• $2,000 Relief Checks Appear to Be Dead...for Now
• Promising Signs for Democrats in Georgia
• Census Bureau Won't Be Done By Dec. 31
• Secret Service Gets Political
• Back To the Future 2020, Part I: How Did They Do?
• Back To the Future 2020, Part II: How Did We Do?
Thus far, the most notorious member of Congress to be named "Hawley" is former representative Willis C. Hawley, whose name is on the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, a rather extreme protectionist measure that was meant to stave off the Great Depression, but ultimately served to deepen it. These days, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) is doing his best to replace Willis (who is not related) as Congress' worst Hawley. Certainly helping that cause is the announcement the Senator made on Wednesday, that he will be "the" senator to join with Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) and members of the House to object to the electoral tally from the November election.
Now that the Trumpsters have at least one representative and one senator, the counting of electoral votes is going to be dragged out. At very least, the Senate and the House will have to spend two extra hours "deliberating" before voting to reject Hawley's/Brooks' objection. If more than one objection is made, it could be considerably more than two hours. In any event, it will not only waste the members' time, it will force Republicans—particularly those in the Senate—to take one or more uncomfortable votes they would rather not take. If they vote to overturn the election results, then they are helping to subvert democracy, something that will be pointed out daily by their Democratic opponent the next time they run for reelection. If they vote to sustain the election results, then they are "betraying" Donald Trump, and will be at risk of a challenge from the right in the primaries, or of a boycott by MAGA voters in the general election. Among the GOP senators who are up in 2022, and whose lives just got a lot harder, are Lisa Murkowski (AK), Marco Rubio (FL), Todd Young (IN), Chuck Grassley (IA) (if he runs), Roy Blunt (MO), and Rob Portman (OH).
As to Hawley, his thinking is clear. He's running for president in 2024, and he wants to dominate the MAGA lane. By being the senator who had the "courage" to champion Trump's cause in the Senate, he gets a leg up on other Trumpy members of Congress who might be thinking about running. There are a few downsides, though. To start, the Trump lane won't be available to Hawley if Trump himself runs (or if one of his kids runs). Further, even if no Trump runs, the Donald could well be toxic by 2024. Suppose he is convicted of tax fraud, bank fraud, and insurance fraud. Maybe claiming that ripping off those big bad insurance companies makes him Robin Hood II, but we doubt it. Imagine being the foremost champion of Senator Joseph McCarthy in 1956, or the foremost Vietnam hawk in 1976. And finally, Hawley is going to aggravate the GOP colleagues who will be put on the spot by his stunt, most notably Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who tried very hard to keep it from coming to this. Admittedly, Hawley's tack—alienating his colleagues while staging anti-democratic parliamentary stunts—has proven to be an excellent strategy for winning the White House in the past. Just ask President Ted Cruz.
Indeed, we may have gotten a preview on Tuesday of where this could be headed for Hawley. After he made his announcement, he was attacked as a "sore loser" on Twitter by...Walmart. The corporate muckety-mucks, who know that it's unwise to aggravate U.S. Senators, apologized for the tweet. Still, if you're a Republican senator who is at risk of losing the Walmart crowd, that's not good. It would be like Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) going to war with Starbucks.
Needless to say, the precedent Republicans are setting this year—resisting the election results in every way possible, despite a near-total lack of foundation—is not good for the health of the democracy long-term. Some (many?) of them, playing the oh-so-popular game of "whataboutism," will point to 2005 and say that the Democrats started it. And it is true that, in that year, then-Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and then-Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH), objected to the Ohio slate of electors. However, the pair made quite clear at the time they were doing so in order to draw attention to voter suppression in Ohio (which was a real concern, backed with actual evidence), and that they were not trying to overturn the result of the election.
Meanwhile, in case this wasn't enough of a circus, Donald Trump announced he will cut short his vacation (early retirement?) and return to Washington so he can be in town when the electoral votes are counted. Is that so he can more easily strategize with Brooks, Hawley, et al.? Or just so his angry tweets will be more authentic? Who knows, but in any event, the drama never seems to end. (Z)
It was only a matter of time, and so Mitch McConnell decided to go ahead and get it over with on Wednesday, announcing that the House bill calling for $600 relief checks to be increased to $2,000 is a non-starter, with "no realistic path to quickly pass the Senate."
That may seem to be definitive, but the truth is that the House bill, like the Dread Pirate Roberts in "The Princess Bride," is only mostly dead. To start, there could be some parliamentary maneuvering, like the filibuster of the defense bill veto override that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has promised if no vote is held on the House bill. Further, the careful reader will notice that McConnell did not say the bill couldn't pass, only that it couldn't pass quickly. After he made his announcement, he and other Republicans promptly launched a messaging blitz focused on how the House bill is too generous with money for people who don't need it. The Majority Leader even conceded that he could consider "smart targeted aid, [but] not another fire hose of borrowed money that encompasses other people who are doing just fine."
The bottom line is that there are two Senate races in Georgia that McConnell needs in order to keep his job, and where both GOP candidates (Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue) have now come out in favor of $2,000 in aid. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin moved heaven and earth to get the $600 payments started immediately, knowing full well that many banks don't process transactions on holidays/weekends. Undoubtedly, McConnell and GOP pooh bahs will be looking very carefully at their internal polling of the Georgia races, and if it looks like the $600 checks weren't enough, we may see early next week just how quickly the Senate actually can take up and pass the House bill. (Z)
As long as we're talking about the U.S. Senate runoffs in Georgia, let us point out that turnout continues to be brisk. Over 2.5 million people have voted, which is already a record for a Georgia runoff election, and that's with another day of early voting (today) and Election Day itself still left to go.
Looking closely at the numbers, there are several things that have Democrats hopeful that Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock can triumph over their incumbent opponents. To start, the Party did very well in early voting in November, and there's no reason to think that won't continue with these elections. If the two Democrats head into next Tuesday with a lead of a couple of hundred thousand votes each, that may prove insurmountable, depending on how anemic Election Day turnout is, since that is when Republicans would expect to make up any gap.
Beyond that, Black voting has thus far been substantial. Thus far, Black voters have made up 33% of the electorate, which is three points higher than in November. That's very significant if the trend holds, and speaks to the effectiveness of the get-out-the-vote operations being run by Stacey Abrams and others.
And finally, youth turnout is also strong so far, with 281,000 voters under 30 already having cast ballots. This is a demographic that breaks strongly Democratic, especially these days, but that is usually unreliable when it comes to getting to the polls. If the current trend holds, then the turnout of young voters for the runoffs will be very similar to the strong turnout we saw in November. The Democrats are using every trick in the book to make sure that the trend does hold, making liberal (no pun intended) use of things like Zoom and TikTok.
In short, in a pair of elections that are going to be all about turnout, the Democrats are getting the job done and are getting their key groups to the polls. We'll see next Tuesday if the Republicans are able to do the same. (Z)
Everyone knew this was coming, and now it has: The Census Bureau announced on Wednesday that it will not meet the Dec. 31 deadline set by statute. The good news for officials there is that the statute has no penalties for lateness, so missing the deadline doesn't actually matter.
Undoubtedly, Donald Trump will hoot and holler in an attempt to get them to speed it up, and to facilitate the don't-count-non-citizens apportionments he's ordered. However, there's a reason that the bureaucracy is sometimes called the fourth branch of the federal government—it has a mind of its own, and often pushes back against the other branches. It is hard for us to believe that the number crunchers at the Bureau will spend the next three weeks doing difficult, detailed work just to have it thrown out by Joe Biden. Our guess is that they will either drag their feet until Jan. 20, or they will do the work the way it's supposed to be done, knowing full well that Biden will sustain them. We'll see sometime soon, one way or another. (Z)
Donald Trump has spent four-plus years managing to politicize people, organizations, and events that were previously apolitical (like, say, the Census Bureau). And now, it would appear that even the U.S. Secret Service—previously a shining example of apolitical professionalism—is not immune to his influence. USSS officials have announced that the presidential detail is going to be reorganized, with several agents who have worked with Trump being reassigned, and several senior agents who previously worked with Joe Biden being recalled to protective duty.
Needless to say, the USSS does not comment publicly on its personnel decisions. However, it is pretty easy for outsiders to put the pieces together. There have been a number of concerns this year that some agents had yielded too fully to Trump's influence (for example, not wearing masks when they should have been doing so). Most obviously, Agent Anthony Ornato not only went maskless, he also took a leave from the USSS to work for Trump coordinating rallies. The mask rebels in general, and Ornato in particular, are the ones being reassigned to non-presidential duty. So, again, it's obvious what's going on.
It is less clear exactly how "Trump" guys might be expected to underperform if assigned to Biden. Like, would they refuse to take a bullet for a Democrat? It is also unclear how, in effect, swapping out "Trump guys" for "Biden guys" really solves the problem of the USSS becoming politicized. In any event, it's a reminder that the Donald's fingerprints are all over everything in Washington, and will remain so for some time after he leaves town. (Z)
We have gotten in the habit of, at the end of the year, doing a roundup of some of the pundit predictions for the next 12 months. We've also gotten in the habit of looking back, to see how folks did. So, here's a review of the predictions we ran on January 1 of this year:
Eli Yokley, Morning Consult: "[Z]ero Senate Republicans vote to convict Trump."
Comment: Close, but not quite. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) voted for conviction on one article.
Carl P. Leubsdorf, Dallas Morning News: "Senate Republicans reject both House impeachment articles, but four Republicans join the 47 Democrats to provide a majority voting [that] the president obstructed Congress."
Julian Zelizer, CNN: "After the Senate votes on impeachment, Trump is very likely to double down on his bad behavior. He will continue to use the office as a vehicle for personal gain and he will go after his opponents with hammer and tong. We will inevitably see the most ruthless presidential campaign in American history, with the possibility of public policy and law enforcement being used as political weapons to help the incumbent."
Comment: Entirely correct, though also pretty easy to predict.
Bradley Blakeman, The Hill: "My prediction is that Democrats will keep their majority in the House, Republicans will keep their majority in the Senate, and Trump will be reelected. The reason is simple: Republicans have a record to run on, while Democrats have overreached and are out of touch with the nation's values, direction and desires."
Comment: Correct on part one, possibly correct on part two, wrong on part three, while the entire second sentence is just partisan nonsense.
Stephen L. Carter, Bloomberg: "In the presidential election, the Democrats will flip Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin but the Republicans will flip New Hampshire. The result will be a tie in the Electoral College. Under Article II, section 1, of the Constitution, the choice must then be made by the House of Representatives. Democrats cheer the perspicacity of the Framers until they realize that when the House sits to break an electoral tie, each state gets one vote. At that point Democrats remember that the Framers were white supremacists trying to protect slavery, and that the opinions of such monsters should play no role in contemporary governance."
Comment: Carter started so well, as the first 12 words of his prediction were right on target. From there, it went downhill quickly.
Fortune Magazine Staff: "No one got more of a shock in 2016 than the pollsters. Whether response bias, pollster bias, or lying respondents were to blame, the industry as a whole got it dead wrong when it came to predicting the outcome of the presidential election. Despite attempts to make surveys more representative, adjust weighting, and tweak methodologies (most are still conducted by landline), the polls will be wrong again. Pundits will say pollsters focused on the wrong thing, putting too much weight on the non-college-educated white voters who helped elect Trump in 2016."
Comment: The overall thrust is correct, particularly if we consider the Senate races. On the other hand, most of the specifics are wrong.
John Ziegler, Mediaite: "A Biden vs. Trump general election will essentially be a repeat of 2016, only with Biden positioned to out-perform Hillary in the key states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, but with Trump now having the advantage of incumbency and an economy which is perceived to be excellent. In other words, barring a legitimate "black swan" event (I am sure there will be many dramatic plot twists which will result in very little polling movement), Biden will win the popular vote fairly easily, but the Electoral College tally will be close, possibly extremely close."
Comment: Not too easy to evaluate, since Ziegler covers a lot of bases—for example leaving room for both a "close" Electoral College victory and an "extremely close" Electoral College victory, which describes something like 80% of all presidential elections. Similarly, he allows for a "black swan" event—and COVID-19 certainly was that—although nearly all years (and certainly all election years) have something that could be called a black swan event. We're going to say this one was on target, but not a bullseye.
Raul Reyes, CNN: "No malarkey here. Joe Biden will be elected president of the United States, propelled by his appeal to Midwestern voters. But along the way, Biden will certainly 'Feel the Bern' from the robust Sanders campaign."
Comment: The first part is correct, but the second part, not so much. Certainly Biden was not Berned nearly as badly as Hillary Clinton was.
Stu Varney, Fox Business Channel: "I think this is a split party, I think Michael Bloomberg is the nominee, and I think Trump wins big time in November."
Comment: Exhibit #453 as to why you shouldn't listen to people on the Fox Business Channel, especially when they are sharing their political "expertise."
Robin Abcarian, Los Angeles Times: "If [Trump] loses the 2020 election, he will pardon convicted criminals Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort on his way out. If he wins the election, he will pardon convicted criminals Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort on his way back in."
Comment: Nailed it, although this was entirely foreseeable, like predicting that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow.
Kurt Schlichter, TownHall: "We will see the President pardon the victims of Deep State vendettas designed to overturn the election of 2016. General Mike Flynn, Roger Stone, and Paul Manafort will all be cleared."
Early next week, we'll have a rundown of pundit predictions for 2021 (though they're harder to find this year, as the topsy-turvy nature of 2020 seems to have made many folks skittish). (Z)
We are also in the habit, these days, of making our own predictions, and then going back for a review. So, let's see how we did with the predictions we made at the end of 2019:
Prediction 1: The single-largest one-day drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Index came on February 5, 2018, when it dropped 1,175 points. Sometime this summer (July-September), that record will be broken.
Comment: Right on the prediction, wrong on the timing, since we did not foresee COVID-19. We'll give ourselves half a point for that one.
Prediction 2: Donald Trump will skip at least one of the three presidential debates.
Comment: Nailed it. He skipped the second debate.
Prediction 3: Trump will develop some sort of significant health problem that cannot be hidden from the American public.
Comment: Nailed it again. He contracted COVID-19, and everyone knew it. There's also the mysterious visit to Walter Reed, which was also poorly hidden, even if the diagnosis remains a mystery.
Prediction 4: Rudy Giuliani will be indicted.
Comment: Wrong so far, but maybe we should check back at the end of 2021.
Prediction 5: A one-time Trump loyalist will go full John Dean, and tell everything he or she knows. Former NSA John Bolton is the favorite to be that person, but don't sleep on Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, or one of half a dozen former cabinet secretaries. Or, for that matter, Giuliani.
Comment: Yep. It was Bolton, and he did it for the money.
Prediction 6: Pennsylvania and Michigan will return to the Democratic column.
Comment: Correct, though a pretty easy prediction to make. It would have been more impressive if we'd stuck our necks out on Arizona.
Prediction 7: Democrats currently hold four U.S. Senate seats in the 14 states of the Solid South (two in VA, one in WV, and one in AL). They will still hold four when the year is out.
Comment: Wrong so far, thanks to Cal Cunningham's problems managing his zipper, but Georgians could save us next week.
Prediction 8: Trump will blow a gasket on Twitter when Greta Thunberg is named the winner of the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize.
Comment: Wrong-o. Thunberg didn't win, and we're not certain that Trump even knows who did (the U.N. World Food Programme).
So, we made eight predictions, and we would say we got 4.5 right so far, with the possibility that Georgia could make it 5.5. Technically, they would do so in 2021 rather than 2020, but since those elections are runoffs of the 2020 Senate races, we would give ourselves credit. We're generous like that.
Next week, we will also run a fresh set of E-V.com predictions for 2021. We'll also run some reader predictions, so if you have one, please send it along. (Z)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Dec31 $2,000 Relief Checks Appear to Be Dead...for Now
Dec31 Promising Signs for Democrats in Georgia
Dec31 Census Bureau Won't Be Done By Dec. 31
Dec31 Secret Service Gets Political
Dec31 Back To the Future 2020, Part I: How Did They Do?
Dec31 Back To the Future 2020, Part II: How Did We Do?
Dec30 Let the Chess Game Begin...
Dec30 Pelosi Walks a Fine Line
Dec30 Congressman-elect Dies of COVID-19
Dec30 U.S. Way Behind Schedule on Vaccination
Dec30 Pence Distances Himself from Gohmert Lawsuit
Dec30 Vance Brings in the Big Guns
Dec30 Trump Is Finally America's Most Admired Man
Dec30 Newsom Recall Effort Gets $500K from...Someone
Dec30 Today's Senate Polls
Dec29 It Just Keeps Getting Dumber
Dec29 House Passes Bill to Increase Payments to $2,000...
Dec29 ...And Also Overrides Trump's Veto of the Defense Bill
Dec29 Biden: Department of Defense Is Dragging Its Feet
Dec29 What the President-elect Can Do To Improve Elections
Dec29 Sanders Is Unhappy About Biden's Cabinet
Dec29 They Were Trump Before Trump, Part II: Andrew Jackson
Dec28 Trump Signs on the Dotted Line
Dec28 House Will Vote on Upping the Checks to $2,000 Today
Dec28 Putin Is Setting Biden's Foreign Policy
Dec28 Biden Will Focus on Regulations
Dec28 Why Fox Loyalists Are Changing the Channel
Dec28 Five Myths about Voting Machines
Dec28 Voting Machines Weren't Hacked, But There Are Still Security Lessons to Be Learned
Dec28 Vaccine Hesitancy Is Fading Away, Just Like Donald Trump
Dec27 Sunday Mailbag
Dec26 Saturday Q&A
Dec25 Trump Creating Chaos in Washington...
Dec25 ...But He's Having Zero Luck with Overturning the Election Results
Dec25 Georgia Senate Candidates Are Awash in Cash
Dec25 "Trickle Down" Tax Cuts...Don't
Dec25 U.K., E.U. Have a Brexit Deal
Dec25 Holiday Quiz: The Sequel
Dec25 Fox News Is Now in the Christmas Movie Business
Dec25 Today's Senate Polls
Dec24 Trump Vetoes the Defense Bill
Dec24 Trump Unveils More Pardons
Dec24 Trump Repeats Demand for $2,000 Checks instead of $600 Checks
Dec24 Ted Cruz and AOC Agree on the Corona Relief Bill
Dec24 Meanwhile, Republicans Are Already at War--with Other Republicans
Dec24 White House Staff Told to Prepare to Leave and Then Told Not to Prepare to Leave
Dec24 E. Jean Carroll Wants to Personally Depose Trump in 2021
Dec24 Asian Americans Could Make the Difference in Georgia
Dec24 Today's Senate Polls