- Ex Sen. Perdue warned Republicans to watch Georgia ahead of the 2020 election.
- According to the book Flipped, the GOP felt largely confident that Georgia would remain a “red” state.
- Perdue convinced Trump to hold a last-minute rally in the state after seeing “miserable” voting data.
In the weeks leading up to the 2020 election, then-Sen. David Perdue told top Republican advisers that the party needed to work harder to increase Georgia GOP turnout, even warning then-President Donald Trump that they both face tight race would stand, according to a new book by political reporter Greg of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Blaustein.
As of 2020, Georgia had not backed a Democratic presidential nominee since 1992, and Republicans, who rose in the state through the 2000s and most of the last decade, were accustomed to winning statewide races by a comfortable margin.
Despite this, Perdue continued to discuss turnout strategy with advisers in Trump’s orbit, but was largely rebuffed by conservatives who believed the party remained dominant in the state, which Bluestein suggested in “Flipped: How Georgia Turned Purple and Broke the Monopoly on Republican.” Power” described in detail.”
“Senator Perdue had been hounding Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and other presidential advisers to step up their game in Georgia, only to receive repeated assurances that he would win easily and that Perdue was reconsidering his situation,” the book reads. “Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien was confident the president had a good reputation in the state and was up at least four points in his poll.”
But in late October 2020, Perdue received voter data from his campaign team that reveals the shakiness of his voting position; The senator saw “miserable” early and mail-in ballots from some of the most conservative parts of the state.
Perdue immediately appealed to Trump to discuss what his campaign staff told him and plan a course of action before Election Day.
“You and I have a tough race in Georgia,” he told the commander in chief, “and the polls show it’s even.”
According to the book, Trump was surprised by the appeal because Perdue rarely asked him for favors.
“He told the senator he was making one last pit stop in Georgia, despite his advisers repeating that it was a waste of time,” the book says.
On November 1, Trump squeezed into a last-minute rally in Rome, Georgia, just hours before the general election.
In contrast to previous presidential elections in Georgia, a record 1.3 million ballots were cast in Georgia before election day. By this point, Republicans were paying more attention to turnout, but a whole pool of voters was unwinnable.
On Election Day, Perdue prevailed in his race against Democratic nominee Jon Ossoff, but he sat on 49.7% of the vote – just below the majority needed to win outright and avoid a runoff. And Sen. Kelly Loeffler would snag a spot in a runoff alongside Rev. Raphael Warnock, the newly minted Democratic nominee in the Senate second race.
But Trump’s lead on Georgia election night narrowed as Biden reduced GOP margins in cities and black-majority rural counties. Notably, Biden was also making strides in the voter-rich Atlanta suburbs, which were once home to some of the state’s most reliable Republican voters.
As Biden took the lead and was eventually confirmed victorious in Georgia, Trump claimed he committed voter fraud, a position he has continued to take despite a lack of evidence of election misconduct. He repeatedly protested the election results at GOP Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, only to make political enemies of both men.
Perdue and Loeffler lost their respective Senate runoffs in January 2021, hurt by mediocre turnout in rural areas and Trump’s inability to focus on their respective races.