Georgia Republicans are placing a bet that the impeachment of President Donald Trump energizes his supporters more than it mobilizes his Democratic critics.
That wager was on vivid display on Saturday as Trump’s campaign in Georgia gathered volunteers and activists to pack the Cobb County GOP’s office in Marietta for what organizers described as a “dry run” for the 2020 election.
Activists, candidates and party officials took turns at the podium to slam Democrats for seeking to oust Trump after he pressured Ukraine’s leader to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, one of his top political rivals.
They passed around a “stop the madness” petition that generated dozens of signatures. And in candid table conversations over cinnamon rolls and coffee, many predicted that impeachment would backfire on Democrats.
“Republicans are energized by the fact that they know impeachment is a hoax,” said Gabby Koval of Georgia State University’s chapter of College Republicans. “Democrats have given up. They’ve run out of things to say about him.”
Georgia lawmakers last week voted on party lines over the measure to formalize the impeachment probe of Trump. All five of the state’s U.S. House Democrats voted for the measure, while eight of the state’s nine Republicans voted to reject it.
(Monroe Republican Jody Hice, whose father recently died, was not present for the vote but has made his disdain for impeachment clear.)
One of those Republican lawmakers, U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, devoted much of his address Saturday to assaulting the impeachment probe. He characterized Democrats and other supporters of impeachment as agents of an establishment “who are there to sink Donald Trump.”
“Impeachment is all part of something this president is doing that he’s not supposed to be doing – which is challenging the status quo,” said Loudermilk, R-Cassville.
He quipped that if Trump had colluded with Russia to interfere with the 2016 election, then the president would have “bragged about it – he’s as transparent as they come.”
And Loudermilk said “there was nothing wrong” with Trump if he tied U.S. military aid to Ukraine’s willingness to launch an investigation into the Biden family.
“We put requirements on any country we give money to,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with that.”
Other speakers, too, cast the impeachment investigation as a distraction by Democrats who are scrambling for ways to counter Trump.
“This president was elected because people were tired of politicians who campaigned one way and governed the other,” said Julianne Thompson, a member of the Women for Trump coalition. “When you cannot compete on the issues, you resort to slinging mud.”
As Republicans prepare for a 2020 election that will push Georgia into the political spotlight, Loudermilk said that Democrats gave his party a leg up.
“The biggest problem we face in 2020 is apathy,” he said. “Impeachment has turned that around.”
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