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Politics & Government

GOP Strategist Suggests How Republicans Can Hang On To The Senate

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Two run-off Senate races in Georgia will decide which party controls that chamber next year. So in many ways, the balance of power in Washington is on the ballot. The Republican in one of those races, Senator Kelly Loeffler, is standing by President Trump as he uses baseless charges of voter fraud to try to overturn his election loss. Here's Loeffler at a debate over the weekend.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KELLY LOEFFLER: This process is still playing out, and President Trump has every right to every legal recourse. But we also have to make sure that Georgians know that we have a process that works, that their vote is counted and that no illegal votes are counted.

GREENE: So right there is the conundrum for many Republicans. How do they side with Trump but, in the same breath, tell voters that the system is fair, it works, go out and vote? Republican strategist Alex Conant was communications director for Senator Marco Rubio's presidential campaign - joins us this morning. Alex, thanks for being here.

ALEX CONANT: Good morning, David.

GREENE: So the president pounding this baseless argument about voter fraud - is that going to hurt Republicans' chances in these Senate races in Georgia?

CONANT: Well, I'd say it's certainly a distraction. I mean, it's very clear and if you - I think if you watched the debate over the weekend that you just played the clip from, really what Republicans want to be talking about are the Democrats' left-wing records painting them as too radical for Georgia and painting the importance of these races for stopping Joe Biden's agenda once he's sworn in as president next year.

Instead, the president, when he went down to Georgia this weekend, spent the vast majority of his rally with a focus on his own grievances, talking about how the election was stolen from him, how Republican officials in Georgia weren't doing a good enough job trying to wrest control of the election back to him. And that's clearly not what our candidates want to be talking about. So I'd say it's a distraction at best.

GREENE: So why can't Republicans like Loeffler just say, enough is enough - whatever the president says, the election was fair, votes matter, get out and vote?

CONANT: Well, math, because (laughter) look - these special elections are all about - are traditionally very low turnout affairs. You need your base to turn out. And so for Kelly Loeffler, if she can get Trump's base to turn out in the special election, she should win reelection. But, of course, if she says something like, you know, that he won the election - which he is disputing and most of his base in Georgia also disputes - that's clearly going to turn off a lot of voters that she needs to turn out. So for her, it really is at a very awkward situation - not just for her, but obviously for Senator Perdue as well since there's two races happening.

It puts Republicans in an awkward situation. I have not spoken to a Republican here in Washington who doesn't wish that Donald Trump would recognize reality and concede the election so that we can then focus the race back on what we want to be talking about, which is how do you stop Biden's agenda, the importance of winning these Senate races, maintaining our majority and how left wing these Democratic candidates are.

GREENE: Well, I mean, speaking of awkward...

(LAUGHTER)

GREENE: ...There are multiple reports that the president is, you know, weighing a run again in 2024. What would that mean for other possible Republican candidates who are weighing their own run?

CONANT: You know, I've worked on a lot of Republican presidential campaigns, and most of them started right around now. Normally, we would see Republican candidates heading to the early states as soon as this month. Instead, because the president is talking about running for reelection again in 2024, it's really going to slow down the start of the Republican primaries. It's going to put a lot of our candidates on ice, I think, for the time being. So we'll see a slower-evolving race.

GREENE: Republican strategist Alex Conant. Alex, thanks so much for your time this morning.

CONANT: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF KLANGTERAPEUTEN AND MAX MANIE'S "PURPLE DAYS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.