The Morning Jolt

Elections

The Trump Era Ends in Disaster in Georgia

President Donald Trump waves at a campaign for Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler on the eve of the run-off election to decide Georgia’s Senate seats in Dalton, Ga., January 4, 2021 (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

On the menu today: At this hour, it appears Democrats won both Senate runoffs and with them, control of the U.S. Senate; the increasingly unhinged President Trump insists that Vice President Mike Pence can reject the presidential-election results and have the House of Representatives resolve the election; and why bigger states will have a tougher time getting their coronavirus vaccination rates up.

It Was a Rough Night for Republicans

As of this writing, we know that Democrat Raphael Warnock defeated Republican Kelly Loeffler in one of Georgia’s two Senate runoffs, 50.6 percent to 49.4 percent. And with 98 percent of the expected vote in, Democrat Jon Ossoff leads Republican David Perdue, 50.2 percent to 49.8 percent, a margin of 16,730 votes. The remaining votes are believed to be in heavily Democratic-leaning margins.

At some time today, Ossoff is expected to be declared the winner. The Senate will be split 50–50, and starting January 20, Vice President Kamala Harris will break ties. Chuck Schumer will be Senate majority leader, and Mitch McConnell will become minority leader in the chamber. And the Democratic Party will begin the legislative cycle with the White House and narrow control of the House and Senate. For Republicans, this outcome may not be the absolute worst-case scenario of 2020, but it’s not that far from it.

This is because Republicans couldn’t hold onto either Senate seat in Georgia. This is a state where Republicans had won every Senate election since 2002 — and the winner in the state’s 1998 Senate race was Democrat Zell Miller, who by the end of his term was giving the keynote address at the Republican National Convention.

(CORRECTION: The late U.S. Senator Paul Coverdell won the 1998 election; he passed away in July. 2000. Zell Miller was appointed Coverdell’s replacement, and Miller won the special election for the remainder of Coverdell’s term in November 2000.)

Republicans won every gubernatorial race in Georgia since 1998, despite what Stacey Abrams claims. In Georgia, Republicans won every lieutenant gubernatorial race since 2004, every secretary of state race since 2002, and every state attorney general race since 2006. Heading into the 2020 cycle, Republicans had won the presidential elections in Georgia in eight of the past nine cycles.

In 2014, the last major midterm election before Donald Trump descended the escalator and ran for president, Republicans won the gubernatorial election by more than 200,000 votes, and the lieutenant governor’s race and the down-ticket races by margins close to or exceeding 400,000 votes, while Perdue won the Senate race by more than 197,000 votes. In other words, up until very recently, Georgia was a really, really Republican-leaning state.

When a president goes nuts and spends two months insisting that his reelection victory was stolen by a vast conspiracy that “moved the inner parts of the machines and replaced them with other parts” his party is not likely to win the close ones.

Back in July 2016, Chuck Schumer could see that in Trump, the Republican Party had a nominee who had much more appeal among blue-collar whites than usual and much less appeal among suburbanites than usual. Schumer was convinced this was a good trade: “For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin.” That was the key miscalculation of the 2016 cycle.

But by 2018, that trade didn’t look as good for Republicans, as they lost control of the House; 38 of the 41 congressional seats that flipped from red to blue were suburban. Trump’s blue-collar voters just didn’t turn out as much in those midterms. Those blue-collar Trump voters didn’t show up in the numbers that Republicans needed in gubernatorial or senatorial races in Wisconsin and Michigan.

In 2020 . . . that trade-off worked somewhat better for Republicans, but not quite good enough. It’s important to note that Republicans won back a bunch of suburban congressional seats, driven in large part by candidates who were women, minorities, veterans, or some combination of those: Michelle Steel, Young Kim, Carlos Giminez, Maria Elvira Salazar, and Burgess Owens.

You know what suburban voters do? They show up and vote. Year in, year out, presidential years, midterms, off-year elections, special elections, non-November local elections. They must rank among the most easily overlooked, underrated, and underappreciated voters, those allegedly wishy-washy, milquetoast, not-fond-of-Trump, minivan-driving moderate suburban soccer moms and white-collar dads. They’re not exciting. They’re rarely looking for anything revolutionary. They’re not looking to “burn it all down”; they’re the ones who built the things that would get burned down.

You know why it makes sense for a political party to target its messaging and appeal to this voter demographic? Because you don’t have to do much to get them to the polls. They do it out of habit and civic duty. As John Bragg put it last night: “They always vote, just like they always file their taxes, pay their bills, mow their lawns, send their kids to college. The question is, which party appeals to those people in 2020?”

As for those blue-collar Trump voters . . . Republican grassroots turnout was down last night. Republicans will be arguing about why it was down for a long time. You can argue that David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are less than thrilling candidates; they are not, as I like to say, whirling dervishes of raw political charisma. But recall that back in November, Perdue beat Ossoff by more than 88,000 votes; he just fell three-tenths of a percentage point short of that 50 percent threshold.

David Perdue is the same guy he was in November. His opponent is the same. The state’s demographics didn’t change. So, what changed?

What made this runoff election particularly unusual is that the president of the United States, the state party chairman, most of the state’s GOP congressional delegation, and other GOP figures spent the past two months arguing that Georgia’s recent presidential-election results were fraudulent and that mass-scale vote fraud and hacking of voting machines changed Trump votes to Biden votes. Shockingly, that consistent messaging did not increase the enthusiasm among Republican voters to cast ballots again. If only someone had warned them!

It is unlikely that many Georgia voters were deeply familiar with Lin Wood or Sidney Powell before the November election. But by December 2, the pair’s profile as unofficial Trump-allied lawyers had given them the stature to draw a huge crowd to a press-conference-turned-rally, where Wood urged Georgia Republicans to not vote for Perdue and Loeffler.

“Don’t you give it to them,” Wood said. “Why would you go back and vote in another rigged election for God’s sake? Fix it! You gotta fix it!” The event turned into an anti-get-out-the-vote rally. It was a keep-the-vote-home rally.

Wood punctuated that rally by declaring, “Do not be fooled twice. This is Georgia. We ain’t dumb.” More recently, Wood has asserted that Vice President Mike Pence is part of a conspiracy against the president, has committed treason, and should be executed by a firing squad.

If two lawyers can just show up, grab a microphone, and convince diehard Trump fans to not vote . . . and outweigh the voice of the president, urging them to vote . . . then diehard Trump fans are not a reliable base of support for the Republican Party. They are simply too flaky, erratic, illogical, and gullible for any party to rely upon. As laid out yesterday, a big chunk of Trump’s legacy was at stake in the Georgia runoffs. The stakes couldn’t be higher. But some Republicans heeded Lin Wood’s advice and chose to stay home.

The “stolen election” crowd will say, “See, this is why you need to cater to us, Republicans!” And Republicans will wonder . . . why? Why should we adapt to appeal to a demographic that won’t show up to vote if two lawyers come along with a conspiracy theory involving Venezuelans, the CIA, and Bigfoot?

As Bragg asked, just how can the Republican Party appeal to a demographic that believes in mythical “Army raids” to seize election vote-counting servers in Germany, nonexistent brothers that are Chinese agents, QAnon, that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is involved in child-smuggling and had Antonin Scalia murdered, that Jeffrey Epstein is still alive, and God knows what else?

Why should Republicans put a lot of effort into courting the conspiracy-theorist demographic, when the suburbs — once the backbone of the party — are just sitting there, drifting to the Democrats, in part because of a Republican president who fully embraces all those conspiracy theories?

Trump: Mike Pence Can Decide to Have the House Resolve the 2020 Presidential Election

In other news, late last night, the president issued a statement declaring that when Congress meets today, Vice President Mike Pence “can decertify the results or send them back to the states for change and certification. He can also decertify the illegal and corrupt results and send them to the House of Representatives for the one vote for one state tabulation.”

Neither of those is the case. Pence presides over the congressional certification process, but he cannot intervene or overrule it. The law is clear, and you can read it here. The vice president, acting as president of the Senate, will ask for objections. But the Senate resolves its own objections by voting upon them, and the same is true for the House. Under Trump’s creative interpretation of the law, Vice President Biden could have decertified the results of the 2016 election, Dick Cheney could have decertified the results of the 2008 election, and Al Gore could have decertified the results of the 2000 election.

In that recent court case filed by Louie Gohmert, contending that Pence does have the authority, the judge offered a scathing assessment and rebuke.

U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg concluded:

the suit rests on a fundamental and obvious misreading of the Constitution. It would be risible were its target not so grave: the undermining of a democratic election for President of the United States.” He continued Gohmert and his lawyers “do not, explain how this District Court has authority to disregard Supreme Court precedent. Nor do they ever mention why they have waited until seven weeks after the election to bring this action and seek a preliminary injunction based on purportedly unconstitutional statutes that have existed for decades — since 1948 in the case of the federal ones. It is not a stretch to find a serious lack of good faith here . . . Courts are not instruments through which parties engage in such gamesmanship or symbolic political gestures. As a result, at the conclusion of this litigation, the Court will determine whether to issue an order to show cause why this matter should not be referred to its Committee on Grievances for potential discipline of Plaintiffs’ counsel.

No matter how many times and how emphatically Trump is told Pence doesn’t have the authority, the president will choose to believe otherwise. At 1 a.m. last night, President Trump tweeted: “If Vice President Mike Pence comes through for us, we will win the presidency.”

Keep in Mind, Big States Will Have a Harder Time Getting Their Vaccination Rates Higher

This morning, the 5 millionth American got the first dose of vaccination against SARS-CoV-2. The vaccine rollout is going much slower than expected. I’ve noted which states are injecting the vaccine quickly and which ones are plodding along slowly, and the media’s highly selective interest in this metric.

We should note that the smaller a state’s population is, the easier the task is. The Census Bureau estimates that Wyoming’s population, as of July, is 582,328. This means that each time the state and its hospitals and pharmacies vaccinate 5,000 people, they have completed 1 percent. (Wyoming has vaccinated 8,928 people so far.)

California, which has no shortage of management problems in just about all aspects of its governance, ranks near the bottom nationally. But the state has administered 459,564 vaccines, more than any other state except for Texas, which has administered a bit more than 451,000.

The Census Bureau estimates that California’s population, as of July, is 39.3 million. Vaccinating 1 percent of the state means getting shots in the arms of 393,000 people.

In other words, it’s easier to complete the vaccination of South Dakota than California, Texas, or New York, because there are way fewer South Dakotans.

ADDENDA: I’m reminded of the good closing format of Kevin Williamson’s The Tuesday newsletter. (And if you haven’t read his latest, you should do that.)

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