Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia greeted Vice President Mike Pence at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Ga., last month.
Credit…Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, via Associated Press

VALDOSTA, Ga. — Before President Trump arrived on Saturday to rally for two Republican Senate candidates, the president made no attempt to disguise his central priority as it relates to Georgia: overturning his loss in the state. He began the day with a telephone call with Gov. Brian Kemp, ostensibly to offer his condolences about the death in a car accident of a young man who was close to Mr. Kemp’s family.

But in truth, Mr. Trump used the call to urge Mr. Kemp, a Republican, to call the State Legislature into session so the Republican majorities could appoint new electors who would subvert the will of the state’s voters when the Electoral College meets on Dec. 14. He has also called on Mr. Kemp to order an audit of signatures on ballots.

On Sunday, Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, said that holding a special session would be “nullifying the will of the people.”

“At the end of the day, the voice of people were spoken,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.” “I’m disappointed as a conservative Republican also.”

At the rally, Mr. Trump amplified the critique he had been making of Mr. Kemp much of the day on Twitter, all but demanding that the governor overturn the will of the voters for him. “Your governor could stop it very easily if he knew what the hell he was doing,” the president said. “Stop it very easily.”

The crowd booed when he invoked Mr. Kemp and Mr. Raffensperger, two officials Mr. Trump has been demanding abet his effort to overturn the state’s results.

And they cheered when he turned to Representative Doug Collins, a Georgia Republican and Trump loyalist, and suggested he challenge Mr. Kemp in a primary for governor in 2022.

The president’s willingness to campaign Saturday night in heavily conservative South Georgia — far from the Atlanta-area voters who rejected him last month — heartened Republican officials, who have been lobbying him to intervene in the runoffs in support of Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. But aides worried, presciently, in the days leading to the appearance that he would go off script and attack Mr. Kemp, who has become the primary target of Mr. Trump’s Twitter vitriol.

Hoping to pacify Mr. Trump after Saturday’s phone call, Mr. Kemp noted on Twitter that he had already called for an audit of the signatures on mail ballots “to restore confidence in our election process.” But Mr. Kemp’s office has also said the governor does not have the power to unilaterally order a signature audit.

Mr. Raffensperger, a conservative who supported Mr. Trump, affirmed on Sunday that his office did not find sufficient evidence of fraud that would overturn the election results.

Mr. Perdue and Ms. Loeffler have called for Mr. Raffensperger’s resignation, casting the management of Georgia’s elections as “an embarrassment.” Mr. Raffensperger said on Sunday that he still “absolutely” supported the senators.

“The job of the Republican Party is to raise money and turn out the vote,” he said. “My job as secretary of state is to make sure we have honest and fair elections. It’s as simple as that. And I think in my office, integrity matters.”

The state party failed to raise enough money and turn out enough people, he said. He also said that these “distractions” and the “disunity” would make it more difficult for Republican candidates.

Voters waited in line at dawn in Guadalupe, Ariz., on the Election Day.
Credit…Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times

Nearly 160 million Americans voted in the 2020 elections, by far the most in history and a level of turnout not seen in over a century, representing an extraordinary milestone of civic engagement in a year marked by a devastating pandemic, record unemployment and political unrest.

With all but three states having completed their final count, and next week’s deadline for final certification of the results approaching, the sheer volume of Americans who actually voted in November was eye-opening: 66.7 percent of the voting-eligible population, according to the U.S. Election Project, a nonpartisan website run by Michael McDonald, a University of Florida professor who tracks county-level data. It is the highest percentage since 1900, when the voting pool was much smaller.

The shifts that led to this year’s surge in voting, in particular the broad expansion of voting options and the prolonged period for casting ballots, could forever alter elections and political campaigns in America, providing a glimpse into the electoral future.

A backlash from the right could prevent that, however. In many ways, the increase in voting is what Mr. Trump and the Republican Party are now openly campaigning against in their floundering bid to overturn his clear loss to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. Though Mr. Trump and the party have not managed to prove a single claim of fraud in the courts — where they and their allies have lost or withdrawn dozens of cases — Republicans at the state level are vowing to enact a new round of voting restrictions to prevent what they claim, without evidence, is widespread fraud.

The swell in voting this year was powered by a polarizing presidential race and the many steps that election officials took to make voting safer — and therefore easier — during the coronavirus pandemic. Indeed, according to a recent poll from the Pew Research Center, 94 percent of voters said that voting in the November election was “easy.”

In interviews, election officials tempered their enthusiasm over this year’s turnout by acknowledging several only-in-2020 factors. Mr. Trump is a unique public figure who drew considerable personal enmity from voters opposed to him. He ran at a time of extreme economic and social upheaval because of the pandemic. And lockdown orders and mass furloughs and layoffs gave Americans more time to consume news — both on the internet and through the old-fashioned network newscasts, which had their highest viewership in more than a decade — increasing their engagement with the election.

Senator-elect Cynthia Lummis, Republican of Wyoming, is returning to Washington after having served four terms in the House.
Credit…Pool photo by Stefani Reynolds

At least 36 Republican women will serve in the 117th Congress when it is gaveled in this January — with the number of Republican women in the House more than doubling.

But Cynthia Lummis is the only one to have won a Senate seat in this wave and will be the first woman to represent Wyoming in the Senate. She is also the first member of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus to win a seat in the chamber.

Ms. Lummis, who will replace Senator Michael B. Enzi, who decided not to run for another term, said she decided to seek the seat in large part because of mounting concern about the federal debt.

“The more we spent as a nation, the more terrified I got,” she said.

Despite her libertarian streak, Ms. Lummis holds some starkly right-wing views. In an interview days after the presidential race was called for President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., Ms. Lummis encouraged President Trump to keep pursuing his fictional claims about widespread fraud in the November election.

“He should absolutely keep down this path, because we have to know that our elections have integrity,” she said.

In a debate during her campaign, Ms. Lummis said she did not believe “racism is actually systemic” in America, saying instead that “pockets of racism” existed.

“She’s going to be a conservative voice and she’s tenacious, as you would expect from someone who is elected from Wyoming,” says Senator John Barrasso, a Republican and the state’s senior senator.

Ms. Lummis, 66, is returning to Washington after having served four terms in the House. She decided not to seek a fifth after her husband, Alvin Wiederspahn, died in 2014. She said she needed to tend to the family’s ranch.

Ms. Lummis said she would push for a smaller pandemic stimulus deal if Congress had not yet acted by the time she joined the Senate early next year.

She also said she planned to be an advocate for cryptocurrencies, specifically Bitcoin, in which she is an investor.

Mr. Barrasso, who served with Mr. Enzi and Ms. Lummis while she was in the House, said the two senators both saw Ms. Lummis as its most fearless member.

“We would always use a Western metaphor that Mike was the stagecoach driver for Wyoming and I was riding shotgun,” he said. “Cynthia was on her own horse, way out in front of us, with her six-shooter drawn and ready to fight anybody who’s going to take on Wyoming.”

President Trump and the first lady, Melania Trump, at a rally in Valdosta, Ga., on Saturday.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

VALDOSTA, Ga. — One month before a pair of Georgia runoffs that will determine the Senate majority, President Trump used a rally for the Republican senators on Saturday to complain about his own loss last month, insisting he would still prevail and, with notably less ardor, encouraging voters here to re-elect the two lawmakers.

Taking the stage for his first rally as a lame duck president, Mr. Trump immediately, and falsely, claimed victory in the presidential race. “You know we won Georgia, just so you understand,” he said.

Mr. Trump lost this state by just under 12,000 votes to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., who won the White House with 306 electoral votes. But the president has persisted in his baseless claims that the final outcome remains in doubt.

“They cheated and rigged our presidential election, but we’ll still win,” Mr. Trump said, offering no evidence but nonetheless prompting about 10,000 supporters gathered on the tarmac at a regional airport to chant, “Stop the Steal!”

Speaking for an hour and 40 minutes, the president did read a series of scripted lines about the two Republican senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, and repeatedly urged his supporters in Georgia to vote next month, even mentioning the deadlines for the mail-in ballots he has so often scorned.

Yet he embedded those dutiful remarks of support in a deep thicket of conspiracy-mongering about his defeat and even aired a lengthy montage of video of clips from the conservative news outlets Newsmax and One America News Network, which also depicted a sinister plot of electoral theft.

The president called the January races “the most important congressional runoff probably in American history” and lashed the Democratic nominees, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, as “far-left liberals.”

But he didn’t unspool the most biting attacks on them until about an hour into his remarks, and it was later still that he brought Mr. Perdue and Ms. Loeffler to the stage for brief remarks. Mr. Perdue was nearly drowned out by the audience, which showered him with a “Fight for Trump” chant that only grew louder when the two candidates handed the microphone back to the president. The president’s supporters will not tolerate anything less than total fealty toward him.

President Trump at a rally in Valdosta, Ga., on Saturday.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Over the past week, President Trump posted or reposted about 145 messages on Twitter lashing out at the results of an election he lost. He mentioned the coronavirus pandemic now reaching its darkest hours four times — and even then just to assert that he was right about the outbreak and the experts were wrong.

Moody and by accounts of his advisers sometimes depressed, the president barely shows up to work, ignoring the health and economic crises afflicting the nation and largely clearing his public schedule of meetings unrelated to his desperate bid to rewrite the election results. He has fixated on rewarding friends, purging the disloyal and punishing a growing list of perceived enemies that now includes Republican governors, his own attorney general and even Fox News.

The final days of the Trump presidency have taken on the stormy elements of a drama more common to history or literature than a modern White House. His rage and detached-from-reality refusal to concede defeat evoke images of a besieged overlord in some distant land defiantly clinging to power rather than going into exile or an erratic English monarch imposing his version of reality on his cowed court.

And while he will leave office next month, the last few weeks may only foreshadow what he will be like after he departs. Mr. Trump will almost certainly try to shape the national conversation from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida and his relentless campaign to discredit the election could undercut his successor, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. Although many Republicans would like to move on, he appears intent on forcing them to remain in thrall to his need for vindication and vilification even after his term expires.

On Saturday night, Mr. Trump took his unreality show to Georgia for his first major public appearance since the Nov. 3 election. A rally to support two Republican senators in a runoff next month offered a high-profile opportunity to vent his grievances and promote his false claims that he was somehow cheated of a second term by a vast conspiracy.

At times, Mr. Trump’s railing-against-his-fate outbursts seem like a story straight out of William Shakespeare, part tragedy, part farce, full of sound and fury.

Others hear echoes from the East, recalling autocrats in the far reaches of the former Soviet Union barricading themselves in presidential palaces while furiously spinning out enemies-of-the-people propaganda to justify holding onto power after popular uprisings.

Students of the American presidency, on the other hand, could think of no recent parallel. “As we move toward Inauguration Day, I have thought almost daily of a remark attributed to Henry Adams: ‘I expected the worst, and it was worse than I expected,’” said Patricia O’Toole, a biographer of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson as well as Adams.

Senators Lamar Alexander,  Republican of Tennessee, left, and Tom Udall, Democrat of New Mexico.
Credit…Pool photo by Andrew Harnik, left; Susan Walsh/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Senators Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, and Tom Udall, Democrat of New Mexico, both proven legislators who are leaving Congress on their own terms at the end of this year, fundamentally differ on what it would take to get the dysfunctional Senate back on track, illustrating how hard it will be to restore legislative productivity to a struggling institution.

Mr. Alexander said that senators would be making a fatal mistake if they eliminated the filibuster.

“It would basically destroy the Senate,” Mr. Alexander said in an interview, crediting the procedural weapon with forcing compromise. “It would be a second House of Representatives.”

Mr. Udall said he saw the 60-vote threshold to advancing bills as an impediment to coming up with answers for the existential problems of the moment, such as climate change.

“Our founders would have been outraged at the idea that the Senate should be run as a supermajority institution,” Mr. Udall said.

Party control of the Senate will be decided in two Georgia runoffs on Jan. 5. No matter the outcome there, Democrats who had threatened to abolish the filibuster to advance a sweeping legislative agenda would probably lack the votes to do so even if they took charge in a 50-50 Senate with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris providing the tiebreaking vote. But the focus on the filibuster reflects a frustration from both parties that little is getting done in a Senate that in Mr. Alexander’s view, is, at minimum, underachieving.

Ever the Tennessean, he compared it to “joining the Grand Ole Opry and not being allowed to sing.” But he said the problem was not with the rules; it is with senators who reflexively block their colleagues from bringing up amendments, effectively shutting down the Senate.

Mr. Udall believes the problem goes beyond behavior, and has pushed a sweeping top-to-bottom overhaul of a political system.

Despite their differences, Mr. Udall and Mr. Alexander respect each other after serving together on the Rules Committee and airing their conflicting views.

Now they will step aside and let others try to rescue the Senate as they watch from outside the institution they revere, despite its obvious failings.

“I’m going home to east Tennessee and I’m going to turn the page,” Mr. Alexander said.

Navajo voters rode to the polls in Kayenta, Ariz. Mr. Biden received about 13,500 more votes from the Navajo and Hopi reservations in Arizona than Hillary Clinton did.
Credit…Sharon Chischilly for The New York Times

Nearly 150,000 Native Americans live in the state of Georgia, according to the Native voting rights group Four Directions. They receive few government services and tend not to participate in nontribal elections, both because they face structural barriers — like hard-to-reach polling places and lack of voter ID — and because of the mistrust built by brutality and broken promises. Of the estimated 100,000 who are of voting age, only about 15,000 are registered to vote.

But organizers and tribal leaders recognize that if even a few thousand more Native Americans were inspired and able to vote in Georgia, they could play a meaningful role in a closely divided state where two runoff elections on Jan. 5 will decide which party controls the Senate. Buoyed by remarkable Native American turnout in other states last month, advocates are trying to make that happen at breakneck speed.

It’s a tall order, and the deadline to register to vote in the runoffs is Dec. 7. The networks of volunteers that groups like Four Directions have spent years building in other states are not so well established in Georgia, and Native Americans there are not as heavily concentrated on tribal land.

But the examples other states set this year could provide a road map. Arizona, for instance, flipped blue in a presidential election for the first time in 24 years.

Based on a New York Times analysis of precinct data, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. received more than 80 percent of the roughly 55,000 votes cast in the Arizona portion of the Navajo Nation and in the smaller Hopi Reservation. That alone could account for Mr. Biden’s 10,500-vote margin of victory over President Trump in the state.

Four Directions is already knocking on doors in Atlanta, where some of Georgia’s Native Americans live. Next week, the group will send a policy questionnaire to all four Senate candidates.

“We’re going to bring Native issues to the incumbents and to the candidates,” said OJ Semans, a co-founder of Four Directions. “Whether they want to hear it or not.”





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