We specialize in lost causes in the South, so maybe it’s not surprising that Georgia Republicans seem wedded to the idea, publicly at least, that President Donald Trump is going to win the White House in 2020 by hook or by crook.
In reality Monday, Georgia officially cast its 16 electoral votes for president to Joe Biden, marking the first time a Democrat has won the state since 1992. But elsewhere in the state, including the State Capitol, nearly all of Georgia’s top Republicans avoided or outright refused to acknowledge that Biden has won the White House.
In an interview with the AJC, Gov. Brian Kemp stood by his decision to certify, and later re-certify, the election following three separate tallies. But he also stopped short of conceding that President Donald Trump lost.
From one of your Insiders:
Although Georgia's 16 Democratic electors formally cast their ballots for Biden on Monday, Kemp told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he still wasn't prepared to concede Trump's defeat, saying he would respect the legal process and “reevaluate that when all that plays out."
“I'm disappointed in the results so far, in regards to the election, but also I've got to follow these laws and the Constitution and that's what I'm doing," Kemp said. “It's a little frustrating that there are some out there who don't know where these duties fall, and I'm being blamed for a lot of things."
“It's ridiculous, quite honestly, that many are blaming me for being responsible for what happened in the election," he said.
Other Republicans went plenty further than Kemp, who might have danced around the question about Biden’s victory but also made clear he wasn’t trying to circumvent the law. In fact, an entire slate of GOP presidential electors met to cast their own 16 shadow “electoral votes” for Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
One of your Insiders was on hand as the bizarre scene unfolded:
“An aide standing outside the door falsely said a group of “educators" were meeting. Inside, a member of the GOP contingent said they were “checking legal boxes" to preserve Trump's legal challenges if any of his long-shot lawsuits prevail. Over an hour long ceremony, Republicans assigned their own shadow slate of electors."
GOP chair David Shafer contended later that the electors met because a Trump campaign lawsuit challenging Georgia’s results is “still pending” in Fulton County Superior Court.
“Had we not met today and cast our votes, the President’s pending election contest would have been effectively mooted,” Shafer wrote on Twitter.
The contest was “mooted” by the vote of the Electoral College, which Biden won 306 to 232. On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell became the highest profile Republican to congratulate Biden, joining the growing ranks of other colleagues who have recognized Trump’s defeat.
In an interview, Shafer was asked whether he would abandon the push for a rival slate of electors if the lawsuit is rejected.
”I’m hopeful that it’s simply heard, I mean we filed the lawsuit a week ago and it’s yet to be assigned to a judge who’s eligible to hear it.”
Over in Augusta on Monday, Sen. David Perdue also told his crowd of supporters it’s not over yet. He didn’t take questions at an Atlanta stop late Monday, but the Savannah Morning News reports he said earlier in the day that Trump “still has recourses.”
“Fewer today than he had a few weeks ago,” Perdue said. “But the Secretary of State today announced they’re going to have a signature audit of Cobb County. (Trump) is exercising his right to get to the bottom of this.”
State elections officials have said that the signature audit of Cobb County votes will have no effect on the outcome of the race.
Perdue made his third Augusta-area appearance in less than a week Monday to garner support in his Jan. 5 runoff with Democrat Jon Ossoff.
U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, too, has yet to say that Trump has lost his re-election battle.
Scheduling note: President-elect Joe Biden will be in Atlanta today at 2:00 stumping for Democrats and Rev. Raphael Warnock. Vice president Mike Pence heads to Columbus on Thursday for Perdue and Sen. Kelly Loeffler.
According to stats from the first day of early voting for the Jan. 5 runoffs for U.S. Senate, we’re seeing a significant shift from mail-in balloting to in-person early voting.
Georgiavotes.com tells us that as of Monday, total turnout for the Jan. 5 runoffs is 24% lower than at this point in the Nov. 3 general election. The number of mail-in ballots cast stands at 314,499 – some 37% down from the general election at this point.
However, 168,293 in-person votes were cast on Monday – a 23% jump from this point in the general election.
While Georgia Republicans may be pulling for Trump, he’s not necessarily fighting for them.
Politico leads today with the incredible frustration Trump is causing within the GOP by blasting out fundraising emails about the two Georgia Senate seats, but directing supporters to give to his own campaign, not those of Georgia Republicans. (If donors send more than $5,000, 25% of their donation then goes to the RNC, which paid for Trump’s recent visit to the state.)
Gainesville’s Martha Zoller, who chairs the pro-Republican Georgia United Victory PAC, tells Politico:
“Money is speech, and if it can get to the right place it should be used. But if it’s going to [Trump’s] leadership PAC and not being spent on the behalf of David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler I think that’s problematic.”
On Monday, U.S. Sen. David Perdue said two things worth noting during an interview on Fox & Friends. The first was in reaction to a statement from Stacey Abrams over the weekend – that 85,000 absentee ballot applications have already been made by voters who didn’t vote in the Nov. 3 election. Said Perdue:
“We’re trying to segregate all the people who registered after the November election and have gotten an absentee ballot. We want those treated as a provisional ballot to make sure.”
A provisional ballot requires an additional layer of proof to verify the eligibility of the voter after that ballot has been cast. Republicans have said they are fearful that Democrats will move into Georgia simply to register to vote in the Jan. 5 runoffs – although the only known case of this happening involves a Republican attorney from Florida.
But if Perdue and others are successful in this effort, it also means that if you turned 18 on or after Nov. 4, have registered to vote, and then cast a mail-in or drop-off ballot, you would have to jump through an extra hoop to have your vote count.
Then there was this remark that Perdue made about his Democratic rival Ossoff: “I’m running against a guy who worked directly for the Chinese Communist Party in China.”
Unless Perdue can point to a check from the Chinese Communist Party to Ossoff – because “directly” means no middle-man, no intermediary - this is a falsehood.
Here’s what the AJC ran on the topic just a few days ago:
The [Ossoff] campaign said Ossoff's company, which produces investigations for news agencies, received around $1,000 through a distributor for two investigations it made on Islamic State war crimes that were rebroadcast by PCCW in Hong Kong. Though the payments were below the $5,000 reporting threshold, the campaign said the sums were disclosed in the interest of transparency.
“David Perdue's fever dream that Jon Ossoff is some kind of Chinese communist agent because a TV channel in Hong Kong once broadcast two of his company's films exposing ISIS war crimes is one of the most laughable smear campaigns in Georgia history," said Ossoff spokeswoman Miryam Lipper.
Nathan Gonzales, Roll Call’s resident political analyst, is calling both of Georgia’s Senate races “toss-ups.”
Gonzales noted problems with some polls going into the November contests, especially the surveys that showed Republicans could lose multiple House seats (the GOP gained 12.) But he added that he’s not using polls for this call.
“The bottom line is that we don’t have to rely as heavily on polling for these runoffs because we have something even more valuable: a recent election with people voting.”
Gonzales pointed to Perdue’s November finish just a whisker south of 50%, at 49.7%, compared to Ossoff’s 47.9%.
He also did the math on the special election primary for Loeffler’s seat, where Republican candidates combined for 49.4% of the vote, compared to 48.4% for Democratic hopefuls, including Warnock.
As we mentioned, Perdue capped a daylong fly-around tour on Monday with a stop in Atlanta, where he gave a brief stump speech to a cheering crowd that ended with his slogan: “We’re going to win Georgia, save America.”
As is typical, he was preceded by his cousin, Agricultural Secretary Sonny Perdue, who implored Republicans to “vote early and often” - the latter being an encouragement for supporters to urge their friends and family to vote.
Left unmentioned was any recognition of the Electoral College vote in Georgia and across the nation that affirmed Biden’s victory. Sens. Perdue and Loeffler have refused to acknowledge Biden’s win, echoing other Republicans fearful of blowback from President Donald Trump and his allies pushing false claims of a “rigged” vote.
Instead, shortly after Biden crossed the threshold of 270 electoral votes, the senators issued a joint statement opposing any effort to change the name of the Atlanta Braves, following the Cleveland franchise’s decision to rename the Indians baseball team.
“The Braves’ name honors our nation’s Native American heritage, which should not be erased — and under no circumstances should one of the most celebrated teams in sports cave to the demands of the cancel culture and the radical left,” the two said.
The team’s officials have made clear there are no plans to change the name.
Loeffler is an owner of one of Atlanta’s other professional sports teams, the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream, whose players she has battled with throughout her Senate campaign.
“Sports need to be about unity and bringing us together,” Loeffler said over the summer.
In an apparent fit of pique, state Rep. Valencia Stovall, D-Forest Park, has declared herself an independent for the final weeks of her term – after finishing 19th out of 20 candidates in the all-comers race for U.S. Senate. Her Twitter message from last week:
Its official. Changed my party from Democrat to Independent for the remainder of my term. The 2 party system has to be shaken up. Too many disruptions & distractions away from the needs of the ppl during Nov 3rd election & afterwards
Stovall’s District 74 seat in the Legislature was filled on Nov. 3 by Yasmin Neal, a Democrat.
Questions about Sally Yates’ law firm’s clients are swirling around Washington and complicating Joe Biden’s decision about whether to name her attorney general, Politico reports.
Her firm, King & Spalding, refused to say whether Yates was among the attorneys who helped prepare Google employees for a congressional hearing this summer. One partner at the firm who worked under Yates during her stint as deputy attorney general, was publicly identified as among those who helped Google’s chief executive get ready for the questioning.
The Justice Department has since opened an investigation of Google, meaning if Yates becomes the nation’s top prosecutor and had prior involvement in the case she might need to recuse herself. Politico also reports that Yates might also be asked to stay hands-off of the federal investigation of Hunter Biden.
Our WSB Radio colleague Jamie Dupree sent along a Fox News clip from last night, in which U.S. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., reinforces what we’re likely to see when the Legislature convenes in January – a full-on rewrite of Georgia’s absentee ballot laws. Said Graham:
“There’s two threats to conservatism – mass mail-in voting, unverified, and social media companies unregulated – unable to be sued when they take down the content of conservatives. Social media companies and mail-in voting will destroy conservatism if we don’t push back.”
Now that Dupree has your attention: As you might have heard, Dupree and the Cox radio network will be parting ways very soon. A three-decade veteran of Washington, Dupree is starting up a D.C.-oriented newsletter dubbed “Regular Order.” It’s free for now, but will soon have a small subscription fee. Here’s a sample of his coming work product.