- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Republican Party officials from across the country are not blaming President Trump for the party’s defeats in Georgia’s runoffs but instead are rallying to make election security its top priority in the next cycle.

At the Republican National Committee Winter Meeting in Amelia Island, Florida, party officials remained steadfast Wednesday in support of Mr. Trump and his remake of the party, despite the election setbacks that gave Democrats a Senate majority and complete control of the levers of power in Washington.

“Nobody’s turning on Trump here,” said Peter Feaman, a national committee member from Florida who is attending the meeting. “I’m talking to members of the RNC from all over the country — from Hawaii to Vermont to Florida to California, from one corner of the country to the other — and there is no anti-Trump sentiment whatsoever here.”

Republican Party officials embraced Mr. Trump’s claims that ballot fraud and election irregularities marred the Nov. 3 vote. They are organizing a nationwide effort to prevent a repeat.

“Election integrity is going to be the No. 1 priority for the RNC in 2021 and 2022,” Mr. Feaman said. “I hear no recriminations against President Trump concerning Georgia, none whatsoever. It’s all about making sure the process is fair and honest.”

In Washington, pundits and Mr. Trump’s Republican critics were quick to blame the president for the Democrats’ wins in the two runoff races Tuesday in Georgia.

Throughout the two-month runoff contests, Mr. Trump aggressively pushed claims that ballot tampering cost him the Nov. 3 presidential election in Georgia. He battled the state’s Republican governor and pressured the secretary of state, also a Republican, to help him “find” the votes needed to overturn the win by President-elect Joseph R. Biden.

Distrust of the election system likely helped suppress Republican voter turnout Tuesday, especially in rural counties that are crucial for Republican wins in the state.

“It turns out that telling the voters that the election was rigged is not a great way to turn out your voters,” said Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, one of Mr. Trump’s most vocal Republican detractors.

In Georgia, Republican Party officials were less prone to condemn Mr. Trump’s actions.

“We can’t place the blame squarely on him, but I think the president was definitely a factor,” said Jason Shepherd, Republican Party chairman in Cobb County, a suburban county of Atlanta.

Mr. Shepherd said he counts himself as a Trump Republican.

The president’s crusade against what he deemed “stolen elections” in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Wisconsin also fueled protesters storming the Capitol on Wednesday and delaying Congress from officially accepting election results for Mr. Biden’s win.

Ford O’Connell, a Republican Party strategist with close ties to the White House, said the mayhem at the Capitol shouldn’t take away from legitimate concerns about election integrity.

“Those issues aren’t going to go away,” he said. “The Democrats do not want to have this discussion.”

Mr. Trump and his allies failed in scores of lawsuits challenging the election results in battleground states.

Still, courts never fully heard many of the claims of wrongdoing or irregularities, including that ballots were filled out or backdated by poll workers, ballots were driven across state lines, voting deadlines were changed without legislative approval, and accusations that noncitizens, minors and dead people voted.

Mr. Feaman said the Republican Party would be hammering the voter integrity issue and pushing election overhauls in state capitals across the country.

“We’re going to go to every state legislature in the country to make sure that every legal vote counts and also make sure that the laws are followed, that people who are not qualified to vote are not allowed to vote. This goes to a lot of what happened in 2020,” he said. “The whole process needs to be reexamined to make sure we have fair elections. And it’s not just Georgia. It’s everywhere.”

The RNC meeting in Amelia Island, about 40 miles northeast of Jacksonville, was convened under strict COVID-19 precautions. The 168 committee members who attended, as well as guests and staff, all were tested for COVID-19. Masks were required to be worn at all indoor events, according to RNC officials.

• Alex Swoyer and Gabriella Muñoz contributed to this report.

• S.A. Miller can be reached at smiller@washingtontimes.com.

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