It looks like a runoff for the Senate seat in Georgia between incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker will decide control of the Senate.
For Georgia Republicans, they’ve been there and done that. In 2021, Republicans had two shots to claim a majority of the Upper Chamber as both Georgia Senate seats were being contested.
Then, Donald Trump happened.
Some pundits ascribed Machiavellian tactics to Trump when the recently defeated president said the two runoffs were “illegal and invalid.” He also urged voters to stay home on election day. They claimed that Trump was deliberately trying to sabotage Georgia Republicans to punish them for not overturning the results of the 2020 election in the state — an election won by Joe Biden by just a few thousand votes.
But Trump admits he let his anger get the better of him and that he should have done more to get out the GOP vote in Georgia.
That said, there are lingering bad feelings between Trump and recently re-elected Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. That’s one reason national Republicans are quietly urging Trump to steer clear of the runoff, given the bad blood the former president stirred up in 2021.
Republican leaders don’t want a repeat of the 2021 runoff, especially now that Trump has teased a “big announcement” Tuesday, when he is widely expected to officially declare another White House bid. But Scott is staying mum on the Trump question.
“That’ll be a decision between Herschel and Trump. I know that Trump wants to be helpful to make Herschel win. That’s an issue for the campaign. I don’t get to participate in those decisions,” said Scott, who is in charge of getting Republicans elected as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
The Kemp-Raffesnperger/Trump feud is once again threatening to deep-six GOP chances for a Senate majority. Given the flak Trump is already taking from the GOP sidelines about holding him responsible for the less-than-stellar performance of the party during the midterm election, you would think he’d would want to walk softly in this instance.
There’s a reason that Kemp, whom Trump has repeatedly insulted and vilified, cruised to victory over his Democratic opponent Stacey Abrams on Tuesday night. It’s also the reason Warnock was elected in the first place. Trump is divisive and unpopular among the state’s independents and moderates — crucial votes in a swing state — and his bombastic style is enough to cause middle-of-the-road voters to flee toward any candidate, Republican or Democrat, who promises not to be like him.
If Trump does announce another presidential run next week, as he has said he plans to do, Republicans might as well kiss their shot at a Senate majority goodbye. And they ought to hold him responsible for costing them not just one, and not two, but three Georgia Senate races within two years.
That’s an overly harsh assessment, given Kelly Loeffler’s obvious shortcomings as a candidate — a candidate chosen by Brian Kemp to fill out the remaining few months of Johnny Isaacson’s term and whose gaffe-prone campaign wasn’t Trump’s fault.
But the general point is valid. Donald Trump is a toxic presence among some key Georgia voters. Rather than risk re-igniting the civil war, Trump would do better to offer words of encouragement to Walker and hold a couple of fundraisers for him.
Anything more would be a risk.