President Donald Trump on Saturday will head to what’s being billed as his first post-election rally in Valdosta, Ga., near the Florida border.
But with all eyes on the Peach State, which could play a key role in Trump’s own political fate as well as the balance of the US Senate, tensions are running high.
“It’s important that Trump comes and focuses on the Senate election and not the other peripheral sideshow of whining and complaining and making baseless accusations,” said Allen Peake, a former state legislator and self-described “mainstream Republican,” according to Politico.
“But that’s kind of been his mode for the past four years,” Peake continued. “I don’t think he will change. So I’m very concerned about this on Saturday.”
The comments reflected a growing rift between Republican leaders at the state and national level.
State GOP officials have been sharply criticized for mishandling vote fraud concerns during the Nov. 3 election, which resulted in Democrat Joe Biden claiming victory by a razor-thin majority.
Amid recounts and legal challenges, Gov. Brian Kemp and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger have often been on the defensive.
Among the critics have been incumbent Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, both of whom will face Democratic challengers in the January runoff, as well as Rep. Doug Collins and Georgia GOP Chairman David Shafer.
Some allege that Kemp may have received kickbacks—possibly from China or other anti-Trump sources—by helping throw the race, including his decision to adopt the flawed Dominion Voting Systems.
Others claim Kemp and Raffensperger were cowed by Stacey Abrams, the former state minority leader and failed gubernatorial candidate, who has refused to concede her 2018 loss to Kemp.
With the backing of Democrat mega-donors and celebrity lawyers, Abrams coerced Raffensperger into agreeing to laxer voting policies under a February settlement, even before coronavirus fears prompted Democrats nationwide to push for similar measures.
The backlash has continued with criticism of the state’s official recount and its reluctance to conduct an audit of ballot signatures.
Sworn affidavits from poll-observers have attested to the fact that election officials in blue areas like Atlanta may have tampered with the paper ballots on election night.
Lawyers Sidney Powell and Lin Wood, who have been independently overseeing legal challenges in Georgia, cautioned at their own rally on Thursday that jaded Republican voters may decide to sit out the January runoff as a result of their distrust in state leaders.