As the Republican National Convention opened Monday, Georgia’s two GOP senators delivered similar messages. David Perdue told skeptics of Donald Trump to “get over it.” And Johnny Isakson exhorted Georgians to “volunteer for the Army of America” and stump for Trump.
Usually, top Republicans don’t have to exhort activists at a convention to rally behind their party’s candidate. But this is no typical election, and Trump is no typical candidate. His supporters talk in sweeping terms of revolution and upheaval; his detractors worry he’s nothing short of a disaster.
Most of Georgia’s delegation has united behind Trump – only one delegate has said publicly that he would not support the candidate — but the two senators were among Republican leaders who worry that tepid support for Trump could turn Georgia into a battleground state and risk Isakson’s re-election bid.
“We’ve got to take Georgia out of play. We need to throw the hammer down and make sure we drive the early polls so we can help other states, like Pennsylvania and Ohio, that could be in play,” Perdue said. “This guy could win big. And I’ll tell you, if you want to do anything for conservative causes, you need to win big.”
Georgia is one of 17 states Trump’s campaign has targeted as must-wins to preserve his chance of taking the White House, and Republicans hope the united front prevents presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s camp from competing in Georgia. While Democrats have high hopes of challenging Trump in Georgia, Clinton has yet to pour significant resources into the state.
Still, privately, many Georgia Republicans in Cleveland are looking beyond the presidential election, worried that a Trump defeat could upend the 2018 race for governor and other statewide offices. Perdue, an enthusiastic Trump supporter, urged Georgians to keep unity on their minds.
“I know what you’re thinking — he wasn’t my first choice, he wasn’t my second choice. But let me remind you: This is not a candidate to be embarrassed about,” he said. “And let me tell you why: We have an outsider. This isn’t something from the Washington establishment.”
And Isakson, who is running for a third term against Democrat Jim Barksdale and Libertarian Allen Buckley, cast the election in the stark but familiar terms. A Clinton victory would hand the reins of the U.S. Supreme Court to progressives and liberals, he said, and set conservative causes back decades.
“I’ve been in this game a long time. I’ve seen a lot of disunity. But I’ve never seen this country in as much dismay since 1980,” he said in an interview. “Ronald Reagan changed that, and we need the same type of change this year before it’s too late.”
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