Will Sore Loser Trump Cost The GOP Their Senate Majority?
Early voting in Georgia for the Jan. 5 runoffs began this morning. The most recent non-partisan polling-- by Survey USA-- showed Raphael Warnock leading Kelly Loeffler 52-45% and Jon Ossoff leading David Perdue within the margin of error, 50-48%. It's not a very reliable poll but all the campaign polls that have leaked out also show the candidates incredibly close. It will all come down to the turnout. If you'd like to help Warnock and Ossoff replace the 2 knee-jerk Trumpists, please consider contributing to both or either of them directly here.
Meanwhile Trump and his most fanatical followers seem to be working to wreck the GOP in Georgia in retaliation for party officials refusing to steal the election for him.
Perry Bacon noted this morning that it is likely that a majority of Biden's winning vote in Georgia was cast by African-Americans. "What makes Georgia electorally unlike most swing states," he wrote, is its large Black population. About 33 percent of Georgians are Black, a much higher share than the nation overall (13 percent) and higher than all but two other states (Mississippi and Louisiana). To be more precise, what’s really different about Georgia’s electoral politics is that Democrats there are disproportionately Black... Warnock and Ossoff are somewhat unusual candidates to run for statewide office in the South and get strong backing from the Democratic Party-- Warnock is Black, Ossoff is a fairly liberal Jewish 33-year-old. For much of the past four decades, as the Republican Party has increasingly gained strength in the South, the Democratic Party has employed a two-pronged strategy to try to limit its losses: take more conservative stands than the national Democratic Party on some policies and embrace white candidates, usually men, in key statewide races. That strategy didn’t really work overall, but it’s not clear it was wrong either-- there was probably not any way to prevent the South from shifting Republican over the past several decades."
The problem with that strategy is that it turns off Democrats, some of whom just don't bother voting. "Stacey Abrams," continued Bacon, "had long criticized that approach as ignoring the growing number of voters of color in the South and the region’s liberalism on some issues."
Ossoff and Warnock’s approach is similar to Abrams’s campaign in 2018, when she ran for governor: a lot of focus on showing connectedness to Georgia’s Black community, but not a ton of policy, particularly on more controversial issues specifically aimed at Black people. Both Senate candidates frequently tout their connections to the civil rights-era hero they are associated with (Lewis for Ossoff, King for Warnock). Both candidates are prominently featuring Obama in their campaigns-- the former president praised Ossoff in a new TV commercial and appeared in a recent virtual rally for Ossoff and Warnock. And both men emphasize their support for the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, a measure that would essentially restore requirements that some states pre-clear with the U.S. Justice Department any changes in their voting procedures.
“Warnock and Ossoff back stances that are largely popular with Black voters-- including Medicaid expansion, decriminalizing marijuana and tackling student debt-- that would also level the playing field some in terms of systemic inequality,” said Terrence Clark, Warnoff’s communications director. Clark noted that both candidates speak openly and directly about how that inequality hurts Black people especially and aren’t worried about a backlash from this kind of racialized rhetoric. In Clark’s view, white voters in Georgia and across the country have “largely moved toward the left on social issues, so the electorate is not as sharply divided on issues that historically animate Black voters.”
And even as they take rather safe positions on racial issues, Ossoff and Warnock aren’t likely to join leading Democratic Party figures like Obama who are criticizing activists adopting more controversial stands like defunding the police. Why not? Because Ossoff and Warnock need strong turnout and support from all parts of the Black community, including younger Black people who might agree with more leftish positions. And Black Lives Matter and other left-leaning activist groups are on the ground in Georgia, trying to help the Democrats win there. So Ossoff and Warnock have little incentive to antagonize them.
...[W]hat Abrams has dubbed the “Abrams playbook” for Democrats in Georgia in particular-- trying to win a coalition of progressive white voters and people of color with candidates and strategies that connect with those two blocs-- may eventually be the default Democratic Party playbook for the South.
“This is a movement for health, jobs, and justice,” Ossoff said in a recent Twitter message, sounding like a civil rights activist as much as a politician.
He added, “@ReverendWarnock and I are building a multiracial, multi generational coalition: The New South.”
This morning, Washington Post reporters Ashley Parker, Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey looked at the dysfunctional relationship between Trump and the Georgia Republican Party. They wrote that the first major fissure in the relationship between Trump and Gov. Brian Kemp came a year ago, when Kemp-- with multimillionaire GOP donor Kelly Loeffler in tow-- paid Trump a clandestine visit in the White House residence. Kemp "presented Loeffler as a fait accompli-- telling Trump that he wanted the president to meet the woman he was planning to name to the Senate. Well, if you’ve already made your decision, Trump grumbled, then I’m not sure why you’re here, according to people familiar with the conversation. Trump later complained to aides that Kemp was rude and impolite-- never forgiving the Georgia governor for what he viewed as a major slight."
And it got worse from there-- boiling over into a full-blown feud when Trump lost the heavily Republican state last month. Trump never stops whining that "Kemp was not pushing Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to do more to reverse President-elect Joe Biden’s victory; that Kemp was not defending the president on television; and, perhaps most indefensible in Trump’s mind, that Kemp moved forward with certifying the results of the election. 'Republicans fell into a trap by expecting Brad Raffensperger and Brian Kemp to cheat for them,' said Jordan Fuchs, a longtime Republican strategist in Georgia who is a deputy secretary of state under Raffensperger, and who says the ongoing civil war in her party will have long-term consequences at the polls, including in the state’s two Senate runoff races on Jan. 5."
Since the election, Trump has personally berated Kemp in private phone calls, people familiar with the conversations said. In one call, the president told Kemp he was losing all of his popularity by not strongly supporting him, and in another, the president pointedly reminded the governor that he had endorsed him in 2018.
Trump has also called Loeffler and Sen. David Perdue... to complain about Kemp, though he has not given them any specific edicts beyond generally pressuring Kemp to support the president’s efforts to overturn the election results, one person familiar with the calls said. Loeffler and Perdue did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“Maybe I should recruit someone to run against him,” the president said in one of these calls, this person added. “Your governor is horrible. He would be nothing without me.”
Trump emissaries have warned Kemp that the president plans to continue to relentlessly attack him and will publicly criticize him when he returns to the state on behalf of the Republican Senate candidates, possibly on Saturday. The president has attacked Kemp on Twitter, lambasted him at a rally in Valdosta, earlier this month and went after him again during an interview that aired Sunday on Fox News.
“We won Georgia by a lot,” Trump falsely claimed to Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade. “We have a governor, a Republican governor, that’s worse than a Democrat. He’s terrible. And he’s hurting Kelly and David very badly, the senators, that are terrific people.”
Kemp, meanwhile, has told allies that he can’t spend his time worrying about Trump’s vindictive tweets and rhetorical broadsides, and that while he wishes the president would stop attacking him, he believes it would be illegal to do most of what Trump is asking. Instead, he said, he is focused on keeping Georgia open as coronavirus cases continue to rise.
...At the core of the president’s displeasure is his belief that Kemp has not kowtowed to him enough.
“Kemp stood out as a Republican governor who didn’t seem to think he needed Trump,” said a senior White House official. “He’s never shown a particular need to play ball with the president, which I think really irked Trump, so that’s kind of the origin of it.”
...[I]t was Kemp’s handling of his selection of Loeffler to fill Georgia’s empty Senate seat in late 2019 that particularly angered the president, culminating in the frosty White House meeting that November. Kemp never consulted Trump about the Senate seat when it first opened. And after Kemp created an online application process for the post, Trump complained privately that the Georgia governor was treating the process as if he was “hiring a truck driver,” according to an outside Republican in frequent contact with the White House.
The two men clashed again during the early days of the coronavirus crisis.
Trump initially was supportive of an April 20 executive order from Kemp aimed at opening up businesses in the state, which jibed with Trump’s own push at the time to reopen many businesses against the advice of his public health advisers. Kemp spoke to both the president and the vice president the next day, and both told him they thought it was a good approach, according to a Kemp aide with knowledge of the calls.
Trump had a sudden change of heart, however, in the wake of fierce public criticism of the breadth of Kemp’s order. Trump called Kemp back and was particularly “agitated” about the decision to reopen salons and spas, according to White House officials and people involved in the governor’s race. At a White House briefing, Trump said, “I told the governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, that I disagree strongly with his decision to open certain facilities.”
...But Kemp’s biggest alleged sin, in Trump’s view, came in the aftermath of Trump’s disappointing Election Day showing. Several local Republican strategists speculate that the root of Trump’s recent anger with Kemp is simply the fact that he lost Georgia-- a conservative state where those below him on the ticket fared better than he did, and where Stacey Abrams, the state’s top Democrat, is credited with building the organization that led to the president’s defeat.
The irony is that Kemp is among the Republican officials in the state who worked relentlessly on Trump’s behalf, said one Republican official in Georgia, noting that the governor held multiple rallies, other appearances and phone recordings with Trump family members.
“No one worked harder to reelect Donald Trump in Georgia than Governor Kemp,” Kemp spokesman Cody Hall said in a statement. “Since Election Day, the governor has called for a signature audit three times, demanded all allegations of fraud to be fully investigated, and supported the President pursuing legal options afforded him under Georgia state law.”
Still, Hall added, “There is no basis in state law for the governor to overturn the results, interfere in election administration or overrule the constitutional authority of our elected secretary of state.”
At the Valdosta rally, Trump publicly encouraged Doug Collins to primary Kemp. "You want to run for governor in two years? Yeah. Good-looking governor... Kemp, continued The Post trio, "clearly has had his eye on his reelection bid all year. Kemp’s narrow win over Abrams in 2018 was dominated by the debate over voting rights and voter suppression. Abrams characterized Kemp as an architect of the disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of Georgians, mostly people of color, through an extensive culling of the state’s voter roll." Abrams is definitely running again. 'This is what it looks like when your party is losing: scapegoating, finger-pointing,' Raffensperger said.