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Image: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp greets President Donald Trump in Atlanta
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp greets President Donald Trump at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on July 15, 2020.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

Trump suggests Georgia governor could 'call off' Senate runoff races

With 35 days to go before Georgia's Senate runoff elections, the state is confronting an extraordinary intra-party mess.

With 35 days to go before Georgia's U.S. Senate runoff elections, and with the fate of federal legislating for the next two years on the line, the state is confronting one of the biggest intra-party messes in recent memory. As the New York Times summarized overnight:

President Trump's sustained assault on his own party in Georgia, and his repeated claims of election fraud in the state, have intensified worries among Republicans that he could be hurting their ability to win two crucial Senate runoff races next month. The president has continued to claim without evidence that his loss in the new battleground state was fraudulent, directing his ire in particular at Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, both conservative Republicans, whom he has accused of not doing enough to help him overturn the result.

Raffensperger, Trump said on Thanksgiving, is "an enemy of the people." The Republican secretary of state, going out of his way to give his attacker the benefit of the doubt, responded yesterday, "There are those who are exploiting the emotions of many Trump supporters with fantastic claims, half-truths and misinformation, and frankly they are misleading the president as well."

Kemp, meanwhile, has seen the president condemn him as "hapless" and useless -- Trump told Fox News he's "ashamed" to have endorsed his 2018 candidacy -- apparently because the governor isn't corrupt enough for Trump's liking. It's led the governor to explain he's unwilling to break state election law on the president's behalf.

Apparently unpersuaded, the president tweeted again this morning that Kemp needs to "do something," describing a scenario in which the governor could "call off" the Jan. 5 runoff elections -- because as far as the president is concerned, they would no longer be "needed."

None of this is happening in a vacuum. Indeed, the Washington Post explained that "at least some hardcore Trump supporters in the state are turning on the GOP." Of course they are: as Rachel noted on last night's show, this has happened in large part because the president has peddled nonsense about corruption and conspiracies that the Republican base is eager to believe.

A campaign adviser to far-right Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), one of the two candidates who'll be on the January ballot, said, "You can't say the system is rigged, but elect these two senators."

Except, Trump apparently doesn't much care. Sure, he'd like to see Loeffler and Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) win, but his principal concern is his ego, his rejection of electoral realities, his sense of betrayal from those whom he expects to cheat on his behalf, and his eagerness to capitalize on his scam. If that depresses turnout, or leaves his followers with the impression that there's no real point in voting for some Republicans, so be it.

He did, after all, promote a tweet late yesterday that read, "Who needs Democrats when you have Republicans like Brian Kemp?"

The president is expected to travel to Georgia this week, ostensibly to boost the GOP incumbents ahead of their competitive races. Party officials are clearly scared of what Trump might say about the party and its state leaders. Given the circumstances, can you blame them?

Postscript: Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan (R) said this morning he'll be busy when the president visits his state on Saturday.