The Jolt: “We’re assuming that we’re going to be standing out here alone,” said David Perdue

Senators David Perdue, left, Kelly Loeffler, center, and Florida Senator Rick Scott, right, joined together for a rally on Friday, November 13, 2020 at Black Diamond Grill in Cumming, GA.  Both Georgia candidates head to a run-off election in January.  (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal Constitution)
Senators David Perdue, left, Kelly Loeffler, center, and Florida Senator Rick Scott, right, joined together for a rally on Friday, November 13, 2020 at Black Diamond Grill in Cumming, GA. Both Georgia candidates head to a run-off election in January. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Because everyone’s head is spinning, let us briefly summarize what you can find below:

  • Last week, one day after they called for Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s resignation, U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler were on a phone call with GOP donors in which they expressed doubts about President Trump’s legal strategy to save himself. “We’re assuming that we’re going to be standing out here alone,” Perdue said.
  • Raffensperger on Monday alleged that U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., asked him him whether, as secretary of state, he had the power to toss all mail ballots in counties found to have higher rates of non-matching signatures.
  • Former U.S. senator Saxby Chambliss on Monday rejected false claims from the Trump campaign and its allies that large-scale fraud or irregularities may have occurred in Georgia’s elections.
  • And we point you to a pretty clear explanation to the signature-match situation on absentee ballots, as explained by the chairman of the Cobb GOP.

***

Now to business. The Nov. 10 phone call with GOP donors, detailed by the Washington Post this morning, featured Perdue, Loeffler, and Karl Rove, who is now coordinating the fundraising for the two Jan. 5 runoffs. Doubts were expressed about President Trump’s survivability, and the impact that his legal battle could have on Georgia turnout:

[Perdue] said he fully supports Trump and his dispute of the results in several states. But, he said, “we're assuming that we're going to be standing out here alone. And that means that we have to get the vote out, no matter what the outcome of that adjudication is on the recount in two states and some lawsuits, and others. Kelly and I can't wait for that."

And from Loeffler:

“We think that Trump voters are going to continue to be very energized, and we don't think we'll have a problem with that," Loeffler said. “But the question is about the Democrat turnout. We don't know. We can't take for granted that we're going to keep everyone motivated."

In the conversation, Perdue confirmed what we’ve seen from outside, that he and Loeffler are essentially running as a single ticket, having “fully integrated our teams.”

***

A spokesman for Brad Raffensperger has confirmed the contents of a Washington Post piece, in which the secretary of state alleged that U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham asked him if he had the power to reject more absentee ballots as election officials conduct a recount and audit of the presidential race. From the AJC’s Mark Niesse:

Raffensperger, who is also a Republican, said Graham appeared to be suggesting that he find a way to reject legally-cast ballots to help President Donald Trump's reelection chances.

“It sure looked like he was wanting to go down that road," Raffensperger told the Post.

Graham denied encouraging Raffensperger to reject legal votes and said he was merely asking how Georgia's signature matching process worked. He said he wasn't asked to do so by Trump.

***

The ongoing recount in Georgia’s presidential race has found more than 2,600 ballots in Floyd County that hadn’t originally been tallied. Per the secretary of state’s website, Democrat Joe Biden’s lead over Republican incumbent Donald Trump is 14,156 votes this morning.

***

In an interview with our AJC colleague Tamar Hallerman, former U.S. senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia backed Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his handling of the election.

“I just have not heard that there’s any kind of massive election fraud or scheming going on in Georgia relative to the elections,” said Chambliss, the former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “I thought that the secretary of state has done what he’s charged with doing by law.”

Chambliss was careful not to criticize Trump directly, although he said the president needed to present facts backing up his claims of sweeping fraud.

“I’m glad to see the president has been investigating the election -- I’m all for that,” said Chambliss, who stepped down from the Senate in 2014. “But if there are allegations, they’ve simply got to be backed up by facts in order to call into question the election.”

Trump and his allies have provided little evidence so far to back up their allegations in court.

Chambliss, who now consults on cybersecurity issues, including on several national intelligence boards, said he had “every reason to think that this election was done in a very safe and secure manner from the standpoint of interference, particularly from foreign entities.”

“I know that from a federal government standpoint we did everything we could to ensure that there was no interference,” he said. “And I hope that as we delve into it further we’ll find that’s exactly the case.”

On U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler calling for Raffensperger to resign: “We do have the right to express ourselves with regard to differences of opinion on what happened in the election. But I just haven’t seen any evidence of any kind of scheme or fraudulent activity. I’m sure Sens. Perdue and Loeffler had their reasons for saying what they said, but I just haven’t seen it. They’re closer to it than I am.”

***

Jason Shepherd, chairman of the Cobb County GOP, has posted on his Facebook page a cogent explanation on the signature-match debate involving absentee ballots -- and why it is ultimately a dead end for the Trump campaign:

In March, the State of Georgia was being sued by the Democratic Party. Instead of continuing to fight the lawsuit which would have cost millions in taxpayer funds, the two parties (the State of Georgia and the Democratic Party) reached a settlement called a “consent agreement."

It was signed by the attorneys for the two parties including the Attorney General of Georgia and attorney Vincent Russo, who was representing the State of Georgia, but who also was and is currently the General Counsel for the Georgia Republican Party appointed by Chairman David Shafer. The consent agreement did two things;

1. Required if the signature does not match, the voter be contacted and have 3 business days to “cure" their ballot, which means show up in person with an ID showing they are who they are or else their ballot would still be rejected, and

2. Allow the signature to be verified by comparing it to the signature on file OR the signature on the application for an absentee ballot.

The first point provides for more ballot security, but the second point seems to provide for much less. I will explain it.

It’s worth reading in its entirety.

***

More detailed data about voters in the general election is becoming available. The numbers help paint the picture of how Joe Biden won Georgia -- but also could give Democrats something to worry about.

While Black turnout increased numerically, the share of voters who are Black in the election that ended Nov. 3 was the lowest since 2006, according to New York Times data expert Nate Cohn. Biden’s greatest improvements in the presidential race were in the suburbs that ring Atlanta and represent high-income neighborhoods.

State Democrats offered some pushback. A growing number of voters are refusing to identify themselves by race, and some of them are certainly Black voters. That could create a 3% or so difference between what the data says and who actually showed up at the polls, Democrats say. More here.

***

On a similar note, a New York Times op-ed argues that Democrats can’t be certain of a lock on Hispanic voters in future elections. From the piece by Marisa Franco, director of the grass-roots group Mijente:

The numbers already show that Latinos were a major factor in Democratic victories in Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico. And in cities where Black voters broke hard for Mr. Biden, Latinos helped expand the margins, going 75 percent for him in Philadelphia, 77 percent in Milwaukee and 75 percent in Gwinnett County, Ga., according to exit polling from U.C.L.A.'s Latino Policy and Politics Initiative.

The varied results in areas with high Latino density, like Maricopa County, Ariz.; Miami-Dade County; and the Rio Grande Valley simply show that Latinos are not monolithic. Together, these outcomes are a window into the future of a growing Latino electorate. And they offer a warning sign to the Democratic Party: Don't expect Latinos to be reliably blue if we cannot rely on you.

***

No surprise here, but U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler officially received President Donald Trump’s stamp of approval on Monday. He replied to a Tweet of support from Loeffler with his own Twitter endorsement: “I strongly stand with Kelly & David. They are both great and MUST WIN!”

There have been some indications that Trump will make it to Georgia before Jan. 5 to rally his troops. The same can be said for Joe Biden. Vice President Mike Pence will be here on Friday.

***

No, Georgia’s Senate Democratic candidates aren’t running away from Joe Biden.

Jon Ossoff released a new direct-to-camera ad linking himself to the president-elect’s strategy to beat the coronavirus pandemic. “The only way to beat this new virus is to give our new president the chance to succeed. I’ll work with Joe Biden to empower the medical experts,” Ossoff says. Watch it here.

***

In the 2012 presidential election, Olivia Pearson of Coffee County was accused of multiple felonies for helping a first-time voter understand how to work a voting machine. The south Georgia activist was acquitted of any wrongdoing earlier this year.

She was arrested again on Oct. 27. Slate has the update about Pearson’s Oct. 27 arrest in Coffee County after she attempted to help a 40-year-old woman described as illiterate.

Misty Martin, the elections supervisor for Coffee County, apparently told Pearson it was not allowed -- even though Pearson said the woman she was assisting had signed paperwork to authorize help in the voting booth. From Slate:

"She began hollering and screaming at me, saying, ‘These are my buttons, my machines, don't touch them,' " Pearson told a reporter from Slate. "I kept asking her questions and she hollered, ‘Call 911.' " Pearson and her former student left, but Pearson returned an hour later with another family friend she'd promised to take to the polls. This time, when she pulled into the parking lot, they were met by three police vehicles. One of the officers presented Pearson with a criminal trespass warning.

“What is the reason I have to leave?" Pearson told me she asked the officer. Martin came outside and the two women went back and forth again before the officers arrested Pearson and placed her in handcuffs.

Pearson was charged with criminal trespass and released from the local jail after a few hours. The local paper also reported she is banned from polling places for the remainder of the year. She has a court date next month.

***

The Republican runoff candidates might be running as a packaged deal, but that doesn’t mean they share the same strategy. U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler has conducted more interviews and attended more public events than U.S. Sen. David Perdue, who has held only one of each.

And Loeffler broke with Perdue again on Monday when she told Fox News that she would debate Democrat Raphael Warnock “as many times as he wants.” From the transcript:

"I would welcome another chance to debate Raphael Warnock.

"Look, we had a debate. I had the opportunity in that debate to show how radical his agenda is. And we're just getting started. So I welcome that opportunity (to) also show what I've done for Georgians ...

“So, Georgians need to know who he is and I welcome that chance to debate him as many times as he wants."

That’s a contrast from Perdue, who shut down talk of a showdown with Jon Ossoff by saying he’d rather focus on turning out the conservative base than meet in a debate.

***

We’re nearing another spending threshold in the U.S. Senate runoffs -- the $100 million mark.

With new ad buys, spending in the race for U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s seat is now around $36.4 million. And the ad buys for U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s seat is now at $61 million.

The breakdown from media guru Rick Dent shows Republicans have a roughly two-to-one spending advantage.

Loeffler’s allies have poured in about $40 million for her campaign as opposed to $21 million for Warnock’s allies. In Perdue’s race, it’s about $24 million for the Republicans and $12 million for the Democrats.

Don’t expect that GOP edge to hold, though, as more money flies in from all corners.

***

New hire alerts:

-- Abigail Sigler is joining the Georgia GOP as a spokeswoman. She oversaw communications on Bill Hagerty’s winning Senate campaign in Tennessee and served as Marsha Blackburn’s Senate campaign communications director in 2018. She is the director of communications and media at Baker Group Strategies.

-- Lizzie Gregory was hired to help U.S. Sen. David Perdue ramp up his communications shop as they head toward Jan. 5 runoffs. She took a leave from her post in Blackburn’s office to join Perdue’s campaign, where she’ll serve as press secretary.

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