Opinion

The Donald goes down to Georgia

What Trump is really doing in the Peach State

President Trump.

In the final weeks of this year's presidential contest, congressional Republicans made it clear that they were at best indifferent to Donald Trump's re-election. Whether this was a reflection of genuine disagreements over foreign policy and trade or a cynical calculation that opposition would be more rewarding than control of the White House, the result was the same. Given perhaps the best opportunity in a generation to help their party's candidate on the eve of an election by giving voters $2,000 checks, they declined. Many of them not only expected Trump to lose but were happy with the prospect.

I for one would have expected the outgoing president to return the favor. Why should he lift a finger on behalf of a party that betrayed him, first by not doing everything to shore up his chances ahead of the election and then by refusing to support his increasingly desperate attempts to alter its outcome after he lost?

Yet here he is, barely a month away from his opponent's inauguration, amid the death throes of a series of ineffectual legal challenges to state election results and internal deliberations about whether he should pardon himself before leaving office, set to campaign in Georgia. The state's two GOP senators, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, face run-off elections on Jan. 5. Polling for both candidates is well within the margin of error, and in a state in which the top of the ticket was decided by an exceedingly thin margin of 12,000 votes, both races are expected to be close.

If both candidates prevail, Republicans will continue to enjoy a narrow majority in the Senate. If both lose, each party will control exactly 50 votes, which will make Kamala Harris the most consequential vice president at least since Dick Cheney.

Why is Trump going down there? Is this really about doing everything he can to maintain GOP control of the Senate? Why is he attacking Gov. Brian Kemp and state election supervisor Brian Raffensperger, themselves both Republicans? Why, finally, is his erstwhile lawyer Sidney Powell telling the president's supporters to boycott the election, apparently on the grounds that the results will be rigged in favor of the two Democratic candidates anyway?

This is not about Loeffler and Perdue, who have been put in an impossible situation. It is about Trump, who is subjecting both the candidates and his supporters in Georgia to a loyalty test. Loeffler and Perdue have followed his lead in calling for Raffensperger to be removed from office and in tacitly agreeing that the election system in the state in which they are running is fraudulent. Trump's support is still almost certainly their greatest asset in the contest, but it is contingent upon insisting that other state-wide GOP officials are fools or worse. It is hard not to see how they are not essentially conceding their own illegitimacy should they win.

The absurdity of all this has not been lost on current and former Republican officials, in Georgia and elsewhere. Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri is begging Trump to stick to the script on Saturday and do everything in his power to get Republicans to the polls next month. Nothing the president has said in the last month has suggested that he is on the verge of acknowledging his defeat. It seems to me unlikely that he is about to do so in his first public rally since the election.

It is difficult to moralize about these issues. It is also pointless. As far as Trump is concerned, the GOP rises or falls with him. If reports are to be believed he is already preparing to run for the presidency again in 2024. He will start the new year where he was five years ago, fighting with the establishment of a party that he used every bit as much as it used him.

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