VALDOSTA, Ga. — President Donald Trump emphatically called on Georgia voters to cast ballots for Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in next month’s runoff Senate elections but spent much of his first rally since losing the presidency denying the new reality.
The president several times falsely claimed he had won Georgia and the presidency, lambasted top Georgia Republicans like Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, and pushed for wholesale changes to the election system.
Trump’s numerous efforts at overturning the election have consistently fallen short. He and allies have seen their court challenges consistently rejected and attempts to have state legislatures overturn the results stunted. On Saturday, he called Kemp in an attempt to pressure him to overturn the results.
“I’ve probably worked harder in the last three weeks than I ever have in my life,” Trump said of his efforts to overturn the results, though he has had very little on his schedule and has made few public appearances. “Doing this.”
The president spoke in Lowndes County, in which he won more than 55 percent of the vote last month, as Georgia just set a record statewide for most Covid-19 cases, with hospitalizations rising to their highest point since mid-August. Trump referred to the virus as “a total freak.”
Focusing on last month’s election results, Trump said, “If I lost, I’d be a very gracious loser.”
“I’d go to Florida,” he added. “I’d take it easy.”
After California certified its results on Friday, enough states — including Georgia — have also certified their election results to give President-elect Joe Biden the needed 270 electoral votes to take the White House. Biden won 306 electoral votes in last month’s election to Trump’s 232.
State Republicans were anxious ahead of Trump’s rally as to what the message would be, hoping he would not join calls made by some allies that his supporters should stay home next month and not vote. Trump is also conducting a scorched-earth campaign against Republicans he believes are not doing enough to help him.
Perdue and Loeffler are set to face Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in the runoff elections on Jan. 5, which will determine control of the Senate.
“We have to do just the opposite,” Trump said of calls to stay home. “We can’t do that.”
The crowd chanted “stop the steal” at multiple points, in addition to chanting “four more years.” When Perdue was speaking before the crowd, a “fight for Trump” chant broke out, drowning out his remarks.
While he pushed Republicans to vote next month, the president also suggested the election might be “rigged.”
Trump stressed the importance of Perdue and Loeffler remaining in the Senate, at times seeming to acknowledge that he will no longer be president within a few weeks. He called them “two great people,” but mused that he didn’t particularly want to do a rally for the Senate candidates because “I don’t like doing it for other people.”
Loeffler, in her remarks, praised Trump and said, “If we don’t vote, we will lose the country.”
Near the conclusion of his remarks, Trump teased a potential 2024 bid for the White House while denying his inevitable departure.
“In 2024, hopefully, I won’t have to be a candidate — we’re going to win back the White House again,” Trump said. “I don’t want to wait until 2024. I want to go back in three weeks.”