Georgia Conservatives' Warning To Fellow Republicans: Nominate Trump, And We Will Lose

Trump lost Georgia in 2020, sabotaged the state’s two Senate seats in a 2021 runoff, and then helped lose one of the Senate seats again in 2022.
Republican presidential candidate and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks to a supporter at Erick Erickson's "Gathering" event in Atlanta, Georgia, on Saturday, August 19.
Republican presidential candidate and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks to a supporter at Erick Erickson's "Gathering" event in Atlanta, Georgia, on Saturday, August 19.
Cheney Orr via Reuters

ATLANTA — Having lost the once reliably Republican state in 2020 and now under a racketeering indictment for trying to steal its presidential election after that loss, how can Donald Trump possibly win Georgia in 2024?

Conservative activists, including those who voted for him twice, worry that the answer is pretty simple: He cannot.

“I don’t think so. We didn’t go for him last time,” said Brenda Mitcham, a retiree from DeKalb County who was attending radio talk show host Erick Erickson’s candidates forum on Friday and Saturday.

“Trump needs to fade away,” added Bill Coons, a 58-year-old insurance broker from deeply Republican Cherokee County about an hour north of Atlanta. “I appreciate his policies, but he’s done.”

Georgia had not been a worry for Republicans running for president for a generation before Trump managed to alienate so many college-educated voters in the Atlanta suburbs with his behaviour in office that he lost the state by 11,779 votes on his way to losing reelection nationally by 7 million.

Despite this, and despite his responsibility for losing the state’s two Senate seats in a January 2021 runoff and then seeing his hand-picked candidate lose one of those seats a second time in 2022, Trump remains the favourite for winning the Georgia presidential primary next March and the Republican nomination yet again. Conservatives like Erickson worry that this could lead to losing Georgia in November 2024, yet again — and consequently the entire presidential election, yet again.

“You have these suburban, metro Atlanta Republican voters who simply don’t like him,” Erickson told HuffPost as he explained that while it’s possible Trump could win the state next year, it’s far more likely to be Democratic incumbent Joe Biden.

Trump’s campaign did not respond to HuffPost’s queries. But in a Saturday post to his personal social media website, Trump repeated his frequent lie that he actually won Georgia in 2020. “Does anybody really believe I lost Georgia? I DON’T!” he wrote.

That continued insistence on re-litigating his election loss — possibly to help in his criminal defence by suggesting that he truly believes he won the state — confounds Georgia Republicans who are eager to put all that in the faraway past.

“It’s insanity that we’re having to deal with this,” said Governor Brian Kemp, who became Trump’s top target in the 2022 midterms for refusing to help him overturn the 2020 election. “We have to have a candidate that can win the election.”

“If I were [Trump’s] consultant, I would tell him … to start trying to win people like me, exurban and suburban women who voted for him in 2016,” said Martha Zoller, a Georgia radio talk show host and former Republican consultant who has worked for Kemp. “A lot of us voted for him in 2020, and we’re not going to vote for him again.”

At least some of Trump’s rivals, meanwhile, are using his history in Georgia as yet more fodder for why Republicans would be foolish to choose him as their nominee.

“He can’t win Georgia. Proved that in 2020,” said Marc Short, an adviser to former Vice President Mike Pence who served as his chief of staff in the White House.

“I mean, how many different times do we want to prove he can’t win?” added former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, speaking with reporters Saturday following his appearance at Erickson’s conference. “He lost to Joe Biden. Both the United States senators with his endorsement — lost. He endorsed David Perdue for governor — lost. There’s quite the history here that shows you he can’t win Georgia.”

That, combined with Georgia and its 16 electoral votes at play in any Republican’s White House strategy, make Trump a surefire loser nationally, Christie said.

“It is indispensable. I don’t think there’s an electoral map that gets Republicans to 270 without Georgia,” he said. “And that’s one of many reasons that, if he were the nominee, he couldn’t get elected president of the United States.”

Trump last week was indicted in Atlanta on charges of racketeering, conspiracy to commit forgery and a host of other state charges for his efforts to overturn his Georgia loss. Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith indicted him two weeks earlier for his actions there and in several other states as part of his January 6, 2021, coup attempt to remain in power despite having lost nationally.

Smith had previously indicted Trump for his refusal to turn over top-secret documents he was keeping at his Mar-a-Lago country club in South Florida, while Manhattan’s district attorney indicted Trump in spring for falsifying business records to hide a $130,000 hush money payment to a porn star in the days leading up to the 2016 election.

Despite all the criminal charges, Trump remains solidly atop polling for the 2024 nomination — and in fact has claimed that prosecutors are targeting him specifically to go after his supporters and stop him from winning.

Christie ridiculed that assertion on Saturday.

“When he says something like ‘I’m getting indicted for you’ — baloney. He’s getting indicted because of his conduct. They’re not after anybody else in America,” Christie said.

“They’re after the guy who took the classified documents to Mar-a-Lago and hid them for 18 months. They’re after the guy who invited people to the Ellipse [park near the White House] on January 6, telling them it was going to be wild and telling them to march up to Capitol Hill and get Mike Pence to reverse the election. They’re after the guy who called the secretary of state in this state and told him to find him 11,780 votes so he could win the election. They’re not after us. They’re after him.”


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