Most of the GOP establishment since the election has either stayed silent or supported President Donald Trump as he churns out baseless allegations of voter fraud and election rigging.
Now it's coming back to bite Republicans as the party throws its weight behind two crucial runoff elections in Georgia next month that will decide who controls the Senate.
At the center of the controversy are the Trump-supporting lawyers Lin Wood and Sidney Powell, who have said the runoffs are "rigged" and urged Republican voters to boycott them.
RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel also faced a messaging crisis when, after repeatedly backing Trump's claims of fraud, she struggled to persuade Georgia voters who believed the allegations to participate in the runoffs.
Trump is scheduled to hold a rally this weekend for Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. But many Republicans fear that if he uses the stage to air his personal grievances, it could further dissuade his supporters from turning out.
President Donald Trump spent months before the general election crusading against mail-in voting and claiming the election would be "rigged" against him.
After he lost the race to President-elect Joe Biden, Trump flew into overdrive, spinning up vague conspiracy theories about Democrats working with "big media" and dead communist dictators to steal an election.
Flanking the president are the Republican lawyers Sidney Powell and Lin Wood, who have filed a slew of lawsuits in recent weeks seeking to nullify the 2020 results while making evidence-free allegations of election fraud. All the while, the mainstream Republican establishment has been largely silent or actively supported those claims.
Now that complicity is coming back to bite the GOP ahead of two crucial runoff elections in Georgia that will decide which party controls the Senate.
'Why would you go back and vote in another rigged election, for God's sake?'
In one race, Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler is facing off against a Democratic challenger, Raphael Warnock. In the other, Republican Sen. David Perdue is trying to fend off the Democrat Jon Ossoff. Both parties are waging huge get-out-the-vote campaigns to boost turnout in the runoff elections on January 5.
But Republicans are hitting a roadblock as Wood and Powell urge Georgia voters to boycott the elections because, they say, they're already "rigged."
At a "Stop the Steal" rally in the state earlier this week, Wood told a crowd of Trump supporters not to vote for Loeffler and Perdue.
"Don't you give it to them," he said. "Why would you go back and vote in another rigged election, for God's sake? Fix it! You've got to fix it!"
"I would encourage all Georgians to make it known that you will not vote at all until your vote is secure - and I mean that regardless of party," Powell said. "We can't live in a republic, a free republic, unless we know our votes are legal and secure."
As Business Insider has reported, the 2020 election was the safest and most secure in recent history because of the use of paper ballots and voting machines with verifiable paper trails. The Trump campaign and Republican officials have filed more than two dozen lawsuits challenging the election results and haven't won a single one. The six states that decided the election have also certified their results as of this week, confirming Biden's victory.
One reporter joked that Wood's and Powell's comments "may be in-kind contributions for the Democrats in Georgia."
Republican lawmakers also appeared to recognize the risk their statements could pose for GOP turnout.
"I don't know who this clown is, but anyone saying America would be better off w/ Chuck Schumer as Majority Leader-producing huge tax increases, the Green New Deal, massive amnesty & a packed Supreme Court destroying the Bill of Rights-is trying to mislead the people of Georgia," Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas tweeted.
The Trump campaign distanced itself from Powell after she gave a bizarre news conference about the election. But Trump and his allies have repeatedly praised her since she began representing retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security advisor who was ensnared in the Russia investigation and recently pardoned by Trump.
The president also defended Powell and Wood in a series of retweets this week.
—Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) December 4, 2020
Republicans are 'very concerned' Trump will dissuade the GOP base from turning out
But fringe actors like Powell and Wood aren't the only ones stirring up controversy for the party.
Last week, Ronna McDaniel, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, appeared to face a messaging crisis of her own making when, after weeks of throwing her support behind the president's claims, she struggled to persuade Georgia voters who believed the election was rigged to participate in the Senate runoffs.
When a Trump supporter echoed the president's baseless allegation that voting machines were tampered with and illegally switched votes from Trump to Biden, McDaniel responded, "We didn't see that in the audit, so we've got to just ... That evidence we haven't seen, so we'll have to wait and see."
At another point, a voter asked why they should put in "more money and work" when the two races were "already decided."
"It's not decided," McDaniel said. "This is the key. It's not decided."
Trump is scheduled to travel to Georgia over the weekend to hold a rally supporting Loeffler and Perdue. Republicans are excited about the event, but some in the party also fear that if Trump uses the stage to continue airing his grievances about the 2020 election, it could dissuade his supporters from turning out in the runoffs.
The president lost Georgia to Biden by about 13,000 votes and has repeatedly said his defeat was the result of widespread fraud and electoral malfeasance. As The Guardian's Sam Levine wrote, "by undermining confidence in the election, Trump could also be telling his supporters that their votes won't matter."
Allen Peake, a former Republican state legislator, echoed those concerns, telling Politico that "it's important that Trump comes and focuses on the Senate election and not the other peripheral sideshow of whining and complaining and making baseless accusations."
"But that's kind of been his mode for the past four years," Peake added. "I don't think he will change. So I'm very concerned about this on Saturday."
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