“I wish he would have won, and especially in Georgia,” Raffensperger said in an interview with CNN’s Amara Walker on Friday. “I have certainly cast my vote for him, but the results are what the results are.”
By telling the simple truth that Biden won Georgia, even though the margin was with slim 12,000 votes, Raffensperger has opened up to his own party’s anger and turned this self-proclaimed “conservative, Christian Republican” into a pariah within Georgia’s GOP.
The worst pressure has come from the president.
Even with the presidential race certified, the pressure is not from the GOP’s foreign minister. The January 5 runoff election for both states’ U.S. Senate seats will determine which party governs the Senate, meaning all eyes in the political world will remain on Georgia until then.
Although Raffensperger’s denial of humor of Trump’s dubious demands has won him praise from many around the country, it has had the opposite effect among Republicans in Georgia, some of whom say the soft-spoken 65-year-old, who once had ambitions to run for governor you have written his own political obituary.
“If you can find someone who’s 18 years old and has a pulse that says they support Donald Trump, he’s going to beat Brad in the 2022 primary,” said a former Republican-elected official and longtime activist in Georgia. “I do not see how he can survive politically.”
A GOP employee who spoke to CNN wondered if Raffensperger – a successful businessman who spent an unprecedented $ 3 million of his own money on his 2018 race – would even run for re-election in two years.
Despite all this, Raffensperger has kept his chin up and insisted that his obligations to the public require him to speak unpleasant truths to his other Republicans.
“I have been a supporter of President Trump, an early supporter of both our financial resources and also vocals in 2016 and then also in 2020,” Raffensperger told CNN on Friday. “But at the end of the day, our office needs to make sure the election is run fairly and accurately, and that’s what we’ve done.”
Friendly fire from the Republicans
Trump tells a very different story. For him, the election in Georgia was fraudulent, plagued by missing votes and questionable counts.
Among the states where the Trump campaign is challenging the results, Georgia is the only one where the top election official (Raffensperger) is a Republican.
It caused unusually very friendly fire.
On November 9, Georgia Republican US Sen. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler called on Raffensperger to resign over unspecified allegations of “failures” and questions about the integrity of the election. Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican who had previously served as secretary of state, stopped short to call for the resignation of his successor. But he reiterated calls from Perdue, Loeffler and Trump to investigate potential fraud.
Raffensperger publicly fired back, defending the conduct of the election, saying he would not leave his job. However, he accepted a hand count two days later, on November 11th.
To Eric Tanenblatt, a veteran GOP operator in Atlanta who is close to Loeffler, given the pressure that was building on him, Raffensperger had almost no choice but to tighten up on some of the early demands.
“I would say at the time that it happened that the temperature was pretty high,” Tanenblatt said. “There were a lot of people in the state, Republicans, Trump supporters, who thought there were real problems.”
Both Perdue and Loeffler are at the by-elections in January, and Republicans in Georgia are hypersensitive to maintaining Trump’s loyalty and reaping the political benefits of his electorate.
An autumn guy for GOP
The intense focus on Raffensperger comes at an uncertain time for Republicans in Georgia. Although the party dominates state-level control and has every single state office and majority in both houses of the General Assembly, Biden’s victory there poses a hint of danger to Georgia’s GOP. It was the first time in nearly three decades that a Democratic presidential candidate won Georgia and comes as the Republican victory margins there have been declining over the past few cycles. Now that Republican control of the U.S. Senate is linked to the outcome of the two run-off elections in January, the spotlight on the Republican Party in Georgia is white-hot.
So perhaps it is not a surprise that struggling Republicans would turn themselves around.
“The GOP wants an autumn guy for Georgia, and (Raffensperger) will be,” said Erick Erickson, a talk radio host at Atlanta’s WSB station and longtime conservative activist.
Tanenblatt, the GOP operator in Atlanta, said Raffensperger is a victim of the national attention he has drawn since the election.
“When you are Secretary of State in a state and suddenly you become a nationally known person in an argument with the President of the United States, it does not put you in a positive light,” Tanenblatt said.
Raffensperger entered the 2020 election with high expectations, but also some baggage during his first two years in office. During the June primary election, Democratic and Liberal activists accused him of long queues and defective machines, especially in majority minority counties and districts. Some Republicans, on the other hand, were annoyed that Raffensperger had for the first time allowed counties to use drop-boxes for absent ballot papers during the primary.
“The preparation in June was very messy on election day, very long queues, people were very upset,” said the former GOP-elected official. “People are very sad at the thought of putting your voice in a drop-box. People feel it’s not safe.”
In the days after the primary election, Raffensperger suggested that there were problems with a few county election officials, not in the Secretary of State’s office.
Raffensperger’s move in mail-in polls has also drawn anger from many state Republicans. In March, his office sent nearly 7 million absentee absenteeism applications to registered voters unsolicited and caught many of the state’s Republican leaders out of custody.
When Raffensperger tried to manage an election in the midst of the pandemic – expecting more ballots than ever before – his actions did not inspire confidence among many state Republicans, according to the former GOP official in Georgia.
The former official told CNN that Raffensperger could not communicate effectively. “You’re in an environment where people are at the forefront,” the former official said. “There is this large number of mail-in ballots, and now it is on the strength of these ballots [that Biden wins]. “
Raffensperger has continued to defend his performance and remains committed to the idea that the election was conducted fairly and offered a warning to those who accused otherwise without evidence.
“I think we really need to pay attention to what we say to people, that we do not really need to spin people up,” he told CNN on Friday. “We just have not found anything that was system-wide, systemic that rose to the level that would actually overturn the results we have today that Vice President Biden has borne the state of Georgia.”
CNN’s Amara Walker and Jason Morris contributed to this story.