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Ron Johnson May Challenge the Electoral Votes

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) said he might challenge the electoral votes when they are counted in Congress on Jan. 6. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) has already said he will challenge the count. By law, if one senator and one representative challenge the electoral-vote count, the senators and representatives repair to their separate chambers to figure out what to do.

Not all Republican senators think this is a good idea. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) said on Tuesday: "We have a process. Recounts are appropriate. Going to the court is appropriate. Pursuing every legal avenue is appropriate. But trying to get electors not to do what the people voted to do is madness." Since 1887, a debate in Congress over the electoral votes has happened twice. In 1969, there was an elector who changed his vote. In 2005, there was a dispute over Ohio's electoral votes. Both times, Congress rejected the challenges and counted all the electoral votes as cast.

The odd thing here is that Johnson has said he won't run for reelection in 2022, so he can't easily be pressured by Trump. That said, after he said that, he has been vague about his future plans and may have changed them.

The reality is that Senate Republicans would never actually pull the trigger and dispute enough electoral votes to change the election outcome. The House will never agree to any ticket except Biden/Harris. If the Senate refuses to agree with the House on a way to resolve disputed electoral votes, then on Jan. 20, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will become acting president. Even if she is acting president for only a day, she could sign a lot of executive orders that they would not like. Then, when Biden finally took over, he might say that it would be insulting to her to rescind them, thus achieving goals that he agrees with but wouldn't have to take the heat on. The Republicans would never allow it to come to this. So basically, Johnson is just grandstanding. (V)

A bipartisan Senate Group Releases a $908 Billion Coronavirus Relief Plan

A group of centrist senators, led by Sens. Mitt Romney and Joe Manchin (D-WV), yesterday unveiled a $908 billion relief plan. It includes both aid to states and local governments and a limited protection from corona-related lawsuits for businesses. It does not include stimulus checks.

This is a different approach than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) wants. He wants to drop both the aid to states and local governments and the liability protection as a compromise in order to get something passed. This bill includes both of them. The idea of a swing group of half a dozen centrist senators from both parties actually getting things done is interesting, but it has a couple of problems. First, McConnell can simply refuse to bring up any bill he doesn't like. Second, bills can be filibustered by either party. Third, Donald Trump can veto a bill he doesn't like. Fourth, the House might not agree to a bill that is too centrist.

Some senators are already complaining about the bill. In particular, Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who are pretty far apart politically, want stimulus checks and the bill does not have them. So whether anything comes of this new attempt is not at all clear. There is only a week to go before Congress adjourns for this session. If McConnell wants to get something done on Trump's watch, it is basically now or never. (V)

Hunter Biden Is Under Investigation

On Wednesday, news broke that the U.S. Attorney's office in Delaware is investigating Hunter Biden, son of Joe. The investigation, which is being assisted by the FBI and the IRS, apparently focuses on Hunter Biden's dealings with China, and possible subversion of tax laws therein. The soon-to-be First Son released a statement that said: "I learned yesterday for the first time that the U.S. Attorney's Office in Delaware advised my legal counsel, also yesterday, that they are investigating my tax affairs. I take this matter very seriously but I am confident that a professional and objective review of these matters will demonstrate that I handled my affairs legally and appropriately, including with the benefit of professional tax advisors."

In theory, this should be irrelevant to the Biden presidency. The President-elect is not implicated in any way, is not under investigation, and is not responsible for what his adult children do. And if you want to argue that having children with business interests in China compromises a president's objectivity when it comes to dealing with the Chinese, well, Biden will be the second president in a row with that particular problem.

In practice, of course, this is a pretty big deal. If things go badly for Hunter, it will rebound onto Joe, and will give some amount of credibility to other charges that have been lodged against the President-elect. On the other hand, if Hunter is exonerated, then Democrats from the president on down will be able to say "See? All of these claims are just made-up nonsense meant to distract people from the real issues." In other words, partisans on both sides of the aisle will be watching this one closely.

And speaking of politics, one might be inclined to guess that this investigation is politically motivated, given how closely it tracks with the claims made by Donald Trump. And it certainly could be. But before committing too strongly to that thesis, it is worth keeping two things in mind. The first is that U.S. Attorneys don't usually play those kinds of political games. The second is that the investigation has been underway for months, having commenced well before the election. If the only real purpose was to harm Joe Biden and/or aid Trump, then it seems probable that someone would have found a way to leak the story before the election. (Z)

Trump Can't Wait to Leave the White House

No, not Donald. Melania. In public, Melania Trump supports her husband and says he won. In private, she is busily preparing to get out of town as fast as she can. She recently tasked an aide to find out if former FLOTUSes (FLOTII?) get a staff and a budget. It turns out, they don't. They also don't get a pension, although they get the princely sum of $20,000/year if their husband dies. Still, one source close to her said: "She just wants to go home," which will be Florida, at least initially. In fact, she is also busy choosing a school for the 14-year-old Barron in Florida.

Moving to Mar-a-Lago will be a downsizing from her former digs in Trump Tower, where the Trump family had three floors. The White House has 55,000 square feet of space, but the living quarters at Mar-a-Lago are only 3,000 square feet. Currently she has her own bedroom suite and a dressing room, but that may not be possible at Mar-a-Lago. Laurence Learner, who wrote a book about Mar-a-Lago, compared it to staying at a nice hotel. He said: "It's fine for a bit, sure. But can you imagine Donald Trump just sitting around there for six months of the year? It will start to feel confining very quickly." Also, there will be a steady stream of club visitors walking past the house every time they go from the pool to the dining room or from the spa to the patio. The amount of privacy will be nil compared to both Trump Tower and the White House. There will be accommodations for Melania's parents at Mar-a-Lago. They currently live in Maryland.

One of Melania's current projects is making an inventory of furniture, objects, and art in the White House to see what is government property and what is the Trumps' private property so a moving company can be hired to move out their property.

Melania has also talked about writing a book, but not the traditional memoir. It would be a photo-centric coffee-table book about the design projects she did while in the White House. For example, she renovated the Rose Garden and selected some new art for it.

One topic the sources didn't discuss is any plans Melania has for a divorce. (V)

Republicans and Independents Expect Trump to Run in 2024

Politico had Morning Consult run a poll to see if people think that Donald Trump will run for president again in 2024. Among Republicans, 76% expect it. Among independents it is 60%. Only 47% of Democrats expect him to try to pull a Grover Cleveland.

The poll also asked people what they thought of Biden's cabinet picks. The answer: They like them except that they don't know who they are. For example, 50% of Democrats approve of Antony Blinken, 6% disapprove, and 45% say: Antony Who? Admittedly, he is not well known. But Janet Yellen is very well known from her stint as Fed chair. Still, only 58% of Democrats like her, while 37% have no opinion or don't know who she is. (V)

How to Be Cheated and Take It Gracefully

There isn't a shred of evidence that Donald Trump has been cheated out of victory. In contrast, there is quite a bit of evidence that the 1960 election was stolen from Richard Nixon. If 4,500 votes in Illinois and 28,000 votes in Texas had gone the other way, Nixon would have defeated John Kennedy.

In Illinois, then a Republican state, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley waited until the Republican part of the state had reported the election results before deciding what to report for Cook County. In a subsequent investigation, criminal charges were brought against hundreds of election workers who were part of the Daley machine.

As to Texas, the only reason Kennedy put Lyndon Johnson, who he despised, on the ticket is to win Texas one way or another. Johnson did what he was expected to do. In some precincts the number of votes was 25% larger than the number of registered voters. Was there cheating? In the immortal words of Sarah Palin, "you betcha."

Nixon knew this. Did he raise a big stink? No. He realized that (1) he wouldn't be able to win the battle and (2) fighting the result would label him a sore loser and end his political career. So he conceded graciously and lived to fight another day, including winning the 1968 election. It seems very likely that Trump is going to be labeled a sore loser now and that could easily derail any chance he has of winning the 2024 election, even if he gets the GOP nomination, as nobody likes a sore loser. Trump would be well advised to look closely at how Nixon made his comeback, but that's not going to happen. (V)

FTC and 40 States Are Suing Facebook

Facebook plays a large role in political campaigns because millions of people get pretty much all their news from it. Yesterday, the Federal Trade Commission and 40 states said that it is an illegal monopoly and sued to break it up. In particular, the FTC and the states are upset with Facebook's purchase of Instagram and Whatsapp and are seeking to force Facebook to sell them. The suit also wants to put other constraints on the company.

FTC Chairman Joe Simons said that the FTC wants to "provide a foundation for future competitors to grow and innovate without the threat of being crushed by Facebook." Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has told employees that he would "go to the mat" to defend against an antitrust suit. Now he will get his chance.

For years, the federal government wouldn't touch any of the big tech companies, but both Democrats and Republicans agree now that some of them have simply gotten too powerful and need to be split up. One issue that is going to be central to the case is how Facebook manages its vast trove of user data and how it allows (or doesn't allow) third-party apps to access it. Facebook has a long history of getting rid of rivals, either by buying them up or by killing them off. This is typical behavior that only a monopoly can get away with.

State attorneys general are also looking at antitrust suits targeting Google, Amazon, and Apple. Google could be accused of monopolizing Internet searches, and Amazon could be accused of monopolizing e-commerce. Apple might be a tougher target because it is actually a small player in the personal computer business and has a much smaller share of the smartphone market than Samsung. While it is one of the three biggest companies in the U.S. by market capitalization (along with Microsoft and Amazon), Apple doesn't really dominate any specific industry. The change of administrations is not likely to provide any relief to these companies because Democrats dislike them as much as Republicans, albeit for somewhat different reasons. Democrats are always wary of too much economic power in too few hands and Republicans believe that they try to suppress conservative voices. (V)

What's the Matter with Georgia?

Forget Kansas. What's the matter with Georgia? It's a red state after all. Democrats aren't supposed to win it. Why is it misbehaving and letting a Democrat win it, and what are the implications for the two Senate runoffs on Jan. 5? The Washington Post has a wonderful series in which it takes a detailed geographical look at the swing states. In each state, whole counties are lumped into regions and an analysis is given of the politics of each region. Now it is appropriately Georgia's turn. Here is the map:

Political map of Georgia

Each of the six regions has its own unique political "flavor." Here is a rough breakdown of the regions. The last three columns indicate whether the region scores lower, average, or higher than the state average in terms of people living in cities, nonwhites in the population, and college education.

Region Counties Votes Biden Trump Urban? Diverse? College-educated?
North Georgia 30 918,732 26% 74% Lower Lower Lower
Atlanta 3 996,273 79% 21% Higher Higher Higher
Burbs 6 1,083,187 59% 41% Higher Higher Higher
Piedmont 30 748,226 35% 65% Lower Lower Lower
Black Belt 36 499,119 56% 44% Average Higher Lower
South Georgia 54 690,816 38% 62% Lower Lower Lower

Let's look at them one at a time now.

  • North Georgia Turnout was higher here than in 2016. Donald Trump picked up 130,000 more votes than in 2016. Joe Biden got 83,000 more than Hillary Clinton. In half the counties, Trump got 80% of the vote or more. This is Marjorie Taylor Greene/QAnon territory. In the northeast part, Doug Collins came in first in the jungle primary. That kind of says it all. The two Republican senators need high turnout here in the runoffs.

  • Atlanta Turnout was also higher here in 2020, with Trump up 30,000 votes and Biden ahead of Clinton by 158,000 votes. Black Georgians make up a majority of Fulton, Clayton, and DeKalb counties. If you got into a car at the state capitol, you would have to drive half an hour to get to a precinct that Trump won. In the jungle primary, Raphael Warnock hit the 50% mark here. In the 2016 race for secretary of state, the Democrat got 619,000 votes on Election Day and just 242,000 in the runoff. If that happens again, both senators will keep their jobs.

  • The Burbs This is where Biden cleaned Trump's clock. Trump got 37,000 more votes than last time, but Biden beat Clinton's total by about 188,000 votes. Turnout broke records. This was the best showing here for a Democrat in 50 years. The battle for the Senate may come down to Cobb and Gwinnett counties. Both parties are sending a stream of luminaries here to campaign. If Democratic turnout is high here, the two Democrats will probably win.

  • Piedmont This area delivered for Trump, with his 2020 total up 83,000 from last time compared to the Democratic total up only 68,000. In the jungle primary, Loeffler came in first, with Collins second in many counties. Warnock was third. The Republican advertising features Warnock as an anti-military radical. The big question here is whether Republicans will show up without Trump on the ballot.

  • The Black Belt The politics of this region were determined 100 million years ago in the Cretaceous Period. Much of the South was covered then by a warm shallow sea, with the coastline along a crescent that runs from Virginia through the Carolinas, Alabama, Mississippi and parts of Arkansas and Louisiana. As the seas pulled back, the area was left with a deep black and extremely fertile soil. As the area became populated after 1800, people discovered that cotton grew extremely well here due to the climate and the rich black soil. That resulted in the importation of millions of slaves to grow and harvest the cotton. Their descendants still live there. Here is a map of the counties with at least a 40% Black population (more in many of them):

    Black belt

    In fact, 13 of the counties here have Black majorities. Democrats do well here. In the jungle primary, Warnock swept the region. Normally turnout in a runoff drops, but with Warnock having a good shot at becoming the first Black senator from Georgia, it might actually go up in this region.

  • South Georgia Trump showed up here last week, which left many people scratching their heads. A lot of people showed up for him, but quite a few were probably from the Florida panhandle, which won't do Loeffler and Perdue any good. Compared to 2016, Trump got 125,000 more votes and Biden beat Clinton's total by 92,000. Warnock and Ossoff struggled here, even though Warnock was born in the region.

The bottom line is that Democrats need heavy turnout in Atlanta, the burbs, and the Black Belt. Republicans need it in the other regions. (V)

McAuliffe Is in

It has long been rumored that former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe wants another term. Virginia state law does not limit the number of terms a governor can serve, but does decree that a governor cannot serve consecutive terms. Yesterday, McAuliffe, previously known as the bagman for the Clintons and now a power in his own right, formally announced that he is running for another term. The primary is in June 2021 and the general election is in Nov. 2021.

Although McAuliffe is well-known and well-liked, he is not powerful enough to clear the field. Three other high-profile Democrats have already filed to run. They are Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, and state Sen. Jennifer McClellan. All three are Black. McAuliffe is white. It is obviously possible that the Black vote will splinter, allowing McAuliffe to win.

On the Republican side, Del. Kirk Cox, the former speaker of the House of Delegates, is the favorite. State Sen. Amanda Chase is running as an independent. Virginia has become a blue state, with four of the past five governors being Democrats. If McAuliffe wins the nomination, he has an excellent chance of becoming governor again. No one has ever been elected governor of Virginia twice 1973 when Mill Godwin did it, both in 1965 and 1973. (V)

Oath Keepers Are Infiltrating Local Government

The Oath Keepers are a right-wing group prone to violence. They are burrowing into local governments. One of them, John Shirley, who is constable of Hood County, TX, wrote on Facebook in August that Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler needs to be tried, convicted, and executed. Nice that he did throw in a trial for Wheeler (who hasn't broken any laws) before calling for his execution.

Some Oath Keepers, like Shirley, are completely open about it, but others are very quiet about it. Some members even deny their membership. Many are law enforcement officers, soldiers, and veterans. Some were initially virulently antigovernment, but more and more are joining it and trying to take it over, like Shirley is.

The group was founded just after the inauguration of Barack Obama. In 2014, the group had 35,000 dues-paying members. It is now one of the country's largest militia groups. It often predicts that violence will emerge at some event, members show up, but in the end nothing happens because the group was expecting leftists to start it and they don't.

Some of the members are especially active on social media. Shirley recently said: "We are the #DigitalConstitutionalMilitia. Our weapons of war are FB posts, Tweets, YouTube Videos, TikTok. It's up to US to do OUR part of this existential battle for the soul of #America. Patriots. You have your orders." (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Dec09 Supreme Court Denies Trump's Attempt to Throw Out the Pennsylvania Election Results
Dec09 Texas Asks the Supreme Court to Throw out the Election Results in Four Other States
Dec09 Biden Picks Fudge for HUD
Dec09 McConnell Proposes Leaving Two Thorny Issues out of the Coronavirus Relief Bill
Dec09 McConnell's Super PACs Are Spending $123 Million in the Georgia Senate Runoffs
Dec09 Judge Orders NY-22 To Count All the Votes
Dec08 Federal Judges to Trump: What Part of "No" Do You Fail to Understand?
Dec08 State Republicans See the Writing on the Wall
Dec08 The Grift Continues
Dec08 Sources: Gen. Lloyd Austin To Be Secretary of Defense
Dec08 Report: Tom Vilsack Will be Secretary of Agriculture
Dec08 Barr May Quit the Cabinet before Jan. 20
Dec07 Republican Lawmakers Are Still Fighting for Trump
Dec07 Trump Is Still Fighting for Trump
Dec07 Only 27 Congressional Republicans Admit That Biden Won
Dec07 Warnock and Loeffler Debate, as Do Ossoff and an Empty Podium
Dec07 Hell Week in Congress
Dec07 Biden Taps Becerra for HHS
Dec07 Giuliani Has the Coronavirus
Dec07 McDaniel Wants to Remain "Neutral"
Dec07 It Was a Bad Year for Iowa Democrats
Dec07 Ad Rates Soar in Georgia
Dec07 Luke Letlow Wins LA-05 House Seat
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