On Saturday night, Trump held his first rally since Election Day to stump for Georgia’s Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who will be contenders in a tight runoff against Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. Throughout his speech in Valdosta, Georgia, Trump repeatedly spouted baseless conspiracy theories about fraud in the presidential election and falsely claimed that he had actually won, but nevertheless urged Georgians to vote for the state’s Republican incumbents in the Senate.
The President walked onto the stage with First Lady Melania Trump shortly after 7:00 pm to the song “God Bless the U.S.A.” by country singer Lee Greenwood. After the First Lady delivered a short introduction stressing the importance of maintaining Republican control of the Senate, President Trump took the podium and almost immediately, and falsely, declared, “We won Georgia.” (A recount found that President-elect Biden won the state with a margin of more than 12,000 votes.) Over the next two hours, Trump raged about how the election had been “rigged” and regurgitated misinformation about the voting system, such as the disproven assertion that there were more ballots submitted than there were registered voters in several battleground states. “If I lost, I’d be a very gracious loser. If I lost, I’d say I lost, and I’d go to Florida and I’d take it easy and I’d go around and say I did a good job,” Trump said around halfway through the rally. “But you can’t ever accept when they steal and rig and rob.” In one of a number of instances in which he seemed close to acknowledging that he would not be president after Jan. 20, Trump further promised to “win back the White House” in 2024.
The President additionally took some jabs at Georgia’s Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who have resisted Trump’s attempts to get the election results overturned in the state. “Your governor could stop it very easily if he knew what he was doing,” Trump said in response to the crowd chanting “stop the steal!” Trump in fact reportedly called Kemp on Saturday morning to try to get the governor to call a special session and convince state legislators to appoint electors that would support the President, a request which Kemp rebuffed.
Going into Saturday night, Republicans were worried that Trump would spend the entire rally casting doubt on the electoral process, which could discourage his supporters in Georgia from turning out to vote for Perdue and Loeffler. While Trump did apparently go off script in discussing voter fraud – his prepared remarks reportedly did not include anything about a rigged election – he did repeatedly make the case that Georgians should vote for the Republican Senators. The President made sure to return to the Senate runoff at various points in his unsurprisingly scattered speech, which also sporadically touched on his impeachment, the culture war around Christmas, low-income housing, Antifa, the border wall, and Iran. Though he’d been arguing that the electoral system was corrupt and virtually unwinnable for Republicans, Trump still told rally-goers to make the effort to cast their votes in January, framing the act as a sort of “revenge” on Democrats.