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Some GOP Members Worry Trump's Rhetoric May Affect Results Of Georgia Runoffs

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Some high-profile supporters of Donald Trump are spreading conspiracy theories, telling Georgia Republicans not to vote in the crucial U.S. Senate runoff there next month. Those runoffs will determine which party controls the Senate. Here's lawyer Lin Wood earlier today.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LIN WOOD: Do not be fooled twice. This is Georgia. We ain't dumb. We're not going to go vote on January 5 on another machine made by China. You're not going to fool Georgians again.

KELLY: As Lisa Hagen of member station WABE in Atlanta reports, many Republican voters have been swayed by President Trump's baseless talk that last month's election was rigged against him.

LISA HAGEN, BYLINE: Missy Landers was one of hundreds of pro-Trump demonstrators who recently showed up at Georgia's Capitol in Atlanta, unmasked and angry about unproven allegations of widespread election fraud.

MISSY LANDERS: I mean, I've always voted and things like that, but I think we need to know what's going on.

HAGEN: She's the kind of reliable Republican voter Georgia's GOP establishment is counting on to hold the two Senate seats. But weeks after President-elect Joe Biden's win over President Trump, Landers says her faith in Georgia's election has been shaken.

LANDERS: With all of the news about the ballots, the vote, the electronic systems, all the different things that happened during the election and is continuing to come out - but I don't feel secure about it.

HAGEN: She's heard these theories from a number of right-wing media outlets and personalities.

LANDERS: I listen to Tucker Carlson, Newsmax.

HAGEN: OK.

LANDERS: I love David Harris, you know, Terrance, all these guys.

HAGEN: Georgia's Republican election officials say there's no evidence of any widespread fraud and say these conspiracy theories are crazy and like a game of whack-a-mole.

CHUCK CLAY: We've got to get a grip on ourselves, people.

HAGEN: Chuck Clay is a former state senator and longtime Republican leader in Georgia.

CLAY: What we can't have is this sense of just conspiratorial madness that I think certainly does the body politic harm - I don't think helps our candidates.

HAGEN: Clay enthusiastically supports both Republicans in the upcoming runoff, sitting Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. But as candidates, they've embraced these theories, calling Georgia's 2020 elections an embarrassment and going so far as to demand the Republican secretary of state resign. These messages, along with President Trump's tweets, have clearly reached some Georgia voters. During a recent visit here, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel responded to voters asking why they should participate in an election they no longer trust.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RONNA MCDANIEL: It's not decided. This is the key. It's not decided.

HAGEN: Chuck Clay again.

CLAY: Yeah, there are some people that won't go vote as a form of protest or frustration. I don't think that would be many. I don't find that to be at all productive.

HAGEN: But how many? That's the question for Republicans in Georgia and beyond. Just this week, a group of 18 former GOP leaders signed an open letter urging their fellow Republicans to stop undermining the elections. Back at the Georgia Capitol...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Chanting) Commies go home. Commies go home.

HAGEN: Missy Landers says she still plans to vote.

LANDERS: It is my right as an American citizen to vote, and I'm going to honor that right by voting.

HAGEN: Republicans will have to hope her faith in the system remains solid enough through election day on January 5.

For NPR News, I'm Lisa Hagen in Atlanta.

(SOUNDBITE OF AEROC'S "BLUE EYED BITTER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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