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Saxby Chambliss Discusses Georgia's Upcoming Runoff Elections


To talk further about the political hot spot that is Georgia, we're joined by former U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss. He's a Republican who represented Georgia in Congress for 20 years in both the House and then the Senate. Good morning, Senator. Thank you for joining us on the program.

SAXBY CHAMBLISS: Sure. Good to be with you, Debbie.

ELLIOTT: So does President Trump's message in Georgia last night do more harm than good for senators Perdue and Loeffler?

CHAMBLISS: Well, it obviously was a mixed bag. My hope was - and I was very outspoken about this over the last couple of weeks - that if the president did come to the state that what he needs to do is to put to rest this undercurrent that's out there of his loyal supporters who were saying, as you just talked about, the election was rigged. January the 5 is going to be the same. And why should we get out and vote? That's ridiculous. Now, the president did come to town last night. And he was very emphatic that this election does matter and, in spite of the election being rigged on November 3, that people did need to come out and vote on January the 5 because if they don't, then his legacy, obviously, will be overturned pretty quickly. It was a mixed message. He spent more time talking about his election than I think he should have. And he should have just spent more time emphasizing that people do need to vote on January the 5. The weight of the Senate, obviously, is in the balance here, and it is a critically important election for the future of our country.

ELLIOTT: You know, Trump and others have repeatedly attacked Georgia's election officials, even though there is no evidence of wrongdoing. The courts have even said so. Could his attempt to undermine faith in the voting process backfire?

CHAMBLISS: Sure it could. And I'm still concerned that there are some people who think that their vote didn't matter, and they're simply not going to come out and vote. I hope that's not the case. I hope he will continue to be very vocal about the fact that people need to vote. And he's not going to get off of the November 3 election being rigged. That's pretty obvious, even though, you know, there are a number of us who have said, look. We want to make sure that every vote was legally cast and that there was no scheme of fraud involved, and all of that needs to be investigated. But, Debbie, that is an entirely separate issue from the vote on January the 5. And what the president needs to do now is to let his lawyers continue to go to court and try to do what they can relative to any fraudulent activity in the election across the country, but he needs to more so emphasize to people that, in Georgia, they need to get out and vote for the two Republicans on January 5.

ELLIOTT: Here's something that has me curious. You know, senators Loeffler and Perdue have joined in the attacks on Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, calling on him to resign. Are they that afraid of a lame duck president that they would turn on a member of their own party?

CHAMBLISS: Well, I honestly do not know what their rationale was for making that statement immediately after the November 3 vote. I don't know Raffensperger that well, but, frankly, I've been involved in lots of elections during my 20 years of getting elected to the House and the Senate. And we have 159 counties in the state of Georgia. All of those counties have multiple precincts, so there's lots of room for mischief to take place. But there's not any sign, Debbie, that there was any wrongdoing taking place in the Georgia elections. There are isolated incidents. Sure, that's always going to happen. But on a wholesale basis, there's just no substance to the statement that this election was not valid. So it's, I think, a situation where the secretary of state followed the law. He did what he's charged to do. He has to be impartial. That's part of being the supervisor of the election in any state. And it's unfortunate. Likewise with the governor - the governor has felt the wrath of the president, and the governor has absolutely no authority by statute in the elections. So Brian Kemp has been a very - he's been an excellent governor. He's a very popular governor. But he also has felt the wrath of the president in this case. And it's - in my opinion, it's - it contributes to this undercurrent that's out there about folks maybe not coming out.

ELLIOTT: Former Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss, thank you so much for being with us.

CHAMBLISS: OK. You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.