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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  The GOP Is a House Divided
      •  Trump May Have Crossed the Line This Time
      •  Trump Is the X Factor in Today's Senate Runoffs
      •  About Those Pro-Trump Protests...
      •  Trump Wasn't Cheated
      •  In The Year 2021, Part I: Pundit Predictions
      •  Today's Senate Polls

The GOP Is a House Divided

Donald Trump has done plenty of damage to plenty of different things while serving as president. And, as he nears his exit, stage right, his political party has most certainly joined the list. The President's insistence on the fantasy that he won the election, and on adherence to that notion as a Republican loyalty test, has badly split the GOP.

The most immediate issue, of course, is Trump's weekend phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, wherein the President pressed the Secretary to "find" enough votes to overturn the election result in the Peach State. We learned on Monday that the White House actually placed the call 18 times over the course of two weeks before Raffensperger concluded he couldn't dodge Trump forever, and finally decided to answer. In any event, many prominent Republicans are furious with Trump. Among the loudest on Monday was GOP Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY), who is the third-ranking Republican in the House, and has been maneuvering—along with Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) and others—to assume leadership of a future iteration of the Republican Party that has excised its Trumpy elements. She described the phone call as "deeply troubling" and encouraged people "to listen to the full hour of it."

On the other hand, there are many members of the House GOP caucus who have not found a Trump offense that they could not defend. And those folks fired up their spin machines once again on Monday. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) said that Trump is just a victim of political correctness. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who just became the newest winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom (along with Rep. Devin Nunes, R-CA), blamed the whole thing on the press and the Democrats, decreeing that both like to blow things out of proportion. And House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) claimed Monday's chutzpah title when he went on Fox News and opined that the phone call was just a reflection of Trump's concern for the integrity of the election.

For those Republicans who hope that maybe this story will just go away, there is the small problem that—once everyone spends 24 hours paying attention to the Georgia Senate runoffs today—the fight over the election results is going to jump right back to the forefront, as Congressional Republicans make a show of challenging the electoral vote count on Wednesday. Originally, this was the Hawley and Brooks show, but somehow Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has weaseled his way into becoming the face of the challenge effort. And while there are some Republicans who have discovered a newfound affinity for Cruz, others are hopping mad.

To start with, many of the Senator's colleagues—starting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)—were prepared to spin Sen. Josh Hawley's objection away as a one-man show and a stunt designed to get him some headlines. But now, Cruz has turned the one-man show into a movement. Vulnerable Republican Senators from purple states will now be forced, with their votes, to choose between the "Trump" faction and the "Constitution" faction. And whatever vote they cast will be wielded against them, like a sledgehammer, the next time they are up for reelection. Folks like Rob Portman (OH), Marco Rubio (FL), and Todd Young (IN) are either going to have to explain to Trump-loving voters why they didn't support the President, or they are going to have to explain to moderate Republicans/independents why they were willing to try to help subvert democracy.

The Republican commentariat—well, some of it, at least—is also angry with Cruz. For example, The National Review excoriated the Senator in an editorial headlined "The Folly of the Cruz Eleven." Making liberal (no pun intended) use of words like "perverse" and "travesty," the editorial board concludes:

The Cruz eleven realize that their effort isn't going anywhere. Both houses of Congress would have to vote to uphold objections to electors. Neither will, and neither should. If all they want to do is signal that they are upset that Biden won, this isn't the manner or the forum to do it. Nor is this the proper way to examine underhanded electoral practices that did not alter the outcome, or to propose election reforms, however needed.

Other right-leaning outlets that are none-too-impressed with Cruz & Co. are The Wall Street Journal, which says "The GOP stunt over the Electoral College will hurt the country and the party" and The Arizona Republic, which argues that "Jan. 6's D.C. sideshow is all about money, not the election results." And George Will, writing for The Washington Post, declares that "on Wednesday, the members of the Hawley-Cruz cohort will violate the oath of office in which they swore to defend the Constitution from enemies 'foreign and domestic.' They are its most dangerous domestic enemies."

Undoubtedly, McConnell and other GOP pooh-bahs are hoping and praying that once Trump is officially out of power and once his Twitter wings are clipped, his influence will quickly wane. It's looking more and more like they might get what they want, and yet not get what they want. That is to say, it could be that Trump the man fades in importance, but that Trump the movement remains a useful organizing/fundraising principle for some sizable segment of the Party, dividing it for years. (Z)

Trump May Have Crossed the Line This Time

Ok, Donald Trump has crossed many lines, many times. But one line that he's been pretty good at approaching, but not crossing, for the last 50 or so years is the line between "legal" and "illegal." And even in those cases where he misses his mark, and dips a toe into "illegal" waters, he usually manages to turn it into a "he said/she said" situation, or else to fix it with his army of lawyers or a well-placed political donation, or else to resolve the matter by paying a small fine or financial settlement (small for him, at least).

With his Georgia phone call, however, it is possible that the President has finally gone too far. To start, the federal code he appears to have violated is 52 U.S. Code 20511, which makes it a felony for any person who "attempts to deprive or defraud the residents of a State of a fair and impartially conducted election process, by...the procurement, casting, or tabulation of ballots that are known by the person to be materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent under the laws of the State in which the election is held."

Meanwhile, the relevant Georgia Code is 21-2-604, which says "A person commits the offense of criminal solicitation to commit election fraud in the first degree when, with intent that another person engage in conduct constituting a felony under this article, he or she solicits, requests, commands, importunes, or otherwise attempts to cause the other person to engage in such conduct." And these are just the election-related laws that Trump seems to have trodden upon; he could very well have opened himself up to other possible charges, from conspiracy to racketeering.

Yesterday, we expressed doubt that Trump would actually be prosecuted. Others, however, are not so sure. Election law expert Rick Hasen wrote an op-ed for Slate in which he declares "The president certainly committed an impeachable offense that is grounds for removing him from the office he will be vacating in less than three weeks or disqualifying him from future elected office," and also expresses his view that Trump should be criminally prosecuted. Carl Bernstein, of Watergate fame, described the tape recording as "the ultimate smoking gun" and "something far worse than Watergate."

Even Brad Raffensperger said that while his office would probably not be launching an investigation of Trump, it would not surprise him if one of the state's DAs decided to do so. Right on cue—as if she and Raffensperger had already discussed the matter— Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis (a Democrat) issued a statement that described Trump's maneuvering as "disturbing," and said that she is more than willing to hold accountable "anyone who commits a felony violation of Georgia law."

On the other hand, House Democrats are shying away from taking any sort of serious action in response to the phone call. They have already rejected calls from Hasen (and many others) to re-impeach Trump, explaining that the 16 days left in his term are just not enough to make it worthwhile. Left unsaid is that the real point of re-impeaching Trump would be to disqualify him from future officeholding. Not only is such a verdict unlikely to come from a Senate that includes at least 12 members who are happy to partner with the President in trying to subvert the election, but even if it did come to pass, there would be riots in the streets. And so, at the moment, the only thing that Congressional Democrats are seriously considering is a motion of censure. Undoubtedly, the prospect has the Donald quaking in his knockoff Salvatore Ferragamo shoes.

That said, the presidency has become more and more imperial over the last century as president after president has gone unpunished for the misdeeds of their time in office. Lyndon B. Johnson paid no price for the lies that led America into the Vietnam War, Richard Nixon got away with Watergate (and a host of other offenses), Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush skated on Iran-Contra, George W. Bush received no retribution for the lies that led to the Iraq War, Barack Obama got away with wearing a tan suit, and Donald Trump has compiled a rap sheet a mile long, from Ukraine Mobilier to obstruction of justice to emoluments violations. At some point, some DA or U.S. Attorney or congressional caucus has to say enough is enough. And with Trump now in the "caught red-handed" zone, that time may have come. (Z)

Trump Is the X Factor in Today's Senate Runoffs

Today, the last wave of ballots in Georgia's U.S. Senate runoffs will be cast and, once all the votes are counted, the composition of the next Senate will be known. We have said many times that the key to the election is which side is more successful at getting its voters to the polls, and this is definitely true. However, a significant complicating factor, when it comes to the GOP turnout, will be Donald Trump.

Few dispute that Trump is doing his party more harm than good in Georgia. The most effective argument the Republicans have is "Elect two Democrats and then Joe Biden will be able to take away your guns, make America a socialist country like Venezuela, outlaw Christmas, legalize abortion up through the fetus' high school graduation, etc." And if the President could just stick to that message until Wednesday, then the Red Team would all be on the same page. But, of course, Trump is not especially interested in helping other people win elections; he's only interested in re-litigating the election that he already lost.

The Donald's obsession with his own needs, wants, and desires was on display on Monday night, during the rally ostensibly staged to help the prospects of Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler (both R-GA). Naturally, he barely mentioned the duo, and instead spent nearly all of his time complaining about the election in general, the "fraudulent" results in Georgia in particular, and the fact that any Republican who does not help him to challenge the outcome better look out.

The harm that Trump is doing to his party operates on a number of levels here. To start, he is calling into question the integrity of elections, which will surely cause at least some of his base to say "Why bother voting?" Trump is also setting himself up in opposition to the "establishment" GOP; it appears that will cause some of his base to deliberately withhold their votes (or to spend them on Democrats, or on non-valid write-in candidates) to send a message to the Party. Further, the President's obvious attempts to subvert the Georgia elections during his weekend phone call will undoubtedly aggravate some Peach State Republicans, and could well cause them to punish the GOP at the ballot box.

Perhaps most importantly, however, is that Trump has compelled Loeffler and Perdue to pick a side in the "Trump vs. the Constitution" dispute. And, with just 24 hours to go, they both made their choices. Loeffler announced that she will join Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, et al. in challenging the election results in the Senate. Perdue, who cannot do so because he's no longer in office, instead attacked Brad Raffensperger for recording the phone call with Trump, describing it as "disgusting." This despite the fact that Georgia is a one-party-consent state when it comes to such recordings (which makes Raffensperger's actions legal), as well as the fact that the Secretary released the call only after Trump went on Twitter and grossly misrepresented what was said.

It is no surprise that, when push came to shove, Loeffler and Perdue hitched their wagons to the President. After all, they've spent the last six months running for reelection in the Trump lane. Their problem is that Georgians found the President odious enough that they gave their EVs to a Democrat for the first time in a generation. And Trump has just gotten more odious in the 8 weeks since the election. If either of the Senators loses by a nose, or if both do, they will have someone very obvious to blame. (Z)

About Those Pro-Trump Protests...

By all evidences, some number of pro-Trump protesters—with the Proud Boys taking a leading role—will descend on Washington tomorrow, and then again on Jan. 20, to protest the election of Joe Biden as a scam and a farce. That, of course, is their right—as long as the protests remain peaceful. However, the threat of violence is a real possibility when folks like the Proud Boys are involved, something that the Boys themselves are happy to tell anyone who will listen, as they desperately try to compensate for their small...hands. And so, Washington is a bit on edge.

Because the Boys (and other aligned groups) have so clearly telegraphed their intentions, however, that means that the pros will be ready. And when there's a conflict between a bunch of armed yokels and a cadre of properly trained and armed law-enforcement officials, it is wise to bet on the latter. Protesters are being warned to leave the weapons at home and, in the event they do not, as a backup, the National Guard has already been activated by D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser. They will be ready for whatever may come. Meanwhile, the Proud Boys will temporarily be without their leader, as Enrique Tarrio was arrested Monday and charged with destruction of property. This was in response to an incident last month where he burned a stolen Black Lives Matter banner at a Trump rally.

In short, things certainly could turn ugly, but the odds are pretty good they won't. (Z)

Trump Wasn't Cheated

Surely, you already knew that Donald Trump wasn't cheated, or you wouldn't be a reader of this site. However, law professor Jerry Organ decided to do a deep dive into the numbers, just to make sure. And we do mean deep—7,517 words' worth. His conclusion, at the end of all that analysis: "Nothing was stolen. Nothing was taken from President Trump."

Organ's specific approach is to compare the two presidential candidates' performances, vote-wise, to the performance of the House candidates in the swing states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, and Wisconsin. The general idea is that looking at things through that lens will give us a rough sense of whether the presidential candidate held on to the voters from his party, or if he bled some of them. As you might guess, Trump did worse at holding onto Republicans than Joe Biden did at holding onto Democrats.

The numbers are parsed in a number of different ways, but the most instructive is probably this: Republican candidates won 25 of the 49 congressional districts in those five states, and Trump lagged the GOP nominee in 20 of the 25 (80%), while Democratic candidates won 24 of the 49, and Biden lagged the Democratic nominee in just 8 of the 24 (33%). If the President had equaled the vote tally of his party's congressional candidates, he would have won reelection. But he didn't, and so he didn't. It's as simple as that. (Z)

In The Year 2021, Part I: Pundit Predictions

We promised that we'd run some predictions this week. Here's the first group, a roundup of what the punditry thinks might lie ahead in 2021:

Brian Sullivan, CNBC: "The world will emerge from our collective Covid crisis slowly at first, but once it is clear a majority of the most vulnerable are protected (April?), expect to see the beginning of a boom in consumption and excess like [sic] anything we've seen in 100 years."

Noah Millman, The Week: "The next Congress will be surprisingly productive, in spite of divided government, because—much as in the 107th Congress that followed the 2000 election—the leadership of both parties have powerful incentives to show accomplishment. Deals will be struck, and the group that will be most upset by those deals is the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, as they see their priorities repeatedly sidelined in order to win Mitch McConnell's support, even as successful dealmaking boosts the economy, and therefore Republican chances to retain control of the Senate."

Stephen L. Carter, Bloomberg: "In January, President Donald Trump will finally invite President-elect Joe Biden to the White House. Trump will even attend the inaugural, albeit with poor grace. After leaving office, Trump will become a resident of Florida. He will place his New York triplex on the market, but it will take over a year, and several price cuts, before it sells."

Matthew Frankel, The Motley Fool: "I think oil will rise to at least $70 per barrel in 2021, which represents about 43% upside over the current price."

Kevin Drum, Mother Jones: "Congress will reschedule marijuana and it will be effectively legalized."

Kara Swisher, The New York Times: "Soon after our forever troller in chief leaves office on Jan. 20, his account will be suspended by Twitter temporarily, and then, since he cannot stop breaking rules, he'll get tossed off, just like his hideous pal, Alex Jones."

Steven Pearlstein, The Washington Post: "With COVID-19 deaths heading toward 4,000 a day, overwhelming hospitals, don't be surprised if much of the country will be forced to shut down for a month or two...By summer, however, as shutdowns will have ended, more than 100 million Americans will have been vaccinated, and another government rescue package will have been approved. At that point, look for the economy to come roaring back as workers return to the office and consumers begin to satisfy a year's worth of pent-up demand for fashion, entertainment, restaurant meals and travel."

Fortune Magazine staff: "[Donald] Trump will partner with One America News Network—already a mouthpiece for the President—for a primetime show that will stick it to Fox News. He'll go head-to-head against Sean Hannity in the 9 p.m. slot, and steal away Laura Ingraham to serve as his TV Veep."

Paul Callan, CNN: "Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock win both Senate seats, largely because of the Trump campaign's bogus claim that Georgia's presidential election was rigged, as well as his attacks against Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Discouraged Republican voters will come out in lower numbers, enabling a Democratic sweep."

Roxanne Jones, CNN: "Although President-elect Joe Biden will quickly push for a national plan, political divisions between governors of red and blue states will cause frustrating delays. By July, we'll be lucky to have 40% of the U.S. population inoculated. Worldwide, that number will look better: 65%."

Raul Reyes, CNN: "[Joe] Biden's year-end approval rate will be a healthy 60%."

Nostradamus, French mystic: "There will be a zombie apocalypse, a Biblical famine, solar storms, and Earth will be hit by an asteroid." (Note that these predictions require a wee bit of reading between the lines of Nostradamus' famously vague prophecies by the authors of the linked article.)

Tomorrow, we'll take our turn, and then on Friday it will be reader predictions. (Z)

Today's Senate Polls

Here are the final Georgia polls. Conclusion: Probably not much of anything. It depends on whether lots and lots of Republicans vote today. (V)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Georgia Jon Ossoff 48% David Perdue* 49% Dec 30 Jan 03 UNLV
Georgia Jon Ossoff 49% David Perdue* 49% Jan 03 Jan 03 Insider Advantage
Georgia Jon Ossoff 51% David Perdue* 47% Jan 02 Jan 04 AtlasIntel
Georgia-special Raphael Warnock 48% Kelly Loeffler* 49% Dec 30 Jan 03 UNLV
Georgia-special Raphael Warnock 49% Kelly Loeffler* 49% Jan 03 Jan 03 Insider Advantage
Georgia-special Raphael Warnock 51% Kelly Loeffler* 47% Jan 02 Jan 04 AtlasIntel

* Denotes incumbent

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jan04 Trump Tries to Blackmail Raffensperger
Jan04 2020 Is not 1876
Jan04 Former Secretaries of Defense: The Election Is Over
Jan04 Congress Convenes
Jan04 Trump Calls the Georgia Senate Races "Illegal and Invalid"
Jan04 Warnock Is Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Jan04 The Homes of McConnell and Pelosi Have Been Vandalized
Jan04 Mississippi Has the Largest Percentage of Black Voters, But Is One of the Worst States for Democrats
Jan04 Another Big 2021 Election: Mayor of New York City
Jan04 Today's Senate Polls
Jan03 One Becomes a Dozen
Jan03 Sunday Mailbag
Jan02 Missed It By That Much
Jan02 Missed It By a Mile
Jan02 Saturday Q&A
Jan01 Over 100 Republicans Are Planning on Challenging Biden's Victory
Jan01 Vaccinations Remain Way Behind Schedule
Jan01 The Stock Market Did Great in 2020
Jan01 Could Georgia Be a Split Decision?
Jan01 Democrats Are Targeting Midsize Cities in Georgia
Jan01 Trump's Legacy: A Divide on Trusting the Media
Jan01 Miller-Meeks Will Be Seated Provisionally
Jan01 Goodbye 2020
Dec31 Happy New Year
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