the stops as they try to fend off an uphill Democratic effort to flip the two Georgia seats. If Democrats won both seats they would clinch a majority, since Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) would be able to break a 50-50 tie once sworn in as vice president.
The party’s 2024 hopefuls are set to blanket the Peach State ahead of the Jan. 5 runoff elections, but GOP senators say they hope that Trump, who is locked in a myriad of legal challenges surrounding the presidential race, is able to lend his megaphone to help hold onto the Senate majority.
“I think everybody understands what’s at stake,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). “I think as soon as the election is resolved, one way or the other, I think he could be a big help.”
Asked if he wanted Trump to campaign for the GOP senators, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a possible 2024 contender who will be in the state on Wednesday, replied, “Sure. Absolutely and I expect he would.”
Pence told GOP senators during a closed-door caucus lunch that he will travel to Georgia next week and left the door open to Trump getting involved in the runoffs that will determine which party controls the Senate.
“I hope the president, the vice president, I hope everybody gets involved to make sure we keep the majority,” said Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who was elected Tuesday to chair the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the campaign arm of Senate Republicans, for the 2022 cycle.
Cornyn added that Pence “indicated that he and the president would be willing to help.”
The push for Trump to get involved in the two Georgia races comes as he’s trailing Biden in the state and is engaged in several legal challenges across multiple battleground states.
Trump has not yet conceded the White House race, despite the election being called by news outlets over the weekend, and GOP senators are being careful not to get ahead of the president. Republicans predict that the legal process will play itself out one or way or another.
The decision to not alienate Trump could pay political dividends in Georgia, where they will need his voters to turn out if GOP Sens. David Perdue (Ga.) and Kelly Loeffler (Ga.) are going to win their runoff elections.
“We need his voters and he has a tremendous following out there,” Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Republican senator, said about the upcoming elections. “Obviously he can have a tremendously positive impact on the outcome. ... So we hope that he engages.”
Asked if he thought Trump should campaign in Georgia, Thune added, “It could be. ... I think it would be what he is willing to do, but as we know he has a tremendous following.”
The Georgia Senate races are under the national spotlight because they will determine whether Republicans will control one arm of government come January, as Democrats have already kept their majority in the House and won the White House.
Democrats are currently projected to have 48 Senate seats to Republicans' 50 seats. Though two other races outside of Georgia remain uncalled by The Associated Press, in North Carolina Democratic nominee Cal Cunningham conceded on Tuesday and GOP Sen. Dan Sullivan appears to be cruising to reelection in Alaska.
That means Democrats need to win both Georgia runoff races in order to force a 50-50 Senate, which would give them the majority because they will also control the White House.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) tipped his hand on Tuesday to the significance of the battle in Georgia, where Democrat Jon Ossoff is trying to unseat Perdue and Raphael Warnock is battling Loeffler.
“There's some suspense about exactly whether we'll be in the majority or not,” McConnell told reporters after he was reelected as Senate GOP leader for an eighth term.
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) told reporters that Republicans “absolutely have to have Georgia in our win column.” Perdue, in a statement sent out by his Senate office, added that he was “confident that we will defend the Senate majority” in January.
But Democrats feel increasingly bullish about the inroads they are making in Georgia, where they’ve made gains among suburban voters and moderates in recent years. In 2018, Democrat Stacey Abrams came within 1.4 percentage points of winning the governor’s mansion, helping convince many that the state could be in play.
A Democratic strategist told The Hill late last week that the path for Democrats would rely heavily on high turnout in Atlanta and the suburbs. Both sides are spending millions in the roughly 60-day stretch to try to win over the two seats.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday called Georgia “close.”
“People forget something. There's this conventional wisdom that Democrats don't win runoffs in Georgia. That's not true,” Schumer said. “We are working very hard to win Georgia and we believe that we have a very good chance of winning.”