Senate Republicans appalled by Perdue’s false campaign claims in Georgia gubernatorial race | CNN Politics




CNN

It’s a refrain that former Sen. David Perdue has made a centerpiece of his Georgia gubernatorial campaign.

“The 2020 election was rigged and stolen,” Perdue claimed during a recent debate.

Perdue’s former Senate GOP colleagues, however, are less than impressed.

“It’s nonsense,” Utah Sen. Mitt Romney said when asked about Perdue’s remarks, his former colleague. “I think the effort to try to void an election when there is, at this point, no evidence of widespread fraud is detrimental to democracy and insulting to the American public.”

“Hell yes,” one of Perdue’s closest friends in the Senate told CNN when asked if he was surprised by his ex-colleague’s campaign transformation.

“I don’t know if he believes it or not. I really don’t know,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer, a Republican from North Dakota. “But I’m sure it’s a political strategy.”

Indeed, in his six years in the Senate before losing his re-election bid last year, Perdue was a Republican member of the Senate, a business-minded conservative who typically voted with his party.

But Perdue announced his candidacy in December, challenging Georgia GOP Gov. Brian Kemp, blaming Kemp for his and then senator. Kelly Loeffler’s losses, which cost Republicans the Senate, arguing the governor didn’t do enough to overturn the results.

Former President Donald Trump, who relentlessly attacked Kemp for his loss in Georgia, endorsed Perdue, falsely claiming that Kemp “allowed massive voter fraud to take place.”

Many of Perdue’s colleagues believe there’s a reason he changed his tune.

“My guess is that when he was persuaded to show up, that was part of the conversation,” said South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Senate Republican, when asked about Perdue’s claims. “But it doesn’t seem like it’s working very well – at least right now.”

Perdue’s candidacy underscores the dilemma facing Republicans as they try to position themselves for the fall election. Many candidates like Perdue are eager to get Trump’s endorsement, ready to repeat his false claims about 2020 in order to gain support from his staunch supporters. Still, others say dwelling on the past is a recipe for boosting their chances at a time when the political environment is rich for the GOP.

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“I think it’s better to ask, ‘Do you think voters want to look forward or look back?’ Senator Bill Cassidy, a Republican from Louisiana, said in an interview. “And the answer to that is obvious. They want solutions now.

“I know him well,” West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito said when asked about Perdue’s claims. “I obviously don’t agree with that.”

On Thursday, Loeffler was on Capitol Hill, having lunch with Senate Republicans and discussing his efforts to engage voters in Georgia. Behind closed doors, Loeffler spoke to Senators Perdue and Kemp in the race and told them it looked like Kemp was on track to win easily and avoid a runoff, according to the senators who spoke to him.

In a brief interview, Loeffler dodged the question of whether she agreed with Perdue’s political strategy calling the 2020 election “rigged and stolen,” telling CNN, “I’m totally focused on the voters. We we have to make sure that voters vote, so that’s my number one priority.

Asked about the Republican senators’ mix of surprise and criticism over their former colleague’s decision to put the 2020 election at the center of his 2022 campaign, Perdue’s campaign spokeswoman Jenni Sweat said: “Nothing to share at this time.”

Immediately after jumping into the race, Perdue sued to bring Trump’s false claims to light, even though there were three separate Georgia results tallies and no evidence that the fraud cost Trump their elections. or Lost.

Perdue’s first and last television commercials promote the lie that the election was stolen. Trump held rallies for Perdue in Georgia, held a fundraiser for him at his Florida Mar-a-Lago resort and ran ads disparaging Kemp, saying he couldn’t beat Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams. Trump called for a “tele-rally” with Perdue last week as early voting began for the May 24 primary.

Kemp’s campaign spent more than $5.3 million on ads, compared to Perdue’s roughly $1.3 million. But other Trump-aligned bands like Take Back Georgia and MAGA, Again! try to fill the void.

Perdue hopes Trump will help propel him to victory. But if he fails, it would be a blow to the former president in his campaign to kick out Republicans who don’t align themselves with his 2020 election lies — and his kingmaker status. After the primaries last Tuesday, Trump bragged that his candidates went 22-0. But even Trump seemed to recognize that Perdue could threaten that streak.

14:06
– Source: CNN

Donald Trump ‘still the kingmaker’ of the Republican Party, says political analyst

“Remember, you know, my record is spotless,” Trump said in a recent interview with The New York Times. “The real story should be on the endorsements – not David Perdue’s – and, by the way, no race is over.”

In interviews with more than a dozen Senate Republicans on the Georgia race, most said their party needed to stop talking about 2020 if it was to win back Congress in 2022 and rack up victories in the US. State as well.

“Well, I love David but you know if Kemp wins, that means people have been looking past 2020,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and close Trump ally. “That’s the only conclusion you can come to.”

Senator Joni Ernst, a Republican from Iowa, called Perdue a “smart man” and said “people respect him.”

But when asked if Republicans should be talking about 2020 in this election year, Ernst pushed back, saying it “just makes us feel like we’re a party looking back rather than forward.” .

Many of his colleagues see it the same way.

“(Perdue) and I would probably agree to disagree on this particular issue, and this isn’t the first time I’ve had to agree to disagree with my friends and colleagues,” Sen. Mike said. Rounds, a Republican from South Dakota. “We found no evidence that the election would have been canceled by what we found in terms of issues within the election cycle itself.”

Others have made it clear that Republicans shouldn’t continue to dwell on 2020.

“I think we have to look to the future,” said Sen. Thom Tillis, a Republican from North Carolina. “You know, the most important election is the next election, in my opinion. I’m only focused on November.

“The only election that worries me is in 2022,” Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley said when asked about Perdue’s comments. “And then I worry about the 2024 election after that, and I look ahead.”

Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who like Grassley is up for re-election in 2022, said he hadn’t “given much thought” to the Georgia gubernatorial race, saying “we have hands full here” in the Senate. Pressed to talk about 2020 during the election campaign, Rubio said, “I’ll talk about the things I’ve been working on.”

And Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a member of the GOP leadership, said he was not going to get involved in the governor’s race when asked about Perdue’s comments.

But he added, “I’ll tell you, I don’t think the governor — I think Joe Biden won the electoral college and was properly confirmed as president.”

And when asked if he was worried about his party members still espousing the 2020 election lies, Romney deadpanned: “I stopped worrying about my party members. ”

01:51
– Source: CNN

‘It makes your head spin’: Ex-GOP lawmaker reacts to ex-senator’s gubernatorial bid

The reaction of many of Perdue’s former colleagues in the Senate appears to be mirrored in Georgia’s Republican electorate, according to a public poll, which shows Kemp with a double-digit lead over Perdue. Even some of Perdue’s former allies in Georgia questioned why he decided to run against Kemp.

Eric Tanenblatt supports Kemp even though he helped raise money for Perdue’s last Senate campaign and served as chief of staff to former Republican Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, the former senator’s cousin. He said there was a “very good chance” that Kemp would win the primary on May 24 with a majority of the vote, enough to avoid a runoff.

“I think the majority of Republican primary voters think we need to move beyond the 2020 election,” Tanenblatt said.

“I remain puzzled as to why David is doing this,” he added. “He was a senator with a great record, he represented the state well, and unfortunately what we’re going to remember him for is not what he did in the Senate anymore, but who he hired. an incumbent Republican governor.”