Trump campaigns for Loeffler and Perdue in high stakes election eve rally

1/4/21 - Dalton, GA - The helicopter carrying  President Donald Trump arrives at a rally in Dalton, GA, at a campaign event for Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler on the eve of the special election which will determine control of the U.S. Senate.   (Curtis Compton /

Credit: Curtis Compton /

Credit: Curtis Compton /

1/4/21 - Dalton, GA - The helicopter carrying President Donald Trump arrives at a rally in Dalton, GA, at a campaign event for Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler on the eve of the special election which will determine control of the U.S. Senate. (Curtis Compton /

President Donald Trump returned to Georgia on Monday to rally supporters ahead of Tuesday’s crucial runoff elections. But he also used his 80 minute-long remarks to rail against Gov. Brian Kemp, whom he vowed to campaign against in 2022, and to make false claims about election results in Georgia and other swing states.

Republicans hoped the event, held at Dalton’s regional airport, would boost enthusiasm for U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in a rural, deeply conservative region of the state where early voting turnout has lagged.

But some of the biggest applause lines of the night came when Trump lambasted some of the state’s top GOP officials, fanning the flames of the intraparty rift he started as he fought November’s election results.

“They say they’re Republicans,” Trump said of Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. “I really don’t think they are. They can’t be.”

>> Live Georgia runoff election day new and updates

Trump made only a passing reference the bombshell tape that was leaked to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other news outlets on Sunday showing the him pressuring Raffensperger to “find” votes to reverse his election defeat, saying, “They don’t like my phone call. Everyone liked my phone call.”

The president falsely claimed on Monday that he won Georgia in 2016 and 2020, performing better the second time around. (He won by roughly 5 percentage points four years ago and was defeated by President-elect Joe Biden by less than 12,000 votes in November.) And he applauded the efforts of many congressional Republicans, including Loeffler, to fight the certification of the Electoral College vote on Jan. 6.

Trump was even more resolute in his vow to return to Georgia to campaign against Kemp’s re-election bid because the governor did not forcefully support his unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud.

“I’ll be here in about a year-and-a-half campaigning against you, governor,” Trump told Kemp, who wasn’t in attendance. “I guarantee that.”

Trump also touted the records of Loeffler and Perdue, whose fates on Tuesday will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate and by extension whether Biden can carry out his agenda. Some Republicans worry that Trump’s rhetoric about widespread voter fraud will prompt some die-hard supporters to stay home.

Read the AJC’s updates from the event below.

10:34 p.m.

“Everything that we achieved together is on the line tomorrow,” Trump tells the crowd. “Our fight to take back our country from the big donors, the big media and the horrendous big tech giants.”

He says Loeffler and Perdue are the type of politicians needed in Washington. Together they will fight for values like the right to bear arms, free speech, “unrivaled military might,” supporting law enforcement and limiting access to abortion.

“David and Kelly will protect social security and Medicare, and they will always protect patients with pre-existing conditions,” Trump says. “We will stop the radical indoctrination of our students and restore patriotic education to our schools.”

When Trump begins naming various Georgia cities as part of his closing, he stops to shout out former UGa football star Herschel Walker. Then he goes back to his closing.

“We will not bend, we will not break. We will not yield. We will never give in. We will never give up. We will never back down and we will never ever surrender. Because we are Americans, and we are from Georgia. Our hearts bleed red, white and blue. One people, one family, one glorious nation under God. And together with the incredible people of Georgia, we have made America powerful again.”

He talked about improving the stock market and restoring pride in the nation. He also said America is safer under his administration.

Trump’s final words: “And we will make America great again. Go get ‘em David. Go Get ‘em Kelly.”

10:23 p.m.

Trump makes his first mention of his much-criticized call to Secretary of State Raffensperger over the weekend. But it’s a vague reference as part of a rift about what he believes is election fraud: “They don’t like my phone call. Everyone liked my phone call.”

He has now pivoted back to talking up Loeffler, Perdue and Tuesday’s runoffs.

“The only way to combat the Democratic fraud is to flood your polling places with a historic tidal wave of Republican voters tomorrow,” he told the crowd. “Because at a certain point the machines are going to explode.”

He continues to insist he won the general election, not Joe Biden. The crowd responds by chanting “four more years.”

10:16 p.m.

Trump falsely says there were issues with Dominion Voting Systems, the vendor who supplies voting machines to Georgia. The company has indicated it will sue Trump allies, and possibly the president himself, for spreading false information.

Trump reads from the report by Republicans in the Georgia Senate Judiciary Committee that said there were widespread issues with the election. Democrats and the Secretary of State’s office say this report lacks evidence and is full of rumors.

Trump says it show evidence there were issues with Dominion. And he has repeatedly singled out Fulton County as a place where the errors occurred.

Although Fulton has had issues in the past, it was not among the counties who had issues during the general election. Fulton County is, however, heavily Democratic.

“The crime that was committed in this state is immeasurable,” Trump said.

10:06 p.m.

Trump has pivoted back to the general election, repeating false claims about election mismanagement and fraud that have been debunked by election officials. He also false said he got enough votes to win in Georgia. He blames state elections officials.

“These draconian and incompetent officials suspended signature verification,” Trump said, repeating another falsehood. All signatures were verified and an audit confirmed there was no fraud.

He said Secretary of State Raffensperger refused to check signatures and described Gov. Brian Kemp as incompetent. Trump for the second time this evening also brings up the consent decree and repeats what he said earlier in the evening: that Stacey Abrams strong-armed Republican leaders into changing election laws.

Later, he brought up Hillary Clinton, saying she is somewhere wishing she got the same kind of help in 2016. The crowd responds by bringing back the “lock her up” chants.

10:00 p.m.

In brief remarks, Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and adviser, urged voters to back Perdue and Loeffler tomorrow to “send a resounding message that patriotism is alive and well in Georgia.”

The president then repeated his false claim from earlier in the evening that he “won two elections in Georgia,” the second with a larger margin than the first. (He won the state in 2016 by about 5 points and lost in November by less than 12,000 votes.)

He thanked the dozen GOP senators who plan to object to the Electoral College certification vote on Jan. 6.

9:55 p.m.

Loeffler was followed by the district’s new congresswoman, Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene, who said she was “so fired up” Loeffler would object to the Electoral College certification vote on Wednesday.

“This is why I believe in her,” Greene said. “This is why you have to turn out tomorrow. We have to save our Senate seat. We have to save America and stop socialism. This is the last line.”

Trump also gave shoutouts to Georgia U.S. Reps. Jody Hice and Andrew Clyde; U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Mike Lee; state Rep. Vernon Jones; Public Service Commissioner Bubba McDonald; GOP Chairman David Shafer; and Jeff Sprecher, Loeffler’s husband, who were all in attendance.

9:48 p.m.

Loeffler got huge applause when she took to the stage and announced she’d object to the Electoral College certification vote on Jan. 6.

“We’re going to get this done,” she said. “This president fought for us. We’re fighting for him.”

After she concluded her brief remarks, the crowd chanted “fight for Trump” and “stop the steal.”

9:45 p.m.

Trump echoed the line frequently deployed by Perdue and Loeffler that they’ll be the “last line of defense” in the Senate but clarified that he wasn’t conceding the election.

He then listed some of Perdue’s D.C. accomplishments, including passing the 2017 tax cuts, confirming hundreds of conservative federal judges and pushing for an overhaul of the legal immigration system. Trump also touted Perdue’s role in pushing for an emergency relief package following Hurricane Michael, but he falsely said “we got it very fast.” The legislation took the better part of a year to pass after Trump and congressional Democrats locked horns over emergency money for Puerto Rico.

“No one fights harder for the people of Georgia than David Perdue,” he said.

Trump said Loeffler is a “staunch defender of our incredible military” and touted her support for the border wall and law enforcement.

9:30 p.m.

Trump is now focused on painting a doom-and-gloom picture if Democrats win the Senate runoffs and take control of the U.S. Senate.

He falsely said that military bases, including Georgia’s Fort Benning and Fort Gordon, will be forced to close if Democrats win control of the Senate. But he accurate said that both bases will begin the process of changing their names after a bipartisan coalition in Congress overrode his veto of a defense spending bill that started the process. Both these bases are named after Confederate leaders.

He said Democrats also won’t be tough enough on China and Russia, will dismantle his progress on the U.S.-Mexico border wall and will allow caravans of immigrants to cross the border. He said Democrats would also allow the country to be a sanctuary for criminals who are undocumented immigrants as well as foreign gangs.

The president boasted of getting rid of the individual mandate under the Affordable Care Act and that Democrats want to take away privatized health care. He also accused Democrats of wanting to relax voter ID laws and institute mail-only balloting for all elections.

9:20 p.m.

Although Trump is putting in plenty of plugs for Loeffler and Perdue, he has pivoted often to criticizing the outcome of the general election and saying it was stolen from him. He said he anticipates action when Congress meets Wednesday to tally the Electoral College vote.

During that time, Vice President Mike Pence will preside over the joint session.

“I hope Mike Pence comes through for us…. He’s a great guy,” the president said. “Of course, if he doesn’t come through I won’t like him quite as much.”

When it comes to the Democrats in the Senate races, he said they can’t be allowed to win because they would lead the country down a dangerous path. And he has had nice things to say about both Perdue and Loeffler.

But his speech has now turned to criticizing Republican leaders like Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp.

“I’ll be here in about a year-and-a-half campaigning against you, governor,” Trump said. “I guarantee that.”

9:11 p.m.

Trump begins his speech by disputing the outcome of the presidential election in Georgia.

“There is no way we lost Georgia; there is no way,” Trump said. “It was a rigged election.”

Spotted behind him in the audience, U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, daughter Ivanka Trump, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Donald Trump Jr.

The crowd broke out in a “fight for Trump” chant. Trump said both senators are doing so.

“Kelly fights for me; David fights for me,” he said. “That I can tell you.”

9:00 p.m.

U.S. Sen. David Perdue, who is quarantining after being exposed last week to the coronavirus, recorded a video that was played for the crowd. In it, he said that he and Loeffler were fighting for Donald Trump, who has questioned the outcome of the general election.

“If you’re as mad as I am about November, then rise up with us and fight,” he said. “Fight by doing the only thing you can do right now, and that is to vote tomorrow. If we don’t all get out and vote tomorrow everything President Trump has done to make America great again is gone.”

Shortly after Perdue’s speech ended, Marine One carrying President Trump landed at the airport.

8:30 p.m.

Donald Trump Jr. gave a strongly worded speech and lobbed insults at Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock as the warm-up act to his father. As he spoke, the crowd broke out in a “Stop the Steal” chant.

“Guys, guess what? You can do that,” he said. “You can be a part of that by putting fighters in there.”

He then told the crowd to fight for Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler by showing up at the polls Tuesday.

“You guys can decide,” he said.

8:20 p.m.

We’re told not to expect Gov. Brian Kemp and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan at the event. Both GOP officials have been lambasted by Trump on his Twitter feed as of late for refusing to parrot his unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud in Georgia.

Perdue also won’t be at Monday’s event. He’s been quarantining after being exposed to someone with COVID-19.

8:15 p.m.

Some of Trump’s top surrogates urged Republicans to turn out on Tuesday and defy some of the president’s supporters calling for Republicans to boycott the election.

“It is the dumbest statement made in the history of politics - and that’s saying something,” said Donald Trump Jr. “When you’re at a disadvantage, you don’t take your ball and go home. You get out there and you fight - harder.”

Republicans are relying on overwhelming runoff day turnout to overcome the Democratic edge in mail-in votes.

Thousands arrived early at the airport on the outskirts of Dalton, where giant screens displayed videos promoting false claims of voter fraud and a giant American flag draped the stage.

-Greg Bluestein

8:10 p.m.

Monday’s event caps off a hectic 24 hours in Georgia. Earlier Monday, Biden rallied supporters in Atlanta and Vice President Mike Pence spoke to evangelicals at Rock Springs Baptist Church in Milner. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris held a rally in Savannah on Sunday.

Ahead of Trump’s visit, Democrats hosted a bit of counterprogramming in Dalton. Debby Peppers, the chairwoman of the Whitfield County Democratic Party, said the Senate runoffs will determine “whether this country moves forward and makes progress in solving its problems and issues, or whether we are going to continue with the political infighting that has dominated our politics in the last few years.”

“Our ability to ensure that every Georgian has affordable health care will be on the ballot tomorrow,” she said.

8:05 p.m.

8 p.m.

It’s unclear if Gov. Brian Kemp will attend Monday evening’s event – he’s been absent from the campaign trail in recent days – and how much Trump will attack the governor and other Republican state officials from the stage. In recent days, the president has laid into Kemp and Raffensperger on his social media feed.

Trump will be accompanied by Loeffler, who announced Monday evening that she would join the dozen Republican senators who plan to object to the certification of the Electoral College results on Jan. 6. Their effort is doomed to fail but is seen as a move of final resistance against President-elect Joe Biden’s impending inauguration.

Perdue is expected to join the rally remotely after being exposed to someone with the coronavirus.