Pence Touts Georgia Senators Without Echoing Trump Fraud Claims
(Bloomberg) -- Vice President Mike Pence campaigned in Georgia for two Republican Senate candidates on Friday without echoing President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that the Nov. 3 election he lost was riven with vote fraud.
Appearing Friday at a rally in Savannah, Pence praised incumbent Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, whose January runoff elections against Democrats will determine control of the Senate.
“We’re going to keep fighting until every legal vote is counted,” Pence told an audience at the outdoor rally, without alleging malfeasance. “We’re going to keep counting until every illegal vote is thrown out.”
Pence has separated himself from Trump’s assertions -- made without evidence -- that he won more votes than President-elect Joe Biden but that widespread cheating resulted in his defeat. Trump’s claims have been criticized by Democrats and some GOP officials, and Attorney General William Barr said this week the Department of Justice has seen no evidence of widespread fraud in the election.
Pence has kept his distance from events where Trump’s lawyers and supporters have made outlandish claims about a Democratic conspiracy to steal the election. On Friday, he only vaguely alluded to Trump’s claims. “I know we’ve all got our doubts about the last election,” he said at the rally, without elaborating.
Pence is seen as a likely GOP presidential contender in 2024. But Trump told Pence and others in the Oval Office last month that he planned to run again in 2024, if he couldn’t overturn Biden’s victory, eliciting silence and a smile from the vice president, according to two people briefed on the conversation.
Trump’s post-election fight has created angst among Republicans, concerned that it could undermine get-out-the-vote efforts in Georgia. Pence’s appearance in the state comes a day before Trump is set to hold a rally for Loeffler and Perdue.
If the Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock win the Georgia Senate races, the chamber will be tied 50-50, leaving Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to cast the deciding vote.
Loeffler didn’t attend the rally with Pence due to the death of one of her staffers in an automobile accident, Pence said.
Pence acknowledged that Trump may not be president next year, telling his audience to support the GOP candidates because “the Republican Senate majority could be the last line of defense, preserving all that we’ve done to defend this nation, to revive our economy and preserve the God-given liberties we hold dear.”
He urged people to bring friends, family and neighbors to polling places to support the senators.
The rally was held outdoors, though few in the audience wore masks to prevent the spread of the surging coronavirus.
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel flew on Air Force Two with Pence to Georgia, another indication of the party’s focus on holding power in the chamber. Democrats retained control of the House in the election despite losing seats.
The president has disparaged Georgia’s Republican Governor Brian Kemp, who has been a staunch ally of the president, as well as GOP Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, for not overturning the election results. Trump called Kemp “hapless” for not invoking emergency powers to hand him the state’s electoral votes and referred to Raffensperger as “obstinate.”
Kemp was originally scheduled to greet Pence before the rally but a spokesman for the governor said the encounter was called off due to a “family emergency.”
After an earlier stop in Marietta, Pence’s vehicle parked in front of a building at Dobbins Air Reserve Base for what his staff would only describe as a “brief pull aside greeting.” Reporters were not allowed to observe the meeting and a Pence spokesman declined to say who Pence met.
Trump’s post-election legal battle is being led by Rudy Giuliani. The former New York mayor has lately pleaded for lawmakers in battleground states that Trump lost to override voters and award the president the states’ Electoral College votes.
Sidney Powell, who was previously part of Trump’s post-election legal team, appeared this week at an event in Georgia with another Trump ally, attorney Lin Wood. There, Wood, clad in a red “Make America Great Again” hat, criticized Loeffler and Perdue for not attending the event and said that people shouldn’t vote for them unless the senators more fervently back Trump’s post-election fight.
“I actually hear some people saying, ‘just don’t vote,”’ Pence told his rally audience. “My fellow Americans, if you don’t vote, they win.”
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