Not everybody in state political circles is satisfied Raffensperger’s political plight is so grim. Some nonetheless see a path to reelection, regardless of the critical resistance inside his personal get together.
Either method, as the GOP forges its post-Trump period identification, Raffensperger’s reelection marketing campaign is rising as one in every of the earliest and most contentious check circumstances for the route of the get together. At difficulty is extra than simply whether or not critics of the former president can succeed in the get together. It’s whether or not a Republican who rejects the lie that the final election was stolen has any probability of profitable one other one.
The answer in Georgia, to this point, is that will probably be exceedingly tough — if not flat-out unattainable.
It is a outstanding flip of occasions for a traditional Republican politician whose down-ballot election in 2018 went largely unnoticed outdoors his personal state. Yet after refusing to buckle to Donald Trump’s requests to vary the state’s vote rely and feuding with Trump over the former president’s baseless claims of widespread voter fraud, Raffensperger’s reelection marketing campaign is unfolding, improbably, as one in every of the most consequential of the election cycle – with implications for the GOP in each state and in any respect ranges of presidency.
Jason Shepherd, the chair of the Republican Party in Cobb County, Georgia, mentioned he has buddies who’re “completely uninvolved in politics” who inform him “there is no way they are going to vote to reelect Raffensperger.”
That sentiment, he mentioned, is coming from “the type of person you’re almost surprised they know the name of the secretary of state.”
“I don’t want to say there’s zero chance, but at this point right now, it’s nearly impossible to find anyone in the party who supports the reelection of [Raffensperger],” he mentioned.
Raffensperger nonetheless has greater than a year to show it round. But he’s operating up in opposition to the heavy weight of GOP’s election fraud orthodoxy. Earlier this week, Rep. Jody Hice, a defender of Trump’s effort to overturn the election, introduced he’s operating with Trump’s endorsement to unseat Raffensperger. And the Georgia Republican Party isn’t precisely sitting on the sidelines.
The state government committee publicly called this week on Raffensperger to repudiate his employees for misquoting Trump’s words in a December telephone name in which Trump urged a Georgia elections official to search out “dishonesty” in the vote in an try and reverse the election outcomes.
The get together mentioned Raffensperger has “dodged repeated attempts” by committee members to debate the difficulty with him.
Closer to dwelling, Raffensperger failed this previous weekend to get Republicans in his personal precinct to elect him as a delegate to his county’s upcoming Republican Party conference, mentioned Stewart Bragg, government director of the Georgia Republican Party. After Raffensperger wrote a letter asking to be elected, nobody at the precinct meeting moved to appoint him, Bragg mentioned.
In a press release, the chair of the Fulton County Republican Party, Trey Kelly, mentioned he was unaware of any letter from Raffensperger, including that, “like many others who did not attend Saturday, he was not added to the delegate or alternate list for the county convention.” An individual near Raffensperger additionally denied that he despatched a letter looking for election.
His representatives in any other case declined to remark for this story, pointing to Raffensperger’s previous public statements.
Raffensperger’s official duties have additionally been focused by Republicans in the state. On Thursday, the Republican-controlled state legislature handed a legislation, signed by Georgia GOP Gov. Brian Kemp, that removes the secretary of state as the state election board chair — to get replaced by an individual accredited by the state legislature.
The legislation, in impact, fingers management of the five-person board over to the state legislature: Two different members on the board are picked by the respective legislative chambers. The legislation additionally provides the state election board the potential to droop county election officers, who’re changed by a person picked by the board.
Raffensperger shouldn’t be with out a fan base. In truth, he’s the hottest Republican in Georgia, in accordance with an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll in January — much more than Kemp or Trump.
But that feat is in massive half as a result of Raffensperger is admired by Democrats, who seen him as a truth-telling, elections administration equal of Dr. Anthony Fauci after the November vote. Nearly 45 % of Republicans in the state disapprove of Raffensperger’s efficiency, in accordance with the ballot.
Raffensperger has been a focus for Trump and his supporters since shortly after the presidential election. Even as early as November, he mentioned he was getting ready for a major problem due to how offended some in the state could also be with him.
In an election cycle the place secretary of state races are prone to get a near-unprecedented quantity of consideration, Georgia’s could also be the best. Not solely is Raffensperger dealing with a Trump-backed major challenger, Democrats can be gunning for the office in 2022 as effectively, enraged by the Republicans in the legislature pushing by way of payments that can prohibit voter entry to the polls and emboldened by the get together’s successes in the state’s final election.
Raffensperger has joined the refrain of Republicans throughout the nation in opposing H.R. 1, or the For the People Act, congressional Democrats’ sweeping piece of laws that may drastically remake most facets of federal elections, penning an op-ed in USA Today on Friday that claims the invoice makes “reckless demands of Georgia’s elections system.”
At the identical time, Raffensperger has been harshly vital of the falsehoods about the 2020 election promoted by Trump and embraced by Hice, saying voters will punish Hice due to it.
“We saw in January what Georgia voters will do to candidates who use that rhetoric,” he mentioned in a press release shortly after Hice bought into the race, alluding to the two GOP Senate runoff losses. “His recklessness is matched by his fecklessness as a congressman. Georgia Republicans seeking a candidate who’s accomplished nothing now have one.”
Hice additionally is not Raffensperger’s solely major challenger. David Belle Isle, the former mayor of Alpharetta who Raffensperger handily defeated in a 2018 runoff for the nomination, additionally introduced he was operating once more.
Raffensperger’s newly acquired nationwide profile means the final result will reverberate far past Georgia, the place Republican primaries are rising as litmus assessments on questions on voter fraud and fealty to Trump’s grievances.
“Raffensperger isn’t just someone operating in a Republican major,” mentioned Sarah Longwell, the founding father of the Republican Accountability Project, an anti-Trump group working to advertise non-MAGA Republicans. “He is being primaried by Jody Hice, who is somebody who has been an election truther.”
The umbrella group that RAP belongs to has pledged a $50 million marketing campaign to again Republicans who voted to question Trump, and a sister group of RAP beforehand ran adverts defending Raffensperger’s dealing with of an election, saying he ran “a “textbook election under extraordinary circumstances.”
But the difficulty will possible play out throughout the nation, Longwell mentioned. “In a Republican primary — like the Ohio Senate primary, for example — I suspect the challengers are going to be MAGA, or more MAGA, or mega MAGA. … You can definitely see that people will try to outmatch each other by the extent to which they will play up the election being stolen.”
The nationwide major setting seems extra favorable to Republicans operating on the concept that the election was illegitimate, with a majority of Republican voters saying the November election wasn’t free or truthful.
Still, it’s attainable that in Raffensperger’s race and elsewhere, the voters’s view of 2020 will shift by 2022 — particularly as extra info undercutting Trump’s voter fraud claims materializes about the election. Pointing to a current court docket submitting from Sidney Powell — the former Trump lawyer who not too long ago conceded that “no reasonable person” would consider what she had been saying was factual — Georgia Republican John Cowan mentioned he isn’t but certain how he’ll vote in Raffensperger’s major.
The secretary of state “admirably stood up to power, the-guy-in-Tiananmen-Square kind of stuff,” mentioned Cowan, a neurosurgeon who ran in opposition to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene in a 2020 House major and is contemplating operating in opposition to her once more subsequent year.
Right now, Cowan mentioned Raffensperger is getting “scapegoated.”
But “when the anger and the passion subsides,” he mentioned, “I think people are going to say, ‘Gosh, we just got beat.’ And unless we want to get beat again, we’ve got to get our act together.”