Trump's Georgia Rally: How Could 'Election Fraud' Card Play Out for Republicans in 2022 Midterms?
US mainstream media have called Donald Trump's 25 September rally in Georgia a preparation for the 2022 Republican primaries. Will Trump's midterm election strategy pave the way to victory for his Republican picks?
Donald Trump's first Georgia rally since his defeat in 2020 brought together about 20,000 on Saturday evening in Perry, according to WGXA News. Georgia is technically a GOP stronghold. Nevertheless, Republican candidates, including ex-president Trump, were defeated in the state's 2020 elections
. According to Trump, the fault for the loss lies with Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, whom he called "Republicans in name only" (RINOs) during the recent rally.
Thus, the ex-president endorsed US Representative Jody Hice and Georgia General Assembly Senator Burt Jones, who are running for secretary of state and lieutenant governor, respectively, and placed a bet on Herschel Walker, a retired football player, who is seeking to replace Democrat Raphael Warnock in the US Senate. As for the governorship, Trump ironically remarked that Democrat Stacey Abrams "might very well be better" as Georgia's governor than Republican Brian Kemp.
Previously, Trump's endorsements played very well for his picks. According to Ballotpedia, candidates touted by the former president have won 37 of 43 competitive primaries since 2017. Without Trump's support, Brian Kemp would have never become a governor, notes Lisa Haven, the co-founder of the media outlet Restricted Republic.
However, the victory of the new Georgia trio is not a done deal, believes John Tures, political science professor at LaGrange College in Georgia.
"I found many of Trump's endorsed candidates often faced little or token opposition," Tures suggests. "In competitive races, Trump's endorsement record is not as strong… Rep. Hice and rival David Belle Isle will probably split the conservative vote, which could lead to the incumbent Trump is targeting, Brad Raffensperger, winning a renomination. Jones has an uphill battle against Butch Miller, the State Senate president, in the Lt. Governor race."
Although Walker "has the best chance of winning", being a Georgia legend, the retired athlete "doesn't have a long political resume", Tures notes. Furthermore, Walker faces "longtime Agricultural Commissioner Gary Black and a dynamic young campaigner, Latham Saddler, who excited a local crowd in my hometown", according to the professor.
"Walker may win anyway, but he's got to show that he has some skills with the issues," he says. "Famous athletes have lost elections despite their name recognition, because they didn't know the issues well."
How Could the 'Rigged' Election Narrative Affect the 2022 Midterms?
Meanwhile, Trump's unwillingness to reconcile with his 2020 defeat may play badly for him and his picks, according to Tures. During the Saturday rally, the former president reiterated his voter fraud allegations and reminded the crowd that he had never conceded.
"I spoke with some conservative voters who wanted to go to Perry, but were worried that Trump would spend all of his time complaining about the 2020 election," Tures says. "'I'm so past that,' one woman told me, who wore a conservative shirt. 'I want to know what we're going to do now. I think we need a new leader.' A local Democratic Party member told me he wants Trump to be the Republican nominee because he thinks Trump will lose in 2024."
Tures presumes that Trump's focus on allegedly "stolen" elections cost Republican Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue their seats in the upper chamber in 2020. "He needs to quit while he is behind, and focus on the future, not the past," the professor highlights. "That's what his supporters want to hear." Furthermore, the latest Arizona audit of the Maricopa 2020 election affirmed that Biden defeated Trump, according to Tures.
Conservative commentator Lisa Haven holds an opposite stance: she believes that Trump's willingness to expose supposed election irregularities will further reinvigorate the GOP base.
Although the Arizona audit found that Trump lost by a slightly wider margin than the county’s official election results, independent auditors have raised a red flag over numerous "discrepancies"
. When Trump began outlining the audit's details, his audience on the receiving end listened to him "with open and overly gratified ears of acceptance", according to Haven.
"Trump has pointed out massive evidence of voter fraud in the Arizona audit results, and he is absolutely right," echoes Pamela Geller, an American political activist, blogger, and editor-in-chief of the Geller Report. "A conservative minimum of 57,734 ballots featured serious issues - in just one county alone."
This is especially disturbing given that Biden won Arizona by a margin of just 10,457, according to the political activist, who believes that other states should also conduct independent audits
. Geller argues that the GOP "has no chance whatsoever of taking the House and Senate, or the White House, if it does not challenge this voter fraud much more energetically and determinedly than it has done up to now".
Over a half of Republicans still believe that there was widespread voter fraud in 2020, according to the 2021 summer CBS News surveys
. Meanwhile, Politico is warning
that the GOP is increasingly "raising the spectre of rigged elections in their own campaigns ahead of the midterms". A number of Republican-controlled states have already passed ID laws in a bid to ensure voter integrity or pushed for audits of the 2020 election results. These efforts have been denounced by their Democratic opponents as promoting the "Big Lie".