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Georgia's GOP leery of losing turnout

Trump cloudingSenate elections by The Associated Press | December 14, 2020 at 4:00 a.m.
U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, left, and Democratic challenger for U.S. Senate Raphael Warnock appear during a debate, Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Ben Gray, Pool)

ATLANTA -- President Donald Trump's claims that the election was rigged against him have angered some Republican voters in Georgia, with some Trump allies going as far as calling for voters to skip the Georgia runoffs altogether.

But interviews with voters and party activists in the state suggest there's little sign that Trump's voters are planning to stay home in protest. Most Republican voters interviewed said they were prepared to put their skepticism aside to vote for Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in their races against Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, respectively.

"There are people who are discouraged about [Trump] losing Georgia or being behind. But I haven't talked to people who've said, 'Oh, the heck with this, it's all rigged anyway,'" said Tim Phillips, president of the conservative group Americans for Prosperity, which has done canvassing of GOP-leaning voters.

Phillips was among those who worried that the distrust could affect Republican enthusiasm. But he said his group's weeks in the field, combined with a recent visit from Trump, have eased his worries.

Trump's Dec. 5 campaign stop in Valdosta, Ga., was his first since he lost the state to President-elect Joe Biden by about 11,700 votes -- a result that was confirmed by two recounts, including a hand tally of all ballots. But those recounts haven't stopped the president from blasting Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

[RELATED: Full coverage of elections in Arkansas » arkansasonline.com/elections/]

Kemp has rebuffed Trump's call for a special session of the Legislature to subvert the election results, while Raffensperger has repeatedly said there is no evidence of systemic fraud or irregularities in the November election.

Trump's allies have continued to push claims of fraud.

Sidney Powell, who was removed from Trump's legal team last month, has teamed up with Georgia attorney Lin Wood, who is known for his representation of several high-profile clients, particularly in defamation cases. The lawyers have repeatedly encouraged Georgia Republicans not to vote in the runoff election and questioned whether Perdue and Loeffler have sufficiently backed Trump's efforts.

"Why would you go back and vote in another rigged election?" Wood said during a recent rally in a suburb north of Atlanta.

Trump has asked his supporters to get out and vote. The Senate seats "are the last line of defense to save America and protect all that we've accomplished," he said at the recent Georgia event. During the rally, Trump weaved back and forth between pressing his own grievances about the election and encouraging the crowd to turn out for Perdue and Loeffler.

"You know a lot of people, friends of mine, say 'Let's not vote. We're not going to vote because we're angry about the presidential election,'" Trump told the crowd.

"But if you do that, the radical left wins," he said.

Phillips said he believes that message is getting through to the conservative base much more so than any isolated calls for boycotts or even the president's broadsides against Kemp and Raffensperger.

"These aren't people taking their cues from CNN or conventional political media. They listen to the president directly. And they're open to his message and our message of not letting [Democratic Senate Minority Leader] Chuck Schumer finish the job," Phillips said.

Perdue and Loeffler have tried to placate Trump and his supporters by backing a lawsuit from Texas that sought to overturn Biden's win but was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday, and by calling for Raffensperger to resign, citing unspecified "mismanagement" in the election.

Nonetheless, they've faced pushback from hardcore Trump supporters. As the pair strained to speak at Trump's rally in Valdosta, cries of "Fight for Trump" filled the crowd, largely drowning out the senators.

Information for this article was contributed by Meg Kinnard and Kate Brumback of The Associated Press.

Supporters listen to speakers during the "Stop the Steal" rally with attorneys Lin Wood and Sidney Powell in Alpharetta, Ga., on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. (Ben Gray/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
Supporters listen to speakers during the "Stop the Steal" rally with attorneys Lin Wood and Sidney Powell in Alpharetta, Ga., on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. (Ben Gray/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
Sidney Powell, right, speaks next to former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani, as members of President Donald Trump's legal team, during a news conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters, Thursday Nov. 19, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Sidney Powell, right, speaks next to former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani, as members of President Donald Trump's legal team, during a news conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters, Thursday Nov. 19, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Supporters of Sens. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., and David Perdue, R-Ga., wait for the arrival of Vice President Mike Pence at his Defend the Majority Rally on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020, in Augusta, Ga. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
Supporters of Sens. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., and David Perdue, R-Ga., wait for the arrival of Vice President Mike Pence at his Defend the Majority Rally on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020, in Augusta, Ga. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff speaks during a debate for U.S. Senate on Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020, in Atlanta. Sen. David Perdue declined to attend the debate. (AP Photo/Ben Gray, Pool)
Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff speaks during a debate for U.S. Senate on Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020, in Atlanta. Sen. David Perdue declined to attend the debate. (AP Photo/Ben Gray, Pool)
Senator David Perdue, R-Ga., arrives for Vice President Mike Pence's Defend the Majority Rally on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020, in Augusta, Ga. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
Senator David Perdue, R-Ga., arrives for Vice President Mike Pence's Defend the Majority Rally on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020, in Augusta, Ga. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
FILE - In this Dec. 5, 2020, file photo Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., speaks as President Donald Trump and Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., listen at a campaign rally at Valdosta Regional Airport, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020, in Valdosta, Ga. Many Republican voters in Georgia are angry; certain that widespread voter fraud — claims of which are baseless — cost President Donald Trump the election. Most Republican voters in the state interviewed said they were prepared to put their skepticism aside to vote for Perdue and Loeffler in their races against Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
FILE - In this Dec. 5, 2020, file photo Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., speaks as President Donald Trump and Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., listen at a campaign rally at Valdosta Regional Airport, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020, in Valdosta, Ga. Many Republican voters in Georgia are angry; certain that widespread voter fraud — claims of which are baseless — cost President Donald Trump the election. Most Republican voters in the state interviewed said they were prepared to put their skepticism aside to vote for Perdue and Loeffler in their races against Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
FILE - In this Dec. 5, 2020, file photo crowds wait for the start of a rally featuring President Donald Trump for U.S. Senators Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., and David Perdue, R-Ga., who are both facing runoff elections in Valdosta, Ga. Many Republican voters in Georgia are angry; certain that widespread voter fraud — claims of which are baseless — cost President Donald Trump the election. Most Republican voters in the state interviewed said they were prepared to put their skepticism aside to vote for Perdue and Loeffler in their races against Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. (AP Photo/Ben Gray, File)
FILE - In this Dec. 5, 2020, file photo crowds wait for the start of a rally featuring President Donald Trump for U.S. Senators Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., and David Perdue, R-Ga., who are both facing runoff elections in Valdosta, Ga. Many Republican voters in Georgia are angry; certain that widespread voter fraud — claims of which are baseless — cost President Donald Trump the election. Most Republican voters in the state interviewed said they were prepared to put their skepticism aside to vote for Perdue and Loeffler in their races against Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. (AP Photo/Ben Gray, File)
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