Many Republicans declared Mr. Raffensperger all but defeated as soon as he announced he would run for re-election, citing Mr. Trump’s ire and that of many voters. Mr. Raffensperger was censored at a state GOP convention last year. But Mr. Trump has been unexpectedly quiet about the race, beyond lumping Mr. Raffensperger in with Mr. Kemp in statements railing against what he calls the RINOs—Republicans in name only—running the state.
Sarah Longwell, the founder of the Republican Accountability Project, which conducted the focus group last week, said that Mr. Trump’s limited involvement could be playing a role in some voters’ indecision.
Mr. Raffensperger has raised more money than his competitors, courting far-right voters and touting what he calls “true conservative” values. At an event hosted by the Buckhead Young Republicans, Mr. Raffensperger discussed the 2020 election, but said his office was focused on “the real issue” of preventing noncitizens from voting. Mr. Raffensperger has called for amending the state Constitution to prohibit noncitizens from voting, something that state law already forbids. A state review found no instances of ballots being cast by noncitizens in 2020.
Mr. Raffensperger acknowledges that his pitch has done little to pacify some Republicans.
“I was never Public Enemy No. 1. I just think that some people weren’t pleased with the election results,” he said. “But in this race here, I’m leaving it to the goodness of my fellow Georgians who stood for the law, made sure that we followed the Constitution and follow the law. And that’s all I can do.”
The roughly 15 people present at the event — mostly 20-something conservatives — were receptive to his message. While some still had concerns about election oversight, they said they appreciated his candor in the face of ongoing attacks.
“There wasn’t anything that anyone else would have done to do anything,” said Bradley Schober, 27, an attorney who said he had already voted for Mr. Raffensperger. “Ultimately, the guy took as much heat as anybody and came out on the other side standing.”
Despite the high interest in the showdown, less than $1 million has been spent on television advertising in both the Democratic and Republican primary races for Georgia’s secretary of state, according to AdImpact, an ad-tracking firm, with the candidates exchanging attacks over the outcome of the 2020 presidential election and voting integrity.