To go or not to go. Gov. Brian Kemp has a decision to make on Saturday over whether to attend President Donald Trump’s rally in Georgia or risk inviting even more criticism by skipping it altogether.
The governor has been on the receiving end of a steady stream of insults from Trump after he refused to amplify false claims of a fraudulent election and block the certification of the vote.
Trump said he was “ashamed” he endorsed Kemp in the 2018 Republican primary and that he was “hapless” for not using non-existent “emergency powers” to overrule Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s certification of Joe Biden’s win.
Kemp’s office has noted that the law gives him no power to overturn election results, but he’s refrained from firing back at the president, mindful that criticism could antagonize Trump ahead of Jan. 5 runoffs for control of the Senate.
He’s joined the president at just about every visit he’s made to Georgia, whether awaiting Trump on the tarmac or standing near him on a rally stage. His absence would be notable, if understandable, if he doesn’t show up at Saturday’s event.
(The details of Trump’s visit have yet to be announced, but we’re told there’s a possibility the president could hold two separate rallies - one in south Georgia and one in north Georgia.)
Either way Kemp decides, there’s a risk.
If he attends, Trump could single Kemp out for criticism and shift the focus of the rally away from the Senate contenders and toward the ongoing Republican civil war over the president’s defeat. If he skips out, Republicans fear there’s likely an even greater chance Trump lashes out.
Don’t worry, dear readers: The Jolt will be there no matter what.
Just Posted: Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan is aligning himself with Georgia GOP officials who have drawn President Donald Trump’s wrath for refusing to halt the certification of the state’s election results:
In an appearance on CNN late Monday, Duncan said he was “concerned about the amount of misinformation that continues to fly around” involving President-elect Joe Biden’s narrow victory in Georgia, which made him the first Democratic nominee to carry the state since 1992.
“It troubles me that some folks are willing, just for the sole intent of flipping an election, of spreading misinformation,” said Duncan, who spoke of friends who sent him pro-Trump conspiracy theories that took him seconds to debunk.
“I think we’re better than this. My hope is that we move past this here in Georgia and as a country.”
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Meanwhile, House Speaker David Ralston issued his own lengthy statement, this one “reiterating my call for the Secretary of State to request the signature verification of absentee ballots.”
Signatures on absentee ballot envelopes were verified by county elections officials when they were received at county election offices. But it’s impossible to “match” signatures to ballots, since they were separated from envelopes to protect the secret ballot, leaving no way to link voters to the candidates they chose.
Ralston said he would “entertain any request for the resources the Secretary of State may need in order to accomplish this task” and nodded to a legislative session that’s just around the corner.
“As we go through this process, we will identify proposals to improve our elections processes,” he said. “These proposals will be submitted to the 2021 session of the General Assembly.”
Late last night, Axios posted a story with details from a private call Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had with donors that included this snippet:
During a recent donor call, the minority leader lamented being unable to successfully recruit Stacey Abrams to run for a Senate seat in Georgia, one of the sources said ...
One source familiar with the private discussions told Axios that, when discussing the Georgia Senate races, Schumer acknowledged he tried to recruit Abrams but says she insisted Raphael Warnock was the right choice.
Abrams has had her eye on a rematch against Gov. Brian Kemp since she narrowly lost the 2018 race and made clear she had no interest in pursuing either Senate seat. Still, these comments reflect Democratic angst over their chances in the Jan. 5 runoffs.
With the suburbs drifting away from the GOP, the key to the Republican grasp on the state Capitol now depends on exceedingly high margins in Georgia’s emptier spaces. And so former Gov. Roy Barnes wants Democrats to pay more attention to rural voters. From an Axios podcast posted Monday:
“We're the largest state, geographically, east of the Mississippi. We have a large rural area, and I don't see Democrats communicating with rural voters very well.
“Will that suddenly change them from Republican to Democrat? No, but it will change the margins. And if you don't get beat 80-20 or 70-30, and you get beat 65-35 – those are votes that can make the difference statewide.
“…Listen, Sanford Bishop is in southwest Georgia. He's an African American congressman. His district is not overwhelmingly Black. But he gets re-elected every two years because he has communicated – particularly on agricultural issues. He's become somewhat of an expert on agricultural issues. And he's cut into that rural white vote because they trust him. He doesn't scare them."
A case of Beltway Heartburn is gripping GOP senators in Washington, antsy that their chairmanships are on the line and the president, who should be focused on helping win the runoffs in Georgia, can’t stop talking about the election he just lost.
Politico is up with that piece, including this from former Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.).
“It’s time for this to be over,” he said, adding about Trump’s upcoming visit, “When he comes he needs to not be talking about his race, he needs to be showing his support for the two candidates in Georgia and put to rest anybody who makes any comment about the fact or has any idea about not voting because they might think these two candidates aren’t doing enough to question the election.”
Credit: Phil Skinner
Credit: Phil Skinner
The New York Times also writes up the GOP infighting, with two takes from Georgians that caught our eyes:
“You can’t say the system is rigged but elect these two senators,” Eric Johnson said of the president. Johnson is an adviser to the Loeffler campaign and a former Republican leader of the Georgia Senate. “At some point he either drops it or he says I want everybody to vote and get their friends to vote so that the margins are so large that they can’t steal it.”
And this from New Gingrich about Kemp and Raffensperger: “I’ve had very close friends write me and say, ‘I have a Republican governor and secretary of state, and they’re both useless, so why do I stay involved?’”
Speaking of runoffs, it’s Election Day in Georgia again, this time with runoffs in the 5th congressional district special election between Kwanza Hall and Robert Franklin, as well races for State Senate District 39, the Doraville City Council, and the Western Judicial Circuit district attorney race between Democrat Deborah Gonzalez and unaffiliated candidate James Chafin.
On the trail Monday with Sen. Kelly Loeffler were fellow GOP Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Joni Ernst. The trio visited two Buckhead institutions, Tommy’s Barber Shop and the O.K. Cafe.
Tommy’s clips everyone from local toddlers to the well-connected conservative set, so it’s a frequent destination for Republican grip-and-grins. Across the parking lot, the O.K. Cafe made news for more than their omelettes this summer the owners resisted local pressure to remove a carving of the old Georgia state flag, which infamously featured the confederate flag. The owners took the carving down in June.
We know nearly $300 million in T.V. air time has been reserved through the Jan. runoff. The Senate campaigns are now rolling out a few of the ads that help spend some of that money.
The Perdue campaign has two. The first offers a defense against charges that Perdue and other senators sold pandemic-related stocks after a classified Senate briefing. “He wasn’t at the briefing,” the ad says.
Perdue’s second highlights Ossoff’s recent endorsement from Democratic Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Raphael Warnock’s latest features the pastor saying , “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But he adds later, “Our politics are broken, overcome by a politics that rewards money and power.” Warnock is, of course, running against multi-millionaire Loeffler.
And Ossoff released his latest ad this morning with the famous voice of former president Barack Obama narrating, talking about Ossoff’s commitment to “a new Voting Rights Act that makes sure every Georgian is treated equally under the law.”
We’ve noticed Jon Ossoff’s relative youth getting more attention lately from Republican honchos, who seem irritated the fresh-faced investigative journalist would take a run at the Senate seat. One of the latest is Sen. Tom Cotton, who called Ossoff a “juice box socialist” on Twitter.
Ossoff is 33, but Cotton was a wee 35-year-old when he ran for a House seat, only to shoot for, and win, his spot in the Senate two years later.
Mark your calendars:
- Mike Pence heads to Savannah Friday to rally for Perdue and Loeffler in an airport hanger.
- Former Democratic presidential candidate and current math aficionado, Andrew Yang, will be in Columbus Sunday to help the Muscogee County Democrats kickoff their runoff canvassing efforts. Yang has been spotted in Atlanta recently going door-to-door for the Democrats to get out the vote.
Congrats to Jonae Wartel, who has been named the Georgia Runoff Director for the multimillion dollar coordinated campaign effort for Ossoff, Warnock, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Democratic Party of Georgia. Wartel is a veteran of the Democratic National Committee, Stacey Abrams’ 2018 race and multiple Democratic campaigns.
And finally, Jamie Dupree, a friend to Jolters everywhere, announced on Twitter yesterday that December will be his last month working for Cox Radio. He has covered Washington for a group of local radio stations across the country, including WSB radio, for more than 30 years.
Jamie has been working in his Capitol radio booths longer than most members of Congress have had their jobs. His parents met as Capitol Hill staffers and Jamie served as a Congressional page in high school. He returned after college, roving with his microphone in hand, and quickly became as much a fixture in the halls of Congress as the busts of vice presidents past.
He won the national Edward R. Murrow Award for his dogged and fair reporting, as well as for the innovation he and Cox came up with to keep Jamie on the air after he lost his voice to a rare nerve condition.
Jamie told Twitter he’s now in the market for a job, but we hope he’ll get in a few rounds of well-deserved weekday golf before his next gig. Thank you for telling Georgia what we always needed to know, Jamie.