After Georgia Senate Loss, Republicans Stare Down Their Trump Dilemma

ATLANTA – Senator Raphael Warnock’s Democratic Party’s most significant re-election win forced Republicans to count on Wednesday with a red wave that is not so, as they anxiously look ahead to 2024 and the Growing divisions within the party over former President Donald J. Trump .

Warnock’s two-and-a-half-point victory over Herschel Walker in the Georgia Senate race gave Democrats a 51-49 majority in the senate, an increase of one seat. That comes despite dire predictions of a bloodbath for President Biden’s party.

It was quickly criticized by Republicans in all directions: at Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader was accused by his detractors of neglecting or belittled Republican Senate candidates. fight; at Senator Rick Scott of Florida, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, who many feel has mismanaged the Republican campaign arm in the Senate; and at Mr. Walker himself, for concealing and lying about his past, only to find the details pouring in steadily throughout his campaign.

But for some Republicans, newly incentivized to be re-elected or retired to speak so loudly, the biggest culprit is Mr. In increasingly harsh terms, they criticized him for promoting flawed candidates, including Mr. Walker, dividing his party and causing many voters to waver against the GOP during the election cycle. third in a row.

Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, said of the former president, who is starting his third run for the White House: “I think he’s always been less relevant.

Senator Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania, a retired Republican who was decimated by Lt. “Just one more data point in an overwhelming body of data that the Trump obsession is bad for Republicans,” Governor John Fetterman said.

Trump’s campaign aides have responded in a defiant, back-and-forth manner that is likely to be repeated in the near future. Steven Cheung, the former president’s senior communications adviser, said they “will not be taught by political swamp creatures who are looking to make a quick buck in 2024 by running to the media. communicate and make cowardly quotes.”

Midterm losses like Walker’s not only snuffed out the GOP’s high hopes of regaining control of the Senate, but also signaled the party’s ascent ahead. Voters in several states running for president have resoundedly rejected candidates with links to the former president, leaving Republicans to lose win-win races in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Nevada , New Hampshire and finally Georgia.

Rusty Paul, the Republican mayor of Sandy Springs, a booming suburban city on the northern edge of Atlanta, said Mr Trump’s influence was indisputable in the suburbs.

Mr. Paul said that the almost entirely affluent, almost entirely white community has become more ethnically, racially and economically diverse, making it beneficial for the Democrats.

“All of those things are factors, but the biggest factor is Trumpism,” he said.

“There’s a very strong conservative component in the northern suburbs, Cobb, North Fulton — if Trump didn’t get in, they would still vote Republican,” he continued, referring to the county’s northern edge. main Atlanta and Cobb County, just west of . “But if they feel Trump’s influence, they’ll vote against him.”

Trump loyalists in Georgia and beyond oppose that assessment. Former Chairman Newt Gingrich, who represented many of those suburbs for years as a Republican in the House, blamed a list of factors besides Mr. “Saturday Night Live” mockery to Mr. Walker three days before the second round of elections. It’s GOP versus the media, Big Tech, Hollywood, and the nation’s social power structures, he said.

“We underestimated how big the mountain we were trying to climb was,” he said.

But Gingrich also raised the prospect of a dire 2024, when Trump’s supporters split sharply with the party’s anti-Trump faction in much the same way that 1964 conservatives supported Barry Goldwater and the others. moderates sided with Nelson Rockefeller.

“My biggest fear is that we’re going to be as divided as we were in 1964,” he said in an interview Wednesday, leaving Republicans paralyzed in Congress. “I can imagine a Trump-against-Trump fight over the next two years that both ensures Biden’s landslide re-election and ensures that the Democrats keep everything in check.”

Emerging from the midterm elections, the anti-Trump camp has plenty of room to break. Two of Trump’s most prominent Republican supporters in Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, won easily, in part because they refused to support the former president’s lies. that the state was stolen from him in 2016. 2020. Their protest reassured Republican-leaning voters that they were not under Mr. Trump’s control.

By contrast, Mr. Walker, who was urged to run for office by the former president and has said he intends to vote for Mr. Trump for president, has lost almost every type of precinct in the four weeks between Election Day. 8/11 and water day on Tuesday, according to the analysis of the New York Times.

Republicans fared worse in areas that initially supported Mr. Warnock and Mr. Kemp, in areas dominated by college graduates, in inner-city and suburban areas. affluent area and in the Negro and Hispanic area. The only constituencies he held were in rural areas and areas with white voters, without a college degree.

Mr. Walker, a first-time candidate and former soccer star, has had a lot of trouble that has nothing to do with Mr. Trump. His campaign has been plagued with damaging revelations that could disqualify other candidates from the race, including allegations of domestic violence, unacknowledged children and hypocrisy in the campaign. abortion.

And besides Mr. Trump, there are other factors changing the political nuances of Georgia: the wave of immigration of voters of color from across the country, the movement of politically active Black voters from the heart of Atlanta to the suburbs near and far, where they conduct their organizing activities and activate of white women like Jennifer Haggard, a real estate agent, and lifelong Sandy Springer, who cast aside reflective conservatism for a more open politics.

“I am a white Republican who has certainly become a wavering voter,” Ms. Haggard said after voting for Mr. Warnock. She thinks Mr. Trump is easily the biggest factor, but happily voted for Mr. Warnock.

Faced with pro-Democracy bias, the Georgia Republicans failed to nominate a Senate candidate that could galvanize both the party’s ultra-conservative base and its moderates – a group that many Republicans believe they still have a majority of the state’s electorate.

That defeat extends beyond Georgia. Republican candidates in the primary season have approached Mr. Trump’s ideological environment to appeal to his constituents, going so far that they cannot reliably turn around to win it back. neutrals in the general election.

“Even if you win all of Trump’s voters, you can win the primaries but you don’t have to win the general election and in this area you have to win. win elections before you can actually run,” he said. Mr. Cornyn, who for years dodged questions about Mr. Trump. “It’s not like coming in second and getting a trophy like you did in middle school when you entered.”

For many Trump loyalists, the question may be whether they are willing to make a cold assessment of electability or follow their hearts. The chorus of Republican voices debating the possibility of voting grew louder.

Paul D. Ryan, the Republican former Speaker of the House of Representatives, said: “The more obvious string of defeats caused by Donald Trump for us is enough for our party to realize that we have to move on if want to win.” interview. “We should not give in to the country to the left by nominating an unelectable candidate like Donald Trump.”

Even Mr. Walker’s team appeared to acknowledge Mr. Trump as the manipulative in the final weeks of the race. When the former president tipped off his visit to Georgia, Trump aides worked with Walker’s campaign to agree to cancel an in-person rally and hold the event by phone instead.

Mr. Walker did not frequently mention Trump in his campaign speeches. And in his final concession speech, he did not say the name of the former president.

Jack Kingston, a former Republican in the House of Representatives from the Savannah area, argues that Mr. Trump’s influence has been overblown. He noted that in 2021, as the two Georgia Senate races were drawing to a close, Mr. Trump, then president, spoke out against a rigged election, signaling to Republicans their vote would not count, he noted. This time around, he was much less present.

“I wouldn’t say that Donald Trump’s invisible hand is telling Herschel Walker what to do,” Mr. Kingston said on Wednesday. “He’s his own man.”

Stephanie Lai, Emily Cochrane and Michael C. Bender Contribution report from Washington.


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