Senate page     Dec. 05

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New polls: GA
Dem pickups: PA
GOP pickups: (None)

Early Voting Has Broken Records in Georgia

When the Republican-controlled Georgia state legislature passed a number of laws to suppress the vote, they were confident of this helping them win elections going forward. It may not have worked as planned. Early voting in the Peach State has been huge, breaking record after record in the compressed early-voting period. Statewide, that was last week, Monday through Friday, with some counties also allowing voting the weekend before. Early voting stopped last Friday because Republican legislators wanted to prevent Black churches from running buses from churches to the polls the Sunday before the election, the so-called "souls to the polls" runs.

More than 1.4 million people have already voted, a sign of strong turnout. Over 300,000 people voted last Monday and another 300,000 voted last Tuesday, the highest daily early-voting totals in state history. Nevertheless, the majority of people are expected to vote on Election Day. In the 2021 runoff between now-senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and then-senator Kelly Loeffler, 4.5 million votes were cast in total.

Turnout was especially high around Atlanta and in other Democratic-leaning areas. Through last Thursday, Black voters were 32.4% of the early vote. Although both candidates are Black, Black voters skew heavily Democratic. In exit polls from the Nov. 8 general election, 90% of Black voters cast their ballots for Warnock. Republicans tend to vote pretty heavily on Election Day, but building up a big lead before that happens is always valuable. The Georgia weather forecast puts the chance of rain on Tuesday at 91% for Atlanta, 69% for Augusta, 61% for Macon, 24% for Columbus, and 15% for Savannah. Rain can reduce turnout, especially if it is heavy and lines are long. Votes already banked are not subject to the vagaries of Mother Nature.

The counties where Herschel Walker (R) did best in the general election—Cherokee, Forsyth, and Hall—have seen high turnout, but less than Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb, and Gwinnett, where Warnock won the general election.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) used the fact that turnout was breaking records to claim that the recent changes in Georgia election law were not designed to suppress turnout and, in fact, haven't. In reality, they were designed to suppress turnout and have worked to some extent. There were 2.2 million early voters before the Nov. 8 general election and only 1.4 million for the runoff, primarily because the early voting period for the runoff was only 1 week vs. 3 weeks for the early general election voting. For the 2021 runoff, it was 2 weeks, but with a longer interval after the general election before it started, which allowed people who hadn't registered to register, including young people who turned 18 just after the general election.

In the end, as usual, turnout tomorrow will be decisive. Both parties know that and are working frantically to turn out their respective bases. (V)

Five Reasons Why Tomorrow's Runoff in Georgia Is Important

Democrats will control the Senate no matter who wins the Georgia runoff tomorrow. Nevertheless, the runoff is very important for at least five reasons:

Also, a Warnock win will be a morale booster for Democrats. When someone says: "You lost the House" the reply could be: "Yes, but we gained a seat in the Senate."

Of course, a contest between a respected sitting senator and an absolutely awful candidate with no experience at anything except running really fast while carrying a football is the Democrats' dream situation. Even a Warnock blowout win shouldn't be interpreted as "Georgia is now a blue state." (V)

DNC Rules Committee Adopts a Weird 2024 Schedule

On Friday, the DNC Rules Committee voted to approve the following primary schedule:

Proposed Democratic primary schedule;
it has South Carolina on Saturday February 3, then New Hampshire and Nevada on Tuesday February 6, then Georgia on Tuesday February 13,
then Michigan on Tuesday February 27.

The schedule includes all the states Joe Biden asked the DNC to include, but it also defeats the entire purpose of having a few small states go first. The old schedule had Iowa go first, then a week later New Hampshire, then 10 days later Nevada and a week later South Carolina. By having one per week, an unknown (like Jimmy Carter in 1976) could wear out 10 pairs of shoes trudging through the snow, win Iowa, and then be catapulted into the national spotlight.

The Democrats could have made South Carolina first, then Nevada a week later, then the next state yet a week later. Now candidates have to start off campaigning in the North (New Hampshire), the South (South Carolina), and the West (Nevada) all at once. For a candidate who is relatively unknown, the cost of a three-state campaign spread over the whole country is likely to be prohibitive. Under the new rules, a candidate like Pete Buttigieg would never have done as well as he did. So only candidates who are well known and well funded need apply next time.

Maybe that is a feature, not a bug. If Joe Biden is planning to run again, he may not want some young unknown upstart mayor of a small town who has delusions of grandeur getting any traction. However, if Biden ends up not running, for whatever reason, limiting the candidates to only people who are capable of raising a lot of money early on might not serve the party well. It might even encourage Mike Bloomberg to give it another shot. If he doesn't already own the fastest private jet on the market to zip back and forth between New Hampshire and Nevada, then he can just buy one.

Also weird is the lack of a primary on Feb. 20. It is the day after President's Day, but the 20th is not a holiday. It might have been better to spread things out better, with New Hampshire on the 6th and Nevada on the 13th (or vice versa) and Georgia on the 20th. It's hard to see what value the scrunched up front end and then leisurely back end brings.

As you can see, Iowa is nowhere to be found, but New Hampshire is. To some extent, New Hampshire was saved because it generally votes Democratic in general elections and Iowa doesn't. Take that, Iowa! Also, Iowa has a strange caucus system that excludes some people who can't show up to argue about politics with their neighbors for hours on a cold winter night whereas New Hampshire has a normal primary.

The DNC has to approve this schedule at its meeting in February. That will likely happen. But also, the states have to agree as well. Primaries are controlled by the states. The Republicans hold the trifecta in South Carolina, New Hampshire, and Georgia, and might not wish to play ball. Currently the Democrats have the trifecta in Nevada, but will lose it in January. Only in Michigan will they have it in January. If the states refuse to set the dates the way the Democrats want, then the Party will lose control of the process.

Also, the Republicans are perfectly happy with the current schedule. The RNC voted earlier this year to have the order be Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada. This could mean that the Democratic and Republican primaries might be on different dates, although states don't like running two primaries due to the extra work and cost. In those states in which independents can vote in primaries, it forces them to make a choice perhaps earlier than they would have liked.

In addition, New Hampshire is not going to take this lying down. New Hampshire law says its primary must be the first one. State law also gives the secretary of state the authority to set the primary date to make sure this happens. In previous years when the subject of "Who goes first?" came up, then-New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner (D) said he'd hold the primary on Halloween if he had to, but New Hampshire was going to be first. Gardner has retired, but his replacement, Acting Secretary of State David Scanlan (R), will probably take the same position. If New Hampshire insists on going first, the DNC can penalize candidates whose names are on the ballot, making the primary meaningless. That would solve the problem of two primaries in distant states on the same day.

In short, the last word on this has not yet been said. If the Republican-controlled states refuse to cooperate, we will be in uncharted territory. (V)

Trump Wants to Abolish the Constitution

For Donald Trump, the three basic necessities of life are food, drink, and national attention. The staff at Mar-a-Lago can handle the first two. There is a McDonalds on Belvedere Rd., about a 6-minute drive from Mar-a-Lago. Soft drinks can be bought in bulk and stored forever. But the staff can't get Trump the required attention. He has to do that himself and it is getting harder and harder since he hasn't done or said anything newsworthy since announcing his presidential run on Nov. 15—except having dinner with bigots and Nazis. But that was a week ago.

On Saturday, he thought of something to get some attention. He posted this item on Truth Social:

Do you throw the Presidential Election Results of 2020 OUT and declare the RIGHTFUL WINNER, or do you have a NEW ELECTION? A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution. Our great 'Founders' did not want, and would not condone, False & Fraudulent Elections!

It worked! The quote was covered by every media outlet from Axios to Yahoo! and everybody in between. Axios considered it news whereas Yahoo! put it in the Entertainment section. Either way, when a candidate for president says the Constitution should be ripped up, it is probably newsworthy. In the U.K., anti-monarchists are relatively common, but in the U.S., anti-constitutionalists are fairly rare. There is even a political party dedicated to (its interpretation of) the Constitution, the Constitution Party.

Trump calling for terminating the Constitution and just installing him as president certainly breaks new ground. Maybe it is an experiment on his part to see if there are any limits to what Republican officials will accept from him without objection. Last week he discovered that dining with Nazis was fine with most of them (except for a couple who dream of sitting in the big chair themselves). So he had to amp it up a bit.

This cartoon from Steve Breen of the San Diego Union-Tribune was drawn in Jan. 2021, but still reflects Trump's view of the Constitution.

Trump ordering a dog named Pence to pee on the Constitution

Needless to say, Democrats reacted strongly and quickly. White House spokesman Andrew Bates said: "Attacking the Constitution and all it stands for is anathema to the soul of our nation, and should be universally condemned." Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) was even less gentle: "A few hours ago the leader of the Republican Party, Donald Trump, called for destroying the Constitution and making himself dictator." The silence from Republican leaders was deafening. For example, Rep. David Joyce (R-OH) was on ABC's This Week yesterday. When George Stephanopoulos asked him what he thought about Trump wanting to toss the Constitution in the recycling bin, he wouldn't answer. He just replied: "He says a lot of things." There were a handful of Republicans, such as Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), who—when asked point-blank—did condemn Trump, but they were few and far between.

The timing of this outburst was probably not optimal. Although Trump has not appeared in Georgia to campaign for Herschel Walker, everyone there knows that Trump supports him. Hard-core Trump supporters will presumably vote for Walker tomorrow since nothing fazes them. However, there are bound to be a certain number of Republican-leaning voters in Georgia for whom terminating the Constitution is a couple of bridges too far. They might vote for Warnock or just stay home.

Looking a little further down the road, is this what Trump is going to campaign on? "Make me a dictator!" In 2016, he ran on a number of policy issues, including building a wall on the Mexican border and getting Mexico to pay for it, adding tariffs to goods from China, renegotiating NAFTA, banning Muslims from entering the country, repealing Obamacare, and cutting taxes. There were no doubt millions of people who might have been repelled by Trump's behavior but who liked the policy goals and therefore voted for him. How will that work in 2024? Is Trump going to be entirely fixated on how he "won" in 2020? For some people, that might be enough to get them to vote for Trump, but it will be nowhere near 50%.

One person who is no doubt smiling from ear to ear today is Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). The more Trump makes the election about himself and the less it is about issues, the better off DeSantis is. He can make his campaign entirely about issues like abortion, gay rights, critical race theory, woke corporations, taking the "elites" down a peg or two, and appeal to true conservatives on policy while at least seeming like the adult in the room to all Republicans. Probably not smiling at all are the people on Trump's campaign staff. They know that if all Trump talks about is himself and how he was cheated and DeSantis talks about all the culture-war issues that motivate conservative voters, it's going to be a grim primary season for Trump. But there is nothing they can do about it since Trump listens to no one. (V)

McCarthy Plans to Weaponize His Speakership

The role of Speaker of the House was copied from the British House of Commons. At first, the speaker represented the king and reported back to the king on what Parliament was doing. The king didn't always like what he was told. Seven speakers were executed for delivering unwelcome news to the king. More recently the British speaker is expected to be above the fray and not act in a partisan role. The U.S. speaker's role was based on that, but has evolved over time.

U.S. speakers are definitely partisan, but haven't misused their powers, for the most part. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) plans to change that if he becomes speaker. Yesterday on Fox News, McCarthy said again that he plans to kick Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) off the House Intelligence Committee. Has Schiff broken any law or House ethics rule? No. Has he lied in public of said anything hateful about anyone? No. So what's the problem? He led the first impeachment of Donald Trump and Trump wants revenge. And when Trump says: "Jump!" McCarthy asks: "How high, sir?"

McCarthy also plans to remove Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) and Ilhan Omar (DFL-MN) from their committees. Other than annoy Trump, Swalwell hasn't done anything, either. Ilhan made some remarks that could be interpreted as anti-Semitic but when pressed, she apologized and said she opposes Israel's policy toward the Palestinians, but does not have anything against Jews.

This is not the first time members have been removed from House committees. In February, a majority of the entire House (including 11 Republicans) voted to strip Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) of her committee assignments for her incendiary and violent speech. For McCarthy, the model is: "You removed some of our people so we will remove some of your people." That his people deserved it (and even some Republicans agreed) and Schiff and Swalwell don't, doesn't play any role here. Whatever Trump wants, Trump gets. (V)

Biden Is Making Marjorie Taylor Greene the Face of the Republican Party

For almost 2 years, Joe Biden has made nice to the Republicans in the hope of getting them to work with him on bipartisan legislation. He's gradually coming to realize that this is a fool's errand. There aren't many things on which they are going to work with him. So now he seems to be changing his tune and is starting to make the most inflammatory Republican, Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), the new face of the Republican Party. She makes a far better foil than the spine-free Kevin McCarthy or Old Crow over in the Senate.

In the past, not only did Biden refrain from calling out the Republicans in general, he also almost never called them out by name. That is changing now. And with Greene likely to lead the internal opposition within the GOP House caucus, she is about to become a household name. Well, more than she already is. Also, Elon Musk has unblocked her Twitter account, so she is free to spout things that Biden can cite as the "Republican position." Not all Republicans agree with Greene's views on everything—or anything, for that matter—but to the extent that Biden can convince the public that what Greene says is the Republican viewpoint, it will help the Democrats.

While Greene is definitely queen of the crazies, she's not alone. In the upcoming negotiations between McCarthy and the Freedom Caucus, no doubt many members are going to insist on getting committee chairs and other positions of power in trade for their votes. If Reps. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL) get visible positions, Biden will be able to hold them up as additional examples of what the Republicans want. From Biden's point of view, the crazier they are, the better targets they make. (V)

Election Is Over, So Florida May Decide It Loves Disney After All

Back in April, Ron DeSantis wanted to show the Florida voters that he was the most anti-woke politician in the state. So he picked a fight with the state's biggest employer, the Walt Disney Company, which employs about 45,000 people in Florida. The fight was about his pet "Don't say gay" law, which many of Disney's employees don't like. Disney was also an easy target because: (1) moving its Orlando-based parks to a different state would be horrendously expensive and (2) punishing it would be easy. The reason it was easy to punish Disney is that its parks are all situated in the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which functions like a city unto itself, thus avoiding property tax and local sales tax. To carry out the punishment, DeSantis asked the legislature to abolish Reedy Creek, which it did. Take that, Disney!

Now that the election is over, DeSantis doesn't have to play Macho Man anymore. One of the consequences of abolishing Reedy Creek is that the state now has to assume Reedy Creek's billion-dollar debt from the sale of its bonds. That means Florida may have to raise taxes to cover the interest and principal on the bonds. Raising taxes wouldn't look so good for DeSantis. So now the state legislature is working on legislation to give Reedy Creek (and the bonds) back to Disney. Of course, DeSantis knew about the debt all along. The whole business of punishing Disney was just an election stunt. The whole point was to show the voters how much DeSantis hated "woke" and was determined to fight it tooth and nail.

Proof that the whole thing was just a stunt to fool the voters was a provision in the April law that the reversion would not take place until the summer of 2023, giving the legislature time to undo it before it even kicked in. It was never serious in the first place. Maybe there will be some minor modifications so DeSantis can still claim victory ("Now they have to pay sales tax on the sale of Goofy dolls!"). The official cover story is that Disney has changed management recently, with Bob Chapek out and Bob Iger back in, and the state can't blame Iger for things Chapek did. This story is fishier than the Everglades, but the stunt accomplished its goal: getting DeSantis reelected, so the governor doesn't care if nobody believes it. And DeSantis can use it again when he runs for president.

In fact, taking on big companies and "the elites" is probably going to be the campaign theme for the Yale and Harvard Law-educated governor who was a a three-term congressman before being elected governor. That résumé is almost as good as working as a waiter in a small diner somewhere in rural Florida. (V)

The Race to Succeed Dianne Feinstein Has Already Started

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) will be 91 on Election Day 2024. A lot of people think Joe Biden is too old to run in 2024 at 81, but 91 is a whole different league. Biden makes gaffes sometimes, but he did this when he was much younger as well. He's not really showing many signs of aging. Feinstein is showing a lot of them. Most California Democratic politicians think she is way past her "use by" date and will not run for reelection in 2024. Consequently, there is already a big underground campaign going on to succeed her. The Democratic bench is groaning with potential candidates and they all know it is time to start now to get a leg up on the competition.

For starters, Adam Schiff has publicly said he is considering running. Reps. Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Katie Porter (D-CA) are hearing from people who want them to run. All of them are talking to former Democratic senator Barbara Boxer for advice. California is so blue that once a Democrat is elected to the Senate, he or she is sure of staying there until the cows come home. Or the senator hits 91. Thus open seats are exceedingly rare, making a potentially open seat a once-in-a-generation opportunity for ambitious Democrats. Well, unless someone vacates a seat to become vice president.

Feinstein hasn't said a word about her plans and wannabe senators are careful not to push her too hard. They know she bridles when pushed into a corner. But running a statewide campaign in California is a massive undertaking. It requires a large staff experienced in statewide elections and a ton of money. Waiting until Feinstein gets around to throwing in the towel just won't do and all the potential candidates know this. Feinstein is not serving her party well by playing coy.

In the event that Feinstein decides to run for reelection, the gloves will come off. She will have many primary opponents, all of whom will gently or not so gently say that she is too old and mentally not up to the job anymore. It would be a sad way for someone who has served her city (she was mayor of San Francisco) and state so well and so long to end her career, but it is her call. If she says: "I've done my best, but now it is time for a new generation" she will go out in glory, with Democrats up and down the line praising her. In the event of a primary, she will almost certainly lose due to California law. Even if she comes in first in the all-party primary, she will have to duke it out one-on-one in November 2024 with the second-place finisher, almost certainly another Democrat. In that race, which will focus almost entirely on her age and mental condition, and not on the issues since she and the challenger will agree on most of them, she is unlikely to win.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) is also considering a run, but at 76 she is probably too old. It takes at least 10 years of seniority to get any real power in the Senate, and by the time she got that, many people would be calling on her to retire. In contrast, Khanna is 46, Porter is 48, and Schiff is 62. If Feinstein were to retire before her term was up, Lee is the odds-on favorite to be appointed as a placeholder because the Black community would appreciate the gesture and Lee would almost certainly step out of the way in 2024 so the other contenders would have a level playing field.

Also relevant is that Porter and Schiff are prodigious fundraisers. Schiff led the first impeachment of Donald Trump, which gave him national exposure. Just to give you an idea, Lee raised $1.9 million in 2022 and had $126K on hand as of Sept. 30. Schiff raised $22.0 million and had $21.0 million in the bank on Sept. 30. Porter raised $22.7 million but had only $8.9 million left on Sept. 30. Schiff doesn't need that kind of money to run a House race in a D+23 district. Porter's district is only D+3, so $5 million would be nice, but $21 million is overkill for a House race. (V)

A December to Rhymember, Part I: Of Mantises and Atlantises

When we launched this feature last year, somewhat on a whim, the inspiration and the first target was Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). The Senator has now been supplanted in the hearts and minds of many Americans with a rather similar sort of fellow from a state to the east. And so, we shall begin with him this year. First up, from M.A. in Park Ridge, IL:

There once was a man from Nantucket...

Oh, oops. Not that one. Sorry.

And now comes a man named DeSantis
With all of the charm of a mantis
He likes to punch down
And to speak with a frown
Soon the country will learn what his rant is

And from K.C. in Los Angeles, CA:

So here we've got Ronald DeSantis
As charming as a praying mantis
He wants to be prez
No matter what the vote says
Let's send him to run on Atlantis

As you can see, there aren't so many things that rhyme with "DeSantis," so the Governor might not make quite as many appearances this year as the Senator did last year. Though you never know; we pick the verses based on that day's news, so if he calls for an end to the Constitution, we could have a whole week of praying mantis rhymes.

As always, submissions welcomed here. (Z)

Today's Senate Polls

Patriot Polling is run by two high school students, so don't take this one too seriously. But the serious pollsters have all avoided the runoff for some reason, so we're kind of scraping the bottom of the barrel here. These results do jibe with the other polls we have though. Given the polls, the early turnout, the most recent Walker news, and now Trump's willingness to trample on the Constitution, our best guess is that Warnock will be reelected, although heavy rain in Atlanta tomorrow could give Walker a boost. (V)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Georgia Raphael Warnock* 49% Herschel Walker 47% Nov 30 Dec 02 Patriot Polling

* Denotes incumbent

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