Elections

Perdue and Loeffler Should Stress Senate Elections’ Stakes, Not Attack GOP Officials

Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger at the capitol in Atlanta, November 6, 2020 (Dustin Chambers / Reuters)
Their calls for Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger’s resignation could backfire.

Georgia senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler — both of whom are set to be on the ballot again in January special elections that will determine control of the upper chamber — kicked off the week with a joint statement calling for Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger’s resignation. According to Perdue and Loeffler, Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, has been neither transparent nor competent enough in his role and has thus “failed the people of Georgia.”

The senators’ failure to point to even a single example of Raffensperger’s supposed deceit or incompetence speaks volumes. Raffensperger is being targeted not because Perdue and Loeffler believe him to be responsible for either President Trump’s loss or Perdue’s falling short of the 50 percent threshold he needed to cross to avoid a runoff, but because they believe that appearing to back the president’s unsubstantiated claims of election fraud will gin up Republican enthusiasm and help them both retain their seats.

Raffensperger, a Republican who was enthusiastically endorsed by Trump in 2018 — “Brad Raffensperger will be a fantastic Secretary of State for Georgia!” — has no reason to cover up or otherwise aid efforts to defraud Georgians by handing Joe Biden the state’s electoral votes undeservedly. As he explained in a statement responding to Perdue and Loeffler, he, too, is “unhappy” that Georgians favored the Democratic presidential nominee over the Republican one for the first time since 1992. But his position is my own: While there are most assuredly instances of voter fraud to be investigated and remedied in Georgia and across the rest of the country, it is exceedingly unlikely that there was even close to enough malfeasance to reverse Biden’s apparent defeat of Trump.

Contra the senators’ claims, Raffensperger has done his job, and done it well. As he points out in his statement, Georgia saw record turnout this year and yet the average wait time to vote in the state was only three minutes. Moreover, any complaints about the high volume of absentee ballots and the slow-drip release of results are the result of a law — passed by a Republican legislature and signed by Sonny Perdue, Trump’s own secretary of agriculture — that permits no-excuse absentee voting. Raffensperger deems the accusations of opacity regarding the results “laughable.” So did FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver, who argued that Georgia “has probably been the most transparent state in the country with respect to its vote counting process.”

It is a political imperative that Perdue and Loeffler prevail in their respective run-offs. If one of them succeeds, Mitch McConnell is assured another two years as majority leader and Democrats’ efforts to advance their progressive agenda will be stymied. If both succeed, the GOP will be better positioned to defend its majority in 2022, when it faces another unfavorable Senate map. Scapegoating an innocent conservative officeholder is not only wrong; it also has the potential to be politically damaging. Is it really in the senators’ interests to tell GOP voters that there is no guarantee their votes will be fully and fairly counted?

To secure the country’s political future and their own, Perdue and Loeffler should be making an affirmative case for themselves as a bulwark against Democratic control of the Senate. If the 2020 election proved anything, it is that voters are tired of the exhausting, controversy-filled Trump presidency, but have no interest in handing over the reins of unified government to a Democratic Party that is increasingly willing to pursue radical policies and a restructuring of our constitutional order. Republicans have already made significant gains in the House and put themselves in a position to hold the Senate. The best way to capitalize on the national mood is to run issue-oriented campaigns about the virtues of a McConnell-led Senate — veto power over Biden’s cabinet and judicial nominees, a seat at the table on spending bills, etc. — and the destruction that could be wrought by a Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

The Georgia runoffs will be two of the most expensive, labor-intensive races in the history of American politics. Perdue and Loeffler should be focused on running disciplined campaigns that can not only inspire conservatives, but also bring into the fold suburban Georgians who have drifted leftward in recent years. If they must pretend that Trump still has a chance at holding on to the White House until his legal challenges have run their course, so be it. But if they want to both win and make the hundreds of GOP operatives, volunteers, and donors who will converge on the Peach State proud, they should leave Brad Raffensperger alone.

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