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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Georgia on Everyone's Mind
      •  Republicans Plot Their Electoral Vote Challenge Strategy
      •  Thanks, Lindsey
      •  EPA Administrator Creates Roadblock for Biden
      •  Bush Will Attend Biden's Inauguration
      •  In the Year 2021, Part II: Our Predictions

Georgia on Everyone's Mind

Given Georgia's Republican lean, it was at least moderately unlikely that the two Democrats would sweep the U.S. Senate runoffs. And given the number of ballots to be counted—not far off from the general election total, which took multiple days to process—it was very unlikely that we'd have results on Tuesday night. And yet, both things very nearly happened, as Raphael Warnock (D) defeated Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R), and Jon Ossoff (D) has effectively clinched a victory over Sen. David Perdue (R).

Let's start with the Warnock-Loeffler tilt. Although Loeffler refused to concede last night, this one is all over, and has been called by all the major outlets. With 98% of precincts reporting, Warnock had 2,223,649 votes (50.6%) to Loeffler's 2,173,804 (49.4%), while nearly all of the outstanding votes are from Atlanta and its environs, a region that is both very blue and very Black. There's no way that Loeffler, who ran a campaign heavy on racial dog whistles, is going to claim 75,000 of the remaining 100,000 or so outstanding votes when they come from that part of the state. Heck, she probably couldn't do that in any part of the state. So, the Senator has no hope of rallying to save her (appointed) seat. She will also be unable to request a recount, since Georgia law allows that only if the margin is 0.5% or less. She could try calling Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) 18 times, but we've heard that doesn't work very well.

Loeffler's clear-cut defeat means that, to the extent there are any questions remaining, it is in the Ossoff-Perdue matchup. Again with 98% reporting, Ossoff had 2,205,082 votes (50.15%) to Perdue's 2,192,276 (49.85%). That's a lead of nearly 13,000 votes for the Democrat, again with mostly Democratic votes still to be counted. So, when the final totals are reported—barring an epic surprise—Ossoff will likely finish on top by 30,000 votes or so. Still, the margin might possibly be close enough to allow a recount, which Perdue will definitely ask for. And whether it is close enough or not, lawsuits are coming, since this is the lower-hanging fruit between the two runoffs. The Senator's campaign has already released a statement that declares, in part, that it will use "every available resource and exhaust every recourse to ensure all legally cast ballots are properly counted." That means that Ossoff's win might not become official for weeks (or longer).

So what happened, exactly? The numbers will be parsed much more carefully once they are complete, but there are two facts that, if you had known either of them at the start of the day on Tuesday, you would have been able to predict the outcomes. The first is that the two Democrats generally outperformed Joe Biden's percentages on a county-by-county basis, particularly in blue counties, while the two Republicans slightly underperformed Donald Trump's percentages, particularly in Northern Georgia (a.k.a. Trump country). This is why both Warnock and Ossoff, even with more Democratic-leaning votes remaining to be counted, already have margins that exceed the one by which Biden won in November (he outpolled Trump by 11,779 votes).

The second fact is that turnout yesterday was relatively soft. Back in November, there were about 2.7 million early votes (absentee and early in-person), and about 1.35 million Election Day votes. That's a 2-to-1 margin, and with the early voting strongly favoring the Democrats and the Election Day voting very strongly favoring the Republicans, a 2-to-1 margin was just enough to make it a nailbiter. By contrast, for the runoffs, there were 3 million early votes, and about 1.2 million Election Day votes. That's about a 2½-to-1 ratio, which was too lopsided for the Republican candidates to overcome.

Needless to say, if these results hold—and they surely will—then they have some pretty profound implications for the future. To start, this substantially changes the ballgame in the Senate. Obviously, the Democrats won't be able to pass the Green New Deal or institute a $15/hour minimum wage, because they will need their whole caucus to remain unified to get anything done, including Blue Dogs like Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). Indeed, Manchin—realizing that he was on the cusp of becoming one of the 10 most powerful people in Washington—wrote an op-ed for CNN on Tuesday in which he talked about how much he was looking forward to Congress finally doing its job.

Anyhow, the Democrats will be limited, but far less so than if the Republicans retained control of the upper chamber. We'll see what happens with the filibuster (Manchin said he was opposed to killing it, though you never know what a couple of billion bucks for West Virginia will do to his feelings on the subject). But even if the filibuster remains intact, Democrats will be able to approve Joe Biden's cabinet nominees and judges without Republican help (including a possible replacement for Stephen Breyer, who now stands a good chance of retiring). They will also have budget reconciliation available if they decide, for example, to kill the 2017 tax cut. And at risk of being shut out for two years or more, and without soon-to-be Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to serve as their buffer, some Senate Republicans might be in the mood to actually make some legislative sausage and cooperate on passing some bills. Alternatively, soon-to-be Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) can bring things up for a vote, and then let Republicans go on record as opposing things like improving election security, making student loans easier to manage, and increasing civil rights protections.

Incidentally, the Senate has previously been split 50-50 three times: in 1881-2 (for almost the entire two-year span), in 1954 (for a couple of months), and in 2001 (for about six months). In both 1881 and 2001, the side that had the vice presidency (and thus the tiebreaking vote, 51-50) gave the side without the vice presidency more power than the minority usually has, allowing them some committee chairs and other privileges. Certainly, something like that could happen this time. We doubt it, however. The Senate is a pretty divided place these days, and McConnell & Co. have turned muscle-flexing into a fine art, from denying Merrick Garland a hearing to today's electoral vote shenanigans. The Democrats may not be in a generous mood and, even if they are, their voters might demand an aggressive approach. In any event, because they will have the tiebreaker, the blue team holds all the cards here. Oh, and note that the fact that Sens. Angus King (ME) and Bernie Sanders (VT) are independents is not relevant; committee chairs and other rewards go to the larger caucus, not the larger party.

Beyond the Senate, another implication—and this is also unhappy news for the GOP—is that this election is going to heighten the existing split within the Republican Party. From his attacks on election integrity, to his general disinterest in helping out Loeffler and Perdue, to his phone call stunt this weekend, there is simply no question that Donald Trump was a drag on the Republican ticket in this election. Was he enough, all by himself, to wreck the Senators' chances? Maybe. Certainly the fact that a Deep Southern state (albeit one that's pretty urbanized) gave its EVs to Joe Biden and will have two Democratic senators speaks to the toxicity of Trumpism in purple states. At the same time, the MAGA folks are convinced that the real problem here is that the Party did not support the President enough. They are already plotting their vengeance on Republican "traitors." This certainly looks like the tea party all over, except that the tea party was always a minority faction within the Party, whereas MAGA vs. The Establishment could split the GOP right down the middle.

There are also long-term implications to Tuesday's results. Most will not be known for years, but we can venture to take a stab at a couple of them. First, Georgia's march toward being a blue state just took a big leap forward. If Warnock can win reelection in two years, and if Stacey Abrams re-matches against Gov. Brian Kemp (very probable) and knocks him off (very possible), then nobody can seriously call Georgia a red state anymore. Maybe purple, or purple-blue. And that might help drag neighboring Florida and North Carolina in that direction, as well. It could soon be the case that the Sun Belt is the real "blue wall."

Second, Warnock is now a rising star in the Democratic Party. He's charismatic, Black, comes from a swing state, is part of the religious left, and won a key election for Team Blue. That's a great political résumé. If he can hold on to his seat in two years, then he will be talked about very seriously as a vice-presidential or presidential candidate in either 2028 or 2032.

In any event, there was much joy in Democrat-ville on Tuesday night, perhaps most of all with the phrase "soon-to-be Minority Leader Mitch McConnell." Meanwhile, national politics just got a lot more interesting, since just about anything is more interesting than "House passes bill, McConnell tosses it in his desk drawer." (Z)

Republicans Plot Their Electoral Vote Challenge Strategy

Given what happened on Tuesday—a repudiation of Donald Trump and his various stunts—today is probably not the best day to stage the little drama being planned by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Josh Hawley (R-MO), and numerous colleagues in the House and the Senate. But the Constitution says what it says, and so it's now or never when it comes to challenging Joe Biden's electoral victory.

The number of Republican challengers in the House remains at around 140, though many of those folks have not made their intentions public, and they may get cold feet and back off. Thus far, 13 GOP Senators have announced that they will be a part of the challenge. Because they prefer to undermine democracy in an orderly fashion, Cruz will object to Arizona's results, Kelly Loeffler will object to Georgia's, and Hawley will object to Pennsylvania's. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) said that he and his Trump-loving team are in negotiations to raise the total number of objected-to states to six, but that's a work in progress. Because the results are read in alphabetical order, that means Cruz's objection will be lodged first (since Alabama and Alaska, the only two states to come before Arizona, both went for Trump).

According to the Electoral Count Act of 1887, each objection will compel the two chambers to adjourn in order to debate among themselves for two hours. It is not yet known what the rules will be for tomorrow (or, in the case of the Senate, who will set the rules—Mitch McConnell or President of the Senate Mike Pence). However, the general format of things like this is that individual members are afforded no more than 5 minutes to speak, followed by a five-minute speaker from the other side. Assuming that holds, then 12 Republicans and 12 Democrats/Independents will speak for 5 minutes each in each chamber, after each objection. That is not the greatest way to present any sort of coherent case for overturning the election.

That said, it really doesn't matter how coherent the case is or is not. The Republicans will each be looking to produce one great soundbite they can post to their Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. Presumably, the Democratic respondents will be doing the same, though it wouldn't be a big surprise to see them do something absurd to underscore the nonsensicality of the whole proceeding, like using their time to explore the finer points of "The Queen's Gambit," or getting out the phone book and reading it, or debating who will win this year's Super Bowl (pro tip: The Green Bay Packers).

Once it's time to vote, the House will reject each challenge, and so will the Senate. Already, a number of GOP Senators—John Boozman (AR), Susan Collins (ME), Kevin Cramer (ND), Jerry Moran (KS), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Mitt Romney (UT), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Tim Scott (SC), among others—have said they are not going to play along with Cruz & Co. It's only necessary for either the House or the Senate to vote "nay" in order for an objection to fail. However, with so many Republican senators joining their Democratic colleagues, the objections are sure to fail in both chambers.

In many ways, the main drama of the day will be seeing how the fence-sitting Republican senators will vote. There are a total of 14 of them who have yet to indicate where their allegiances lie, a list that not coincidentally includes Marco Rubio (FL) and Chuck Grassley (IA). Those gentlemen cannot afford to alienate Trump's supporters, but they cannot afford to alienate moderates either, and both are up in 2022. One wonders if they might not wake up this morning with a surprise case of the 24-hour flu.

Anyhow, by the time we post tomorrow, Joe Biden might be the officially elected President of the United States, and Jon Ossoff might be the certified winner of Georgia's U.S. Senate seat. Or, neither might be. That's what makes politics the nation's greatest spectator sport. (Z)

Thanks, Lindsey

Historical events often turn on very small things. And on Tuesday, we learned that a stupid mistake by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) may have inadvertently set a trap for Donald Trump, bringing to mind Warren Harding's famous quote: "It's not my enemies in life that I have to worry about, it's my goddamn friends!"

So, what was the mistake? Well, recall that before Trump decided to try to twist the arm of Brad Raffensperger to cook the election results and then went on Twitter and misrepresented the conversation, Graham did the exact same thing, in ham-fisted fashion, despite zero chance of success. Raffensperger is no fool, and so Graham's chicanery got his hackles up, and taught him he needed to watch his back. That included recording phone calls that might come back to bite the Secretary in the rear. Without the lesson that was learned from Graham, there might not be a "smoking gun" Trump recording for the world to hear.

It is entirely plausible that the recording was enough to derail David Perdue's re-election, and to hand control of the Senate to the Democrats, with all the consequences that entails (see above). It is also entirely plausible that Donald Trump ends up facing criminal charges that would, in the absence of the recording, be a nearly unprovable he said-he said matter. So, without realizing he was doing it, Graham might have shot his party and his good buddy in the feet—with a Howitzer. (Z)

EPA Administrator Creates Roadblock for Biden

Donald Trump may not realize that he will be unemployed in 2 weeks, but EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler certainly does. And he knows the Biden administration is going to try to reverse much of the damage he inflicted on the environment, so he sprung into action to try to protect his legacy. Wheeler is smart enough to know that doing something overt, like requiring power plants to produce 50% of their energy from coal, was never going to fly, so he was much cleverer. His action could produce a bunch of headaches for the incoming administration.

To be specific, what he did was create an official rule stating that in future rule making, the agency must take into account scientific studies on the subject matter. At first, that might sound good, but in practice, it provides a handle for companies objecting to any new rule to go to court and say "the scientific studies weren't thorough enough."

For example, if the agency wants to ban some harmful chemical, it must produce a study showing how much of a dose is harmful. And a study showing the lethal dose in rats might not count. Would it be ethical to conduct studies in which volunteers were given various amounts of a known carcinogen to determine what the lethal dose is? Probably not. But absent such a scientific study, the company that makes the chemical could argue in court that it is not known for sure what the lethal dose is and thus it shouldn't be banned.

The best route for the new administration might be to rescind Wheeler's rule, but rules can't just be rescinded because the new administrator doesn't like them, especially when the rule seems pretty reasonable on its face ("The EPA must take science into account when making rules").

This is just one of the many things the departing administrators in many agencies are doing to stymie Biden and tie him up in the courts for months or years. Given enough time and effort, he will be able to overcome many of the booby traps the outgoing administrators and cabinet secretaries are setting, but at the very least it will slow things down, which, of course, is the goal of the departing team. (V)

Bush Will Attend Biden's Inauguration

George W. Bush, the only living Republican ex-president (well, at the moment), has announced that he will attend Joe Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20. Donald Trump probably will be off in Florida steaming, but it still has symbolic value that at least one Republican president acknowledges that Biden won. Bush's wife, Laura, will accompany him. No doubt Biden will arrange for the Bushes to have conspicuous places of honor so that the whole country sees them, thus showing Trump's supporters that at least some important Republicans accept Biden as the new president. The Bushes also attended Barack Obama's inaugurations.

By contrast, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter will not attend. The former president is 96 and his wife is 93 and they are too frail to travel to D.C. Also, they are at extremely high risk for COVID-19, so it would be safer for them to stay home. Carter did attend the inauguration of Trump in 2017. (V)

In the Year 2021, Part II: Our Predictions

Yesterday, we had predictions from pundits. Today, we take our turn:

  1. America's five biggest adversaries, among the leaders of the world, are probably Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-Un, Ali Khamenei, Xi Jinping, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Two of these five men will be out of power by the time the year is out.

  2. So will Benjamin Netanyahu.

  3. The two most significant bills that Congress will pass this year are another COVID relief bill and an infrastructure bill.

  4. Barack Obama will win a Pulitzer Prize for his book A Promised Land.

  5. Obama will also be the recipient of the first Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded by Joe Biden.

  6. Biden will throw out the first pitch at the 2021 World Series, in order to send the message that the COVID-19 pandemic is in the rear-view mirror.

  7. The U.S. Senate will no longer be 50-50 by the time the calendar turns to 2022.

  8. Donald Trump will not attempt a self-pardon, and will roll the dice that he can avoid prosecution another way, either with his army of lawyers, or by the incoming administration deciding it's not worth it, or by fleeing the country.

  9. Trump will make a serious attempt to re-launch "The Apprentice."

  10. This site's first "Trump free" news day (M-F) will happen in February. Our first "Trump free" news week (again, M-F) will happen in April.

Go big or go home. Tomorrow (and not Friday, as originally planned), it's predictions from readers. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jan05 The GOP Is a House Divided
Jan05 Trump May Have Crossed the Line This Time
Jan05 Trump Is the X Factor in Today's Senate Runoffs
Jan05 About Those Pro-Trump Protests...
Jan05 Trump Wasn't Cheated
Jan05 In The Year 2021, Part I: Pundit Predictions
Jan05 Today's Senate Polls
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