A previous version of this report incorrectly described Chuck Schumer as the majority leader of the Senate. He is the minority leader. The story has been corrected.
The head of the Republican National Committee and the chairman of the Georgia Republican Party urged their fellow partisans on Saturday to stay united and focused on the re-election of two incumbent senators in the runoff elections on Jan. 5.
“If we lose the White House and lose the Senate we will never recover from that. We cannot give up.” Georgia party chief David Schaefer said at an appearance alongside Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel in Marietta, Ga.
The twin Senate runoffs will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate at the outset of President-elect Joe Biden’s administration.
During the Marietta event, members of the crowd of about 45 people expressed anger at Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, both Republicans.
In response, Schaefer told the crowd to get past their anger and stick with the party line.
McDaniel emphasized the need for Republican voters to, if not to trust the process, then to at least remain involved in it.
“Between now and Jan. 5 it’s going to be up to all of you,” McDaniel said. “This is your time to be bold. This is our country, and it is worth every conversation; it is worth talking to your friends, your family, your coworkers, the people you go to church with. You have to go out and talk about what’s at stake.”
President Donald Trump has castigated Raffensperger for his handling of the state’s election. A hand recount of votes confirmed that Biden won the state, the first Democrat to claim the state’s electoral votes in 28 years.
In the Nov. 3 election Biden beat Trump in the state by fewer than 13,000 votes out of more than 5 million cast.But Republican David Perdue led Democrat Jon Ossoff by about 100,000 votes, finishing just short of the outright majority Georgia requires to avoid a runoff for the Senate seat. The Rev. Raphael Warnock led Republican Kelly Loeffler in a special election with some 20 combatants.
Analysts said that Trump’s anger at Raffensperger and Kemp could divide the party and weaken turnout for the January runoff election. The president’s baseless claims of election fraud could also dampen GOP enthusiasm, according to some observers.
The races are being closely watched because if the Democrats are able to the two seats, they would wrest control of the U.S. Senate from the GOP.
“Right now Georgia is front and center in determining the future because you have two senators in David Perdue and Kelly Loefler who care about freedom, who voted for [Supreme Court Justice] Amy Coney Barrett, who just protected religious liberties,” McDaniel said, referring to the Supreme Court’s decision last week that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s order, rescinded long before the high-court ruling, specifically limiting the attendance at religious services was unlawful. (Supreme Court rulings in local cases before Barrett’s elevation to the court in September, allowed similar public health restrictions to stand.)
From the archives (Nov. 1):Trump is confident he has the votes — if the election is thrown to the Supreme Court
“Senators,” McDaniel continued, “who are going to stand for every American and for the [U.S.] Constitution when they go to Washington every step of the way.”
“[Loeffler and Perdue] are against two people who don’t care about those things. They only care about doing one thing, whatever [U.S. Senate Minority Leader] Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) tells them to do. Do not let their ads fool you,” she added.
“We will not recognize our country if these two individuals get in the Senate,” McDaniel charged.
McDaniel spoke for six minutes before taking questions from the crowd on everything from verifying the vote counts in the recent election to how future elections can be kept safe from tampering.
After the event, members of the crowd shared their views on party unity.
“Political parties always have factions within them, and people have their pet issues,” said Cobb County resident and registered Republican Kathryn Farrell, 52. “Going into the Jan. 5 election there’s a level of unity that I haven’t seen in a long time.”
Garry Guan, who recently lost in a bid for a state senate seat was on hand to show support for Loeffler and Perdue. “It is divisive at the moment, and It is very concerning,” said Guan, who wore a Loeffler campaign button the lapel of his suit. “We don’t have much of a chance unless we come out strong. Republicans came out in strong numbers for the [November] election but I’m worried they won’t this time.”
One of a handful of Black voters on hand, Melody Martin, 41, a local business owner, came to hear what McDaniel, Schaefer and others from the Republican Party had planned for the near future.
Martin said she thought the state GOP would hold together. “I feel like in every party you have differences but you come together in the end,” Martin said. “It’s like a family — you fight, and then you get along again.”
Loeffler and Perdue did not hold public events Saturday. Ossoff spent time in Atlanta on Saturday visiting small businesses. Both he and Warnock tweeted their support for small businesses — Saturday marked the annual Small Business Saturday — and the need for government aid to those businesses, which have been negatively affected by the coronavirus pandemic and often lack a financial cushion to absorb periods of curtailed business.
Trump has said he would visit Georgia on Dec. 5 to campaign on behalf of Loeffler and Perdue. Biden is also expected to campaign in the state on Ossoff’s and Warnock’s behalf.
Laura Brown, director of George Washington University’s Gradual School of Political Management, called it “problematic” for Republicans if Trump travels to Georgia and repeats his false claim that the vote was rigged and that he actually won the state. “All he does is essentially attack Kemp and Raffensperger,” Brown said in an interview.