Trump to appear in Georgia in gamble over control of US Senate
President Donald Trump ventures out of Washington on Saturday for his first political appearance since his election defeat to Joe Biden, campaigning in Georgia where two run-off races will decide the fate of the US Senate.
The president takes the stage at 7:00 pm (0000 Sunday GMT) in the southern city of Valdosta, exactly one month before special January 5 elections. It is just under a month since he was declared the loser in the presidential race.
Yet at a time when most defeated presidents would be working out a stream of angry tweets challenging the result and demanding that Republicans nationwide defend him.
Biden won in Georgia by just under 12,000 votes. That result, while narrow, has been confirmed by subsequent recounts, making all the more surprising a phone call Saturday from Trump to Georgia Governor Brian Kemp reportedly urging him to press state legislators to overturn the result.
The stakes in the run-off elections are sky-high. Former President Barack Obama laid them out at a virtual rally on Friday, saying that "the special election in Georgia is going to determine ultimately the course of the Biden presidency."
If Democratic challengers Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff defeat Republican senators/ the Senate will be evenly divided at 50-50, meaning Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris would cast any deciding votes, as the Constitution dictates.
The race has drawn enormous attention. One measure of the intense interest: With donations pouring in from across the country, the candidates have already spent more than $315 million, the AdImpact website reported, an astounding figure for senatorial races.
And figures as prominent as Obama, Vice President Mike Pence and now Trump himself are scrambling to boost voter turnout.
But Trump has placed himself in a difficult spot. Since Biden won the November 3 election, the president has repeatedly, and baselessly, attacked the US electoral system as riddled with "fraud."
Despite an overwhelming series of setbacks in the courts, the president and his lawyers have advanced wild conspiracy theories (one involving long-dead Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez) to explain Biden's victory.
Now analysts say he might have created a political monster -- having undercut Georgia voters' faith in the election system just as he needs them to turn out on January 5.
A headline in the Valdosta Daily Times summed up the conflicted feeling among area voters: "Trump in Valdosta: S.Ga. excited, outraged by the presidential visit."
Part of the "outrage" stems from the notion of yet another mass Trump rally coming on a day when the banner headline in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reads: "State sets single-day virus record."
Masks will be required and temperatures were taken at the airport rally, local media reported, though public health officials say such mass gatherings always carry risk.
Trump's ability to excite his supporters remains powerful, and he thrives on the campaign rally setting.
But some voters even in long conservative Georgia are expressing weariness over the constant drama surrounding the president.