In the heart of downtown Tallapoosa, 800 meters away, diners waited outside two food trucks and discussed the upcoming Senate runoff on January 5. But the conversation about next month’s election started with November’s results.
“I honestly think Trump did,” said Ralph Horton, when asked who he thinks won the election, despite no legitimate evidence to support that belief.
Horton is not alone – all over Haralson County his neighbors prey on each other’s inaccurate theories.
“I think a little something fishy was going on,” Cheryl Cantrell said of the election, reciting unsubstantiated claims.
For these shocked Trump supporters, it is impossible to go beyond November with a continuing deluge of disinformation from the president and others.
For Mark Clayton, he’s not sure he wants to vote at all in the system that the President has repeatedly called, and wrongly, “rigged.”
“I really don’t know. I mean, I don’t know if it’s going to change anything or not, it may or may not,” Clayton said. “I don’t know 100% what’s going on or how they’re counting the votes or whatever. It’s confusing to trust anything.”
But lack of confidence in the electoral system could turn into a Republican nightmare in the next rounds of the Senate – GOP voters choosing to stay at home.
Republicans are counting on an enthusiastic basis in places like Haralson County to vote for incumbent Republican Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in the second round, driven by the president’s popularity.
In Haralson County, the president increased his support by about 3,000 votes from four years ago – a trend in the deep red Georgia counties. In counties where Trump won by a margin of more than 10%, 276,622 more voters supported him in 2020 compared to 2016.
But the President has repeatedly spoken and tweeted various conspiracy theories and lies about the voting machines and the electoral process, undermining the very system that needs GOP votes within weeks.
Trump also criticized Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger for their role in overseeing elections in the state, which Trump narrowly lost by around 12,000 votes.
The overall turnout in the state has increased for both Democrats and Republicans. But Biden’s victory was fueled by the Atlanta nine-county metro area, which received 280,000 more votes there than Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Trump’s baseless claim puts senators in office on the ballot in January in dire political straits, struggling to square the circle after weeks of campaign events and public appearances.
“President Trump is very frustrated, I am very frustrated, and we will do everything we can to make sure that the anomalies discovered in November do not occur in January, but it is illogical for any Republican to think that” Oh, I I’m just going to sit down and not vote, “and hand over, as you say, the keys to the Democrats,” Perdue said Thursday night on Fox News.
Anxiety is high as Trump travels to Georgia on Saturday night for a rally with Loeffler and Perdue in the town of Valdosta. Campaigns for both senators understand that Trump can set the Republican base on fire like no one else can, but fears what will come out of his mouth while he is in the state.
Former Georgia Republican Representative Buzz Brockway said dozens of his party members have already told him they will not vote in January.
“He’s coming to Georgia,” Brockway said of the president’s visit.
“He’s going to ask people to vote for Loeffler and Perdue. And then he’ll tell them the election was rigged. Calling the election rigged undermines people’s confidence in the results. Whether you like the results or not and that it will cause people, there will be people who will say that I will not vote. “
If the president continues to tweet and say the system is unfair, Brockway said it hurts Republicans who are fighting for control of the US Senate.
“It really hurts because he has a very passionate group of supporters who are frankly more committed to him than they are to the Republican Party,” Brockway said.
But back in Haralson County, some of these passionate followers say what may seem like a mixed message will only lead to more Republicans to the polls in January.
Andy Gunther, a Republican who ran for Congress and lost this latest round, says the more outraged Trump is at the Valdosta rally on Saturday, the higher the enthusiasm will be for Loeffler and Perdue.
“It’s going to make the electorate come out stronger, I believe,” Gunther said. “It’s a challenge. That’s, we’re not going to take this thing sitting down. We’re going to come back, we’re going to vote. We’re going to show that we care.”