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Republican Lawmakers Are Still Fighting for Trump

It looks like this election isn't going to be over until Jan. 20, 2025 [sic] at noon. By then all (?) Republicans will stop claiming that Donald Trump won, or at the very least the issue will be moot once the term ends. On Friday, Donald Trump's TV lawyer Rudy Giuliani asked the state legislatures to invalidate the elections in their states and just appoint Trump electors. The reactions were mixed.

For the moment, dozens of Republicans in the Pennsylvania state legislature are calling on members of the Pennsylvania congressional delegation to object when the electoral votes are counted in a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6. Initially over half the Republicans in the state legislature signed the letter to the congressional delegation, but some later withdrew and it wasn't sent (yet). Of course, even if Congress voted to trash Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes, Joe Biden would still have 286, which is enough. So this bit of grandstanding is all to show Trump voters how Trumpy the Trumpists in the state legislature are and how they put Trumpiness above democracy and reality.

However, Republican House members in other states are also talking about challenging Georgia's 16 electoral votes as well. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), is looking for a senator to help her invalidate her own state's EVs. If somehow she were to get Congress to throw out the electoral votes from both Pennsylvania and Georgia, Biden would still have 270, which is still enough to be elected president, especially since the invalidation of two states' worth of EVs would reduce the total EVs available to 502, and thus the number needed for election to 252. So a third and fourth (and probably fifth) state would still be needed. Needless to say, none of this is going to happen, but a QAnon theorist can always dream.

In contrast, the speaker of the Arizona state House, Rusty Bowers (R), wasn't buying what Giuliani was selling. He said: "It would violate that oath, the basic principles of republican government, and the rule of law if we attempted to nullify the people's vote based on unsupported theories of fraud."

Now that all the key swing states have certified their election results, there are only two ways for Trump to stop Biden from being inaugurated. One is to get Congress to toss 37 or more EVs. Since there is no way the House is going to go along with this, all that is left is to try to get 37 or more Biden electors to go faithless on Dec. 14. A few states have laws punishing faithless electors, but the punishment is generally a small fine. A few other states replace faithless electors with faithful ones. But given that most of the Biden electors were selected by the state Democratic parties, getting 37 of them to go rogue—and exclusively in states where that is even possible—is simply not going to happen.

The rubber is about to meet the road. Federal law says that if a state has certified a winner by Dec. 8 (tomorrow), then Congress is to presume that the winner is, well, certified. If all the paperwork is in order by tomorrow, all these challenges have virtually no chance of going anywhere. Of course, once the electors vote on Dec. 14, it will get exponentially more difficult for Trump to challenge the results. In particular, once the electoral votes have been cast, no judge will be willing to even hear any election-related case. In that event, all that will be left is getting Congress to throw out electoral votes, and that will happen only over Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) dead body. (V)

Trump Is Still Fighting for Trump

Saturday, Donald Trump held his first rally since losing the election on Nov. 3. It was in Valdosta, GA. We are not going to give a pop quiz on Valdosta, GA, for fear of the failure rate. It is a city of 56,457 (the 16th largest city in Georgia), about 15 miles north of the Florida border and 170 miles southwest of Savannah. The population is 51% Black and the median household income is $32,000, less than half of the national median of $68,000. The economy is based on tobacco and turpentine, which is made from a resin extracted from local pine trees. We could have asked: "Why did Trump decide to hold a rally in a small town full of poor Black tobacco and turpentine farmers in the middle of nowhere?" The problem is that it would be hard to grade that one since we don't have a clue.

Map of Georgia

Nominally, the rally was supposed to be to support Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler (both R-GA) in their runoff battles on Jan. 5. They both spoke, but were merely the warm-up acts for Trump. With him, nothing is ever about anyone except himself. He had teleprompters set up, so all he had to do was to read a speech someone else wrote for him, basically praising Perdue and Loeffler and telling everyone to be sure to vote for them. But that is not who Trump is. Instead the rally was about himself, as always. He said: "We've never lost an election. We're winning this election." Actually, he won one election and lost one election, so he is batting .500, which is pretty impressive in baseball but not so impressive in politics. That was merely the start in a firehose of lies.

He spent most of his time airing grievances and lies about the presidential election race, barely mentioning the two Senate runoffs that will determine control of the Senate. When he did, it was to describe Jon Ossoff (who is running against Perdue) and Raphael Warnock (who is running against Loeffler) as "radical Democrats" who would be pawns of current Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Republicans attacking Democrats as wild-eye radical socialists is "dog bites man"—pretty normal fare. But Trump also attacked Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA) and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), both conservative Republicans with long track records as such. That is definitely in "man bites dog" territory.

Trump alleged that there was massive election fraud, something that exists only in his head (and Rudy Giuliani's), as no one else has seen it. He also said that if he had lost, he would have been a gracious loser. If that had happened, he said he would have gone to Florida and told himself what a good job he had done.

An hour into his long speech, Trump tried to thread the needle. Yes, all the elections were rigged, but nevertheless, everyone should go out and vote for Perdue and Loeffler, even in rigged elections. Consistency is not one of Trump's strong points. And since Trump believes he was cheated (or pretends to believe he was cheated), after attacking Kemp, he called on him to call a special session of the state legislature to overturn the election results. Kemp didn't answer directly, but Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan (R-GA) did and the answer was: "No." Duncan also told CNN: "The mountains of misinformation are not helping the process; they're only hurting it."

Democrats are also campaigning hard in the two runoffs. On Friday, they brought out their biggest gun—Barack Obama—to hold a virtual get-out-the-vote rally. Obama said that when current Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) got the gavel, all progress stopped, so it is important to take it away from him. Obama knocked the Republicans for politicizing the handling of the coronavirus. He also hit both Perdue and Loeffler for their respective insider trading scandals. Obama's virtual event also featured Stacey Abrams, who almost single-handedly put Georgia in Joe Biden's column by registering tens of thousands of voters. The runoff elections are almost here. Absentee voting has already started. Voter registration closes today. In-person early voting begins next Monday. (V)

Only 27 Congressional Republicans Admit That Biden Won

Here's a pop quiz that is easier to grade: "Who won the recent presidential election?" This is not a trick question. If you guessed "Joe Biden," congratulations! You are smarter than the 88% of all Republicans in Congress—who don't know the answer (or who are hiding under their desks). Where did this number come from? A team of 25 reporters from the Washington Post surveyed all 249 Republicans in the House and Senate. Only 27 answered the question correctly. Even if they don't read the Post or any other news source, and just guessed at random, well over 100 should have gotten it right just by dumb luck. Hmmm. If you want to see the raw data, take a look here.

Also noteworthy in the survey is that of the 27 who said Biden won, 12 are senators and only 15 are representatives. That is undoubtedly due to the fact that many representatives are from deep red (gerrymandered) districts and are telling the folks back home what they want to hear (or what OANN and Breitbart are telling them they should expect to hear). Also noteworthy is that 7 of the 27 are retiring from Congress in January and don't have to worry about winning another election. What is perhaps the most amazing of all is that three outgoing senators and 26 outgoing representatives don't know who won. In only one case (Rep. Roger Marshall of Kansas, who won a Senate seat), will the outgoing member have anything to fear from Donald Trump on Jan. 4, but so great is his power that even outgoing members are scared witless of crossing him. By contrast, the morning after the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton conceded and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) congratulated Trump on his victory.

So, what did the Republican leaders in Congress say when pressed by reporters? Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said: "The future will take care of itself." Interesting take for a guy whose job is to make laws. If he believes the future will take care of itself, why bother making laws? House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) had this to say: "Let's wait until [we see] who's sworn in." So he will turn on the TV on Jan. 20 at noon and see who Chief Justice John Roberts is talking to, and then he'll know who the next president is?

If you think that the Republican senators who appeared on national television yesterday would temper their views, well, you'd be wrong. Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) appeared on ABC News' "This Week." George Stephanopoulos said to him: "As I said, Joe Biden's victory has now been certified in states totaling 279 electoral votes. So do you now accept that he's president-elect?" Braun hemmed and hawed and threw out a whole bunch of things about ballots being stored under tables, but refused to answer the question. Secretary of HHS Alex Azar was on Fox News yesterday. When he referred to Joe Biden as "Vice President Biden," anchor Chris Wallace interrupted him and said: "He's the president-elect, sir." Azar ignored Wallace and continued making his point (about masks) and continued calling Biden "Vice President Biden."

And don't forget, last week AG William Barr said the Justice Dept. did not find any substantial amount of election fraud. Republicans in Congress could have used that as a cover, but even that is asking too much of them. If anyone ever writes a book entitled Profiles in Cowardice as a sequel to John Kennedy's Profiles in Courage, this Congress will be able to supply an entire book's worth of profiles. (V)

Warnock and Loeffler Debate, as Do Ossoff and an Empty Podium

There may have been a time when candidates' debates actually served a useful purpose in helping voters to make up their minds. For example, the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858 were pretty substantive, at least on those occasions when Honest Abe resisted the temptation to rip his shirt off:

This year, substance has been in fairly short supply at candidates' debates, such that it's fair to once again ask if the time to end this little tradition has arrived.

Yesterday, Raphael Warnock and Kelly Loeffler met in their first and only head-to-head debate of the campaign. Most of the night was given over to mudslinging, with Loeffler slamming Warnock as a "radical liberal" who wants to defund the police, and Warnock hammering Loeffler as an insider-trading plutocrat who doesn't care one bit about the people of Georgia. And when the pair wasn't attacking each other, they were dodging questions, with Loeffler refusing to say who won the presidential election or to give her views on limiting stock trading by U.S. senators, while Warnock would not say how much COVID-19 relief he supports (in dollars) or whether he wants to expand the Supreme Court.

So, the folks watching the Loeffler-Warnock tilt didn't learn anything they didn't already know, since the two candidates have been trading those exact barbs for weeks. Even more useless, arguably, was the "debate" held for the other U.S. Senate runoff. Since David Perdue refused to participate, fearing a repeat of the meme-worthy insider-trading attack Ossoff lodged at their last debate, Ossoff was all by himself on stage. The event was conducted as if both candidates were there, so—for example—Ossoff was given the opportunity to ask questions of his opponent. You will surely be disappointed to learn that the empty podium did not answer. They should have gotten out a Ouija board, and had Ossoff debate deceased former Georgia senator Paul Coverdell (R). At least that would have been interesting.

In short, it is hard to imagine that yesterday's events did much to affect the trajectory of the two races, excepting possibly the voters who will hold it against Perdue that he was too frightened to even make an appearance. The macho voters among Donald Trump's base may not be too impressed with that. (V)

Hell Week in Congress

Today may be Pearl Harbor Day, but Congress is about to start Hell Week. If the two parties don't agree on a deal by Friday, the government will shut down. Nobody wants that, with the virus now spreading to 200,000 people a day and more than 2,000 dying from it every day. A total of 300,000 new cases and 3,000 deaths per day is likely if nothing is done. And by the way, the benefits for the unemployed that Congress passed in the Spring will expire in 3 weeks. Many people will have no money and evictions will hit millions of them. In other words, Congress has a few items on its plate and not a lot of time to deal with them.

As usual, the parties are far apart in their wishes, especially on the coronavirus relief bill. Democrats want aid to local governments. Republicans want to shield businesses from lawsuits if they require employees to work in unsafe conditions and the workers get sick as a result. In ye olde days, each party would swallow hard, agree to the other one's demands, and there would be a bill that gave each of them something they wanted. It is possible that coronavirus relief could be added to the must-pass funding bill, but whether it is a stand-alone bill or part of the annual appropriations bill, the two parties still don't agree on the terms.

In addition, Mitch McConnell wants to confirm nominees this week and the Senate is scheduled to adjourn on Dec. 18, leaving very little time for debate on a relief bill. Also on the table is the National Defense Authorization Act. Donald Trump opposes it because it renames bases currently named after Confederate leaders and doesn't repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which has nothing to do with defense. That section provides immunity for websites that allow readers to post content by declaring that the sites are not publishers. Trump believes that social media websites are biased against him and repealing this section would make them stop being biased. The reality is that if websites were held liable for reader-supplied content (the way newspapers are), they would have to moderate all content and anything that might conceivably generate a lawsuit would not be published. This would end social media as we now know it. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing depends a great deal on whether you think that giving every moron and hatemonger in the country a free worldwide platform to spew garbage is a good idea. In short, Congress has a lot to do this week and it is far from clear that it will be able to do it all. (V)

Biden Taps Becerra for HHS

At various points last week, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM), Gov. Gina Raimondo (D-RI), and former surgeon general Vivek Murthy were all the frontrunner to become Joe Biden's Secretary of Health and Human Services. However, Lujan Grisham stepped on too many toes of people in the Biden orbit, Raimondo was unacceptable to progressives, and Murthy accepted a second term as surgeon general (perhaps because he knew he was going to be passed over for HHS). In any event, Biden ended up going off the board, and has apparently selected California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) for the job.

Becerra's main selling points are that he is very well regarded, he knows his way around Washington as a former 12-term congressman, he's Latino (to be more specific, Mexican American), and he took the lead in defending Obamacare against legal attacks from the Trump administration and Republican state AGs. He was in the running for several high-profile promotions, including the Attorney Generalship in Biden's cabinet, and the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Kamala Harris. So, while Becerra's name didn't enter the HHS conversation until late, it's not too big a surprise that Biden found a seat for him.

And speaking of Harris' Senate seat, Becerra's new job will be a boon for Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA). The governor will now, presumably, appoint Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D) to replace Harris, and then will have two more high-profile jobs to fill, namely the jobs that Becerra and Padilla will be vacating. Newsom has a chance to please multiple interest groups in California, or to stack the state government with "his" people, or both. So, he was undoubtedly among the first to call Becerra with congratulations. (Z)

Giuliani Has the Coronavirus

Yesterday, Donald Trump tweeted that his TV lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has the coronavirus:

It was inevitable, with Giuliani spending so much time around Republican politicians who regard wearing a mask as an act of treason. One of them had it and gave it to Giuliani. This is unfortunate for Giuliani, who is in the high-risk group due to his age (76). But it is even more unfortunate for Trump since Giuliani will be sidelined now for a week or more and he was the only high-profile Republican left who was willing to peddle completely bogus conspiracy theories about how Trump won the election. Now Trump is pretty much on his own to peddle them.

Giuliani's health is suddenly a political issue. For months now, Trump has been saying that the coronavrus is no worse than the flu. If Giuliani does really well and comes bouncing back in a week, full of energy, this will help convince Trump's base that he was right—COVID-19 is no big deal. If, on the other hand, Giuliani gets really sick, it will be hard for Trump to maintain this fiction. For what it is worth, Giuliani has been hospitalized, which may suggest he's really sick, or may just suggest he's rich and powerful and gets privileges that others do not. If ever there were a time for your thoughts and prayers, it is now. What you think and what you pray for are user options. (V)

McDaniel Wants to Remain "Neutral"

RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel is in a terrible bind. On the one hand, she desperately wants another term running the RNC, which means she has to continue licking Donald Trump's boots until she is officially reelected in January. On the other hand, she does not want to earn the eternal enmity of the dozen or so Republicans who would like to be the GOP nominee in 2024. What's the poor lady to do?

Step one seems to be inviting a dozen Republican presidential wannabees to speak at the RNC meeting in Florida in January. These include Vice President Mike Pence, Sens. Tom Cotton (AR), Joni Ernst (IA), Josh Hawley (MO), Marco Rubio (FL), Rick Scott (FL), Tim Scott (SC), Ted Cruz (TX), former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD), and others. A bit further down the road, she will have to decide whether the RNC is Trump's personal plaything or represents all Republicans, especially those who may want to challenge Trump in the 2024 primaries (if he runs). If she sides with Trump and he doesn't win the nomination, she is going to have a rocky relationship with the nominee she opposed. McDaniel has claimed that she can be fair to everyone, but that will be tough since Trump does not want her to be fair. He wants her to support him alone. However, she could decide not to run again for chair in 2023, which would get her off the hook.

Still, even if she doesn't run in 2023, McDaniel will play an important role in the coming two years, assuming she wins another term in 2021. As the midterms come in sight, she may have to choose between weak Trumpy candidates for various offices and stronger non-Trumpy candidates. Then what? She could remain neutral, but if Trump supports the Trumpy candidates and they lose the general election, has she done her job—which is to elect Republicans—well? In short, she has a moving needle to thread. (V)

It Was a Bad Year for Iowa Democrats

This has not been a good year for Iowa Democrats. It started with botched caucuses, with no one even sure now who actually won. On Election Day, Donald Trump carried the once-swingy state easily. In addition, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) won reelection against a solid and extremely well-funded opponent, Theresa Greenfield (D). Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-IA) was defeated in November. Finally, it now appears that Marianette Miller-Meeks (R) beat Rita Hart (D) in IA-02 by six votes. If Hart's challenge fails, Democrats will hold only one of the four Iowa House seats—and that one just barely. All in all, a pretty dismal year. Chris Adcock, chairwoman of the Page County Democratic Party, summed it up by saying: "I'm tired of being a Democrat. It's just exhausting."

Democrats didn't do very well in Indiana or Ohio either, but Iowa is special on account of it holding the first nominating contest every presidential year. If Biden had carried the state or Greenfield had won, Democrats would have forgiven the state party for failing to report the caucus winner on caucus night. The road back for Iowa will be filled with potholes. The state party chairman, Mark Smith, said he will not run for reelection. No one else seems interested in the job since no one expects the Democrats to come roaring back in the midterms.

If Joe Biden seeks reelection in 2024, that will remove the pressure on Iowa, but if he doesn't, the primaries will be crucial to picking the nominee. Will the DNC allow Iowa to go first again, given all the problems this year and the fact that it is a nearly all-white state in a party that is much less white? There will be a lot of pressure to move Iowa to the back of the line and possibly pick a different (and more diverse) Midwest state to go first, preferably a true swing state so the candidates can show how well they do in swing states. Michigan and Wisconsin are potential candidates, of course. Alternatively, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina could go first, second, and third, with Iowa fourth. In any event, the DNC will have to sort out this hot potato in the coming year, so that 2024 candidates will be able to plan far in advance. (V)

Ad Rates Soar in Georgia

It was inevitable. With control of the Senate depending on the two runoffs in Georgia, rates for television ads in the Peach State are skyrocketing. In Savannah, rates have been raised 20 times already. Atlanta's WSB, probably the most influential TV station in the state, is now charging $18,000 for an ad that went for $8,000 in July.

Since Election Day, only 5 weeks ago, $329 million has been spent on television advertising for the two runoffs. Observers are expecting this to hit $500 million by January 5. This would certainly break all records for runoffs and maybe even for regular Senate elections. Most likely, the point of no return has long been reached, and more ads won't have any effect. What matters now is turnout and there is little reason to believe that ads affect turnout much. (V)

Luke Letlow Wins LA-05 House Seat

One of the four House races that were still undecided was settled Saturday when Luke Letlow (R) beat Lance Harris (R) for the seat being vacated by Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-LA). The two Republicans faced off in a nasty runoff on account of Louisiana's jungle primary on Nov. 3, in which no candidate hit 50%, but the top two were both Republicans.

Letlow is Abraham's chief of staff, while Harris is a state representative. Letlow, who turned 41 yesterday, campaigned on being both young and experienced in the ways of Washington. Harris, who is 59, campaigned on being more experienced and miles away from the swamp in Washington. Youth won. Also money, as Letlow outspent Harris by 2 to 1.

It was a muddy, nasty campaign. Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment ("Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican") was nowhere to be found. One of Letlow's ads was about "the pig." Now it is possible to have an ad about pigs that are clever, like Joni Ernst's 2014 ad about knowing how to cut pork because she grew up on a farm castrating hogs. Or an experienced representative can brag about bringing home the bacon. This pig ad is anything but clever:

Letlow said that he will focus on agriculture in Congress, especially on getting rid of what he calls useless rules and regulations. Democrats will have at least 222 seats in the House and Republicans will have at least 210. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Dec06 Sunday Mailbag
Dec05 Saturday Q&A
Dec05 Today's Senate Polls
Dec04 Four Out of Five Presidents Believe in Setting an Example on COVID-19
Dec04 Pardon Power Is no Panacea
Dec04 Graham Could Be in Hot Water
Dec04 Georgia Republicans Brace for Trump's Arrival
Dec04 And Now We Know
Dec04 Projecting the Cabinet Is a Real Crapshoot
Dec04 The Biden Cabinet: Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
Dec04 Today's Senate Polls
Dec03 Biden Wins Georgia--Again
Dec03 Biden Is Focusing on Mid- and Lower-Level Appointees
Dec03 What Is Trump Up To?
Dec03 Trump 2024
Dec03 The Case of the Unredacted Apostrophe
Dec03 The Michigander vs. the Michigoose
Dec03 Earmarks Are Back
Dec03 Democrats Are Spending Millions to Hammer Perdue and Loeffler on Insider Trading
Dec03 Democrats Are Fighting over Feinstein's Replacement
Dec02 Pardon Me?
Dec02 Don Trixote Continues to Tilt at Electoral Windmills
Dec02 Trump Inches Closer to Making it Official
Dec02 Trump About to Suffer One Last Foreign Policy Loss on His Way Out the Door
Dec02 What Ails the Democrats, Part 647
Dec02 Biden Pressured to Make Cabinet More Diverse
Dec02 The Biden Cabinet: Secretary of Health and Human Services
Dec01 Certifiable Loser
Dec01 Cold Turkey
Dec01 940,000 Absentee Ballots Have Been Requested for Georgia Runoff So Far
Dec01 Can the Democrats Win Back the Cuban Vote?
Dec01 Voters Apparently Like What They Are Seeing from Biden
Dec01 Five Things That Saved Democracy
Dec01 The Biden Cabinet: Secretary of Labor
Nov30 Appeals Court Slaps Down Trump
Nov30 Biden's Lead in Wisconsin Grows by 87 Votes
Nov30 Biden Breaks a Record
Nov30 Biden's Top Five Challenges
Nov30 Supreme Court to Hear Census Case Today
Nov30 House Results Are Nearly Complete Now
Nov30 Republicans Came Back to Life in California
Nov30 Why Did the Democrats Do So Badly in House Races?
Nov30 The Senate Will Be Plunged into Uncertainty for Weeks Next Year
Nov30 Is Democracy Safe Now?
Nov30 Can the Democrats Win Again in 2024?
Nov30 Build That Wall!
Nov29 Sunday Mailbag
Nov28 Saturday Q&A
Nov27 Trump Says He'll Leave if He Loses the Electoral College
Nov27 How Long to Go from the White House to the Big House?