If the Georgia Senate runoffs are Republicans' to lose, they are certainly advancing forcefully in that direction. The two critical Senate races that will ultimately decide who controls the upper chamber have quickly devolved into a spectacle of feuding GOP factions in a party that fully surrendered itself to a man who was never invested in its fate.
Donald Trump, an insufferable sociopathic narcissist, is miserable and, therefore, everyone within his reach will be, too. And so the same Senate Republicans who spent four years selling out the country for their own malign purposes are now paying the price for that abdication of duty. The entire episode is also a joyous window into the next few years of hell for a party now controlled by a man who will torture it like a cat tinkering with a wounded mouse.
The latest in the saga includes reports of South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham evidently trying to engineer voter fraud and ongoing rounds of barbs being traded between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
On Wednesday morning, Trump fired off a tweet calling the Georgia recount—which he insisted on—"a joke." Trump baselessly claimed widespread fraud once again, pointing to mismatched signatures as the real problem. "Governor must open up the unconstitutional Consent Decree and call in the Legislature!" he added, in a bid to drag Gov. Brian Kemp and the entire state party into his ongoing war of words with Raffensperger.
But the pressure campaign by Trump and his allies isn't exactly new to Raffensperger. Earlier this year, the Trump campaign sought Raffensperger's endorsement for Trump's reelection, asking him to serve as an honorary campaign co-chair in the state, according to new reporting by ProPublica. Raffensperger ultimately declined the offer and refused to endorse Trump publicly, viewing it as a conflict of interest since he would be overseeing the election.
Raffensperger's early unwillingness to bow to Trump's wishes ensured he would become the target of Trump's ire after losing a state the campaign clearly considered "a layup shot." And since Trump's defeat became clear, Raffensperger—who also appears to be singularly situated as the last known elected Republican with a moral compass—has continued to thoroughly rebuff Trump's claims of fraud despite receiving death threats in the process. "Truth matters, integrity matters," he wrote on his official Facebook page Sunday in a series of posts correcting disinformation and defending the work of state election officials and volunteers.
On Tuesday, Raffensperger also attributed Trump's apparent loss in the state to his own failures as a candidate, explaining that 24,000 Republicans who voted by absentee ballot in the primary didn't vote at all in the general election due to Trump's sustained attack on mail balloting. "He would have won by 10 thousand votes," Raffensperger said, since Joe Biden is currently winning the state by some 14,000 votes. "He actually suppressed, depressed his own voting base," he added.
But perhaps most importantly, the reelection bids of GOP Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue have been almost completely subsumed by the ongoing internecine warfare. Early on in the battle, both senators bowed to Trump's wishes, decrying the outcome in Georgia and calling for Raffensperger's resignation. It was sheer cowardice fueled by political expedience—their integrity was clearly a small price to pay for getting Trump's voters to polls in January to help save their seats.
But now they are stuck with a worst-case scenario: The guy they sold their souls to has taken zero interest in their races as he sucks up all the oxygen with his petty crusade against being declared the loser. Along the way, Trump is sowing distrust in a system that both Loeffler and Perdue are currently asking GOP voters to invest their time and energy in once again.
The two GOP senators have also been forced to double down on aligning themselves with Trump's wackadoodle effort when a critical voting bloc in their winning formula—suburban voters—has grown increasingly distressed by Trump's antics. Those suburban voters notably turned away from Trump in the election. Perdue, for instance, outperformed Trump in the Atlanta suburbs, while his Democratic rival, Jon Ossoff, slightly underperformed Joe Biden.
"In Atlanta's Fulton County and the five abutting metropolitan counties, Biden received about 50,000 more total votes than Democratic Senate candidate Jon Ossoff in the November election," writes David Catanese for the Tribune News Service. The disparity meant that Biden eked out a win in Georgia while Ossoff lost to Perdue by a couple percentage points—a margin that nonetheless left both Senate candidates shy of the 50% threshold needed to win the race outright.
Both Perdue and Loeffler are now attempting to thread the needle of being Trumpy enough to excite his delusional base voters while also asking suburban voters to believe in their even-tempered sanity amid the backdrop of their participation in an absolute goat rodeo.
Senate Republicans had another choice. They could have begun curbing Trump's influence over the party by refusing to endorse his absurd claims of widespread voter fraud, particularly in a state that is almost entirely controlled by their own party. But instead, they supercharged Trump by caving to him for about the gazillionth time since he won the Republican nomination in 2016. In the process, Republicans have also anointed Trump GOP kingmaker for the foreseeable future—giving him the juice to pick and choose which Republicans are Trumpy enough to earn his endorsement while complicating Republican chances in the general election. Perfect.