The Jolt: One measure of Trump fatigue in Georgia -- among Republicans

November 21, 2020 Atlanta - Counterprotesters (background) line up during a rally against the results of the U.S. presidential election outside the Georgia State Capitol  on Saturday, November 21, 2020. Several different groups converged on the Georgia State Capitol for a rally to show support for and against President Donald Trump. (Photo: Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Combined ShapeCaption
November 21, 2020 Atlanta - Counterprotesters (background) line up during a rally against the results of the U.S. presidential election outside the Georgia State Capitol on Saturday, November 21, 2020. Several different groups converged on the Georgia State Capitol for a rally to show support for and against President Donald Trump. (Photo: Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Donald Trump is expected in Georgia on Saturday, even as the president continues to scapegoat Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger for his November defeat here.

A Saturday rally, on behalf of U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, would be his first major public appearance since losing to Democrat Joe Biden.

So it was worth crunching some numbers to better understand what Trump brings to the table – and what he doesn’t. If you’re a rational human being, these same numbers can be used to undercut fact-free claims of a fixed election.

In the Georgia general election, Trump received 2,461,837 votes, or 49.25% of 4,998,482 ballots cast. Biden won 2,474,507 votes, or 49.51%. Remember those numbers.

It isn’t statistically notable that, in his race against Democrat Jon Ossoff, Senator Perdue finished 780 votes ahead of the incumbent president -- except to note that their two fates were tied together. But consider this:

There were 4,883,485 votes cast in Georgia’s 14 contests for U.S. House seats – a drop-off of 114,997 votes from the presidential contest. But even with that drop-off, Republican candidates earned 2,490,396 (50.9%) of those votes. Enough to beat Joe Biden by 15,889 votes.

In other words, there were 28,559 Trump-fatigued voters in Georgia who refused to endorse the president’s re-election, but were willing to send a Republican to Congress. If Georgia’s election machine was rigged, this very significant bragging point goes out the window, too.

This resiliency of the Georgia GOP brand carried down the ballot, and explains the limitations of Democratic gains in what the latter had anticipated would be a banner year.

Republican candidates accounted for 53.7% of votes cast in state Senate contests. And GOP candidates earned 51.2% of votes cast in state House races.

***

What President Donald Trump wrote via Twitter at 8:59 a.m. this morning:

Why won't Governor @BrianKempGA, the hapless Governor of Georgia, use his emergency powers, which can be easily done, to overrule his obstinate Secretary of State, and do a match of signatures on envelopes. It will be a “goldmine" of fraud, and we will easily WIN the state....

***

Just posted: Brian Kemp’s office this morning offered its first response to President Donald Trump’s calls for him to help him overturn Georgia’s election results with a reminder that state law “prohibits the governor from interfering in the election.” More:

The Georgia Republican has become a favorite target of Trump, who said Sunday he was “ashamed" that he endorsed him in 2018 and tweeted Monday that the “hapless" governor should use non-existent “emergency powers."

“Georgia law prohibits the governor from interfering in elections. The Secretary of State, who is an elected constitutional officer, has oversight over elections that cannot be overridden by executive order," said Kemp spokesman Cody Hall.

***

No, there was no broad Republican outcry at President Donald Trump’s rant on Sunday that he was “ashamed” to endorse Gov. Brian Kemp.

Just as Republican elected officials have largely stood by as Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is bullied by the president and his allies for defending the integrity of election, even Kemp’s staunchest supporters stayed silent after Trump lashed out in one of his first interviews since his defeat.

U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue didn’t come to his defense. Neither did other top Republican officials. Even Kemp declined to comment. Among the few who did were former Republican legislators, like Buzz Brockway and Allen Peake.

“This is absolutely ridiculous. Brian Kemp has done an incredible job leading our state during the worst pandemic of our lifetime,” said Peake, a Macon Republican who didn’t stand for another term in 2018.

“I for one am tired of Trump’s whining. Man up, admit you got beat, and do what’s right for our country. I’ll be backing Kemp in 2022.”

The president, meanwhile, was at it again early Monday with a tweet urging “hapless” Kemp to use “emergency powers” to block the certification of election results that have already been certified.

Constitutional law professor Anthony Kreis offered this response:

“There are no such powers conferred on Gov. Kemp by either the Ga. Const. or the OCGA. Sec. Raffensperger is not only an independent state constitutional executive officer, he's the designated chief elections officer by law. Both have discharged their duties under the OCGA."

***

The latest reflection of Republican fears that President Donald Trump’s supporters will boycott the election: His son is launching a Super PAC aimed at driving Trump loyalists to turn out for the Jan. 5 runoffs.

The Save the U.S. Senate PAC will this week start airing commercials on conservative outlets featuring Trump Jr. that are aimed at mobilizing Trump backers across Georgia, Politico reports.

On a similar note, Vice President Mike Pence is slated to make his second trip to Georgia on Friday to drive out GOP voters. He’s set to hold a rally in Savannah, two weeks after he held a pair of events for the Republican incumbents in Canton and Gainesville.

***

Another interesting paragraph from Politico.com, from a piece on young voters who drifted away from President Trump:

In the end, Trump saw a decline in his youth support from four years ago in Arizona, Florida, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and several other states. Only Georgia and Michigan saw a slight increase in Trump voters under the age of 29 — from 33 percent in 2016 to 39 percent this cycle in Georgia, and 34 percent to 35 percent in Michigan, according to exit poll data. But the gains were not enough to put either state in the president's column.

***

The only debate featuring two U.S. Senate candidates from Georgia is going national. Sunday’s Atlanta Press Club showdown between U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Democrat Raphael Warnock will be simulcast on CNN and streamed on ABC’s online outlet as well. You can also find it locally on GPB.

***

Senate Democrats have tried to keep the focus of their campaigns squarely on the pandemic. Republicans are increasingly pushing back.

After Jon Ossoff aired a TV ad Sunday slashing U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s handling of the pandemic, the Republican’s campaign accused his rival of hypocrisy because of his criticism of a proposed stimulus program that Democrats dubbed a “slush fund.”

And U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler had a stinging response to Raphael Warnock on social media when he criticized her approach to the pandemic: “We’ve delivered $14.6 billion in relief to 174,000 Georgia small businesses & saved 1.5 million Georgia jobs. What have you done?”

***

You won’t be hearing much this week from Martha Zoller, the political talk show host on WDUN (AM 550) in Gainesville. She entered a local hospital on Saturday night for what was discovered to be a burst abscess on a lung. Zoller was still hospitalized Sunday, but expected to be home resting soon – with a full recovery in the offing.

***

The Biden-Harris administration made history Sunday in announcing an all-female senior communications team. That group includes Georgian Kate Bedingfield, who will serve as the new president’s communications director.

Bedingfield previously served as the Biden campaign’s deputy manager and communications director, and she also is an alum of the Obama White House. She grew up in Sandy Springs and attended Riverwood High School.

She is the first person with Georgia ties who has been publicly identified as a senior member of the incoming administration.

***

Georgia’s COVID-19 positive rate may be much higher than the state has reported, AJC reporter J. Scott Trubey writes. The crux: by not updating a widely circulated website to include daily results for rapid antigen tests, the state isn’t providing an accurate reflection of its coronavirus cases.

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis of DPH data through Wednesday shows the state's two-week per capita case rate would be about one-third higher if antigen positives were included in the calculations with the gold standard PCR tests. On Wednesday, DPH reported a rate of 313 infections per 100,000 people, or three times the level DPH considers as substantial spread. Including antigen tests, the AJC found the two-week case rate that would grow to 412 infections per 100,000, or four times the substantial spread level.

The seven-day rolling average of reported cases would be 3,362 cases per day through Wednesday if antigen tests were included, or about a third more than PCR tests alone. That rolling average would be about 10% below Georgia's peak reported daily case average level in July (though test positivity now for PCR tests is lower, suggesting Georgia is capturing more cases than in the summer).

In 60 of Georgia's 159 counties, the two-week case rate would climb by 50% or more, including in 16 counties where the rate would be double or more than what is published daily on DPH's website, according to the most recent county-level antigen data examined by the AJC.

***

In case you missed it: a Thanksgiving Eve report from The New York Times about a federal investigation into Perdue’s trades during the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic shows he did have some input on trades made on his behalf.

That appears to conflict with what he has said for months about his portfolio: that outside financial advisers handle decision making.

Perdue’s campaign said the senator was involved in approving broad investment strategy decisions when it came to his shares of the data marketing firm Cardlytics, but that creates no contradiction with his previous statements.

***

It may be one of the most overlooked races of the year: Tuesday’s runoff to determine who will fill the remainder of the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis’ term in office. Either former Atlanta city councilman Kwanza Hall or former Morehouse College president Robert Franklin will be sworn in for a term that will last roughly a month and may or may not include any actual time in Washington.

The U.S. House is working this week and through the weekend in hopes of passing government funding ahead of a Dec. 11 shutdown deadline. There is also a pending vote on a military defense bill that includes renaming bases named after Confederate leaders. New coronavirus stimulus may be squeezed in.

If Tuesday’s runoff results are contested or it takes a while to certify a winner, the U.S. House may be done with its business before the new congressman from Georgia’s Fifth can be sworn in. That won’t keep him from forever holding the title of a U.S. representative, but the question is will the winner have cast any votes during his brief term in office.