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Trump risks a GOP disaster in Georgia

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says he is focusing “125 percent of my energy” on changing the results of the 2020 election. He is fixating on the wrong thing. Not only is this quixotic effort destined to fail, it could very well hand Democrats control of the Senate — and with it unchecked power to enact a socialist agenda that Trump will be hard-pressed to reverse should he win a second term in 2024.

Instead of energizing Republican voters, Trump’s focus on overturning the November election results could depress turnout and put the Georgia runoffs at risk. During a recent rally south of Atlanta, Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., was making the case why he and Sen. Kelly Loeffler were all that was standing between America and a “radical socialist agenda” when a man shouted out: “What are you doing to help Donald Trump and this fraud case?” The crowd broke into applause and cries of “Amen!” Trump is feeding this sentiment. On Sunday, he lashed out at Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, saying, “He’s done absolutely nothing. I’m ashamed that I endorsed him.” One of Trump’s election lawyers, L. Lin Wood, recently called on Georgians not to vote for Perdue and Loeffler. “I choose not to vote in another fraudulent election with rigged voting machines & fake mail ballots,” he tweeted.

This is a disaster in the making. After weeks of criticizing Georgia Republicans from the sidelines, Trump finally plans to campaign in the Peach State on Saturday. If he makes his appearance a grievance session about the last election, he will do more damage than good. His message should be about the future, warning members of his loyal base that their shared legacy is at stake. If Democrats prevail, he should explain, they will reverse all of the progress he made in the past four years, including his tax reform and his judicial appointments. They will pack the courts with activist judges and pack the Senate by granting statehood to the District of Columbia. And they will enact radical legislation on immigration, climate, energy and health care that he will struggle to reverse in four years’ time. He should tell voters: Everything we have worked for is on the line. Because it is.

The stakes in Georgia could not be higher — for the country and for Trump personally. He is the first president in 128 years who has a realistic chance of reclaiming the presidency four years after losing it. But to do that, he has to stop this insanity. It is one thing to root out voter fraud, which undoubtedly exists. It is quite another to have Rudolph Giuliani, hair dye dripping down both sides of his face, stand before the media with his legal team and spin conspiracy theories about a “centralized” plot to steal the election. Standing beside him, Sidney Powell — a lawyer Giuliani introduced as “representing the Trump campaign” — claimed the plot involved Cuba, Venezuela, China, the Clinton Foundation and George Soros.

Trump didn’t lose the election because of a Cuban-Venezuelan-Chinese-Clinton-Soros conspiracy. He lost because he alienated millions of voters who approved of his policies but did not vote for him because they were tired of chaos. The facts speak for themselves: In 2016, Trump won suburban voters by two percentage points; in 2020, he lost them by 10. This shift proved decisive in key swing states such as Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Georgia. If he had performed in the suburbs this year the way he did four years ago, no amount of fraud, real or imagined, could have denied him a second term.

The president needs to understand: These voters didn’t leave him; his behavior and rhetoric drove them away. And that same behavior and rhetoric since the election have only served to validate their choice. If he wants to win back the White House in four years’ time, he needs to win them back. And that effort starts in Georgia.

If Trump flexes his political muscle and leads the GOP to victory in Georgia, it could be the first step in his political restoration. But if he lets Democrats take back the Senate because he was focused on rooting out some mythical communist conspiracy to steal the 2020 election, he will go down in ignominy — and deservedly so.

©2020, The Washington Post

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