Monday, November 21, 2022

In Georgia, it's déjà vu all over again

 The election isn’t over yet. Oh, it may be over for you except for waiting for the counting to conclude. (And by the way, Lauren Boebert’s race still hasn’t been called. She’s currently leading by 551 votes and a recount seems certain.) But I live in Georgia and Georgia has a runoff law that states that a candidate must win by 50 percent of the vote. Since neither Raphael Warnock nor Herschel Walker got a majority on Election Day, we Georgians have to head back to the polls on December 6.

This is a repetition of recent history. Back in 2020, we had two Senate elections in the Peach State and both went to a runoff. Although the Republican incumbents were originally favored after leading on Election Day, the post-election mess that was 2020 caused a serious shift, and Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock won their races.

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This year, the situation is a bit different. Raphael Warnock, whose election in 2020 was for the remainder of Johnny Isakson’s term, led the vote on Election Day by about one percentage point (37,674 votes). Now, it is Republican Herschel Walker who is struggling to play catchup.

Another difference this year is that the 2021 election reform law in Georgia moved up the runoff date. Instead of waiting until January, the runoff will be on December 6 with early voting starting on November 28. That was one of the good provisions in the new law.

The big question on everyone’s mind is “How do we make the political ads stop?” After that, the next big question is which candidate has the edge in the runoff.

In my predictions for the midterms, I called the race for Republicans and said that a runoff would favor Walker. Even though I was pretty close in my prognostications, the situation looks a lot different now than it did on November 3.

My biggest error was that I thought Republican Adam Laxalt would win in Nevada. When Laxalt lost to incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto, it changed the playing field.

I thought control of the Senate would come down to Georgia, but with their victory in Nevada, Democrats were able to retain control of the Senate, even without Warnock. The problem for Republicans now is that, even if they hold their nose and vote Walker, something a great many Republican voters could not bring themselves to do on Election Day, they still won’t control the Senate.

On the other hand, as I pointed out back in October, Republicans will be stuck with Walker if he wins. Once Walker is an incumbent, Republicans will defend his seat viciously. No matter how bad Senator Walker turns out to be, re-electing him will be a matter of life and death for the Republic. Walker will be all that separates us from socialism, human sacrifice, and dogs and cats living together. Maybe he could be primaried, but maybe not. Incumbents are hard to beat.

From the Democratic point of view, the race is more important. Even though they have the majority, an extra vote means that Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are diminished in their ability to obstruct the progressive agenda (although I think Manchin and Sinema helped to save Democrats from themselves). Of course, a Republican House means that any Democratic legislation is going to be difficult to pass anyway.

But fast-forward to 2024. Democrats will be defending 23 seats (including independents in Maine and Vermont compared to 11 for the Republicans. Even worse for Democrats, a lot of those seats were picked up in the blue wave of 2018 and are in states that are now considered red or purple. The 2024 elections will include rematches in Arizona, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Democratic seats in Montana and West Virginia will also be added to the mix.

In 2024, there will be lots of opportunities for Democrats to lose seats but very few chances for pickups (unless Republicans once again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory as they are wont to do). 2024 could be a Democratic bloodbath so the party would like to get a head start by locking in the Georgia seat for another six years.

Speaking of Republicans snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, an additional factor is Donald Trump’s kickoff of his 2024 presidential campaign. Trump sabotaged the Republicans in the 2020 runoff and his new presidential campaign may be another repetition of history. Nothing motivates Democrats to get out and vote like Donald Trump.

I state all that background to say this: The runoff is going to be about turnout and right now Democrats have more reason to get to the polls.

Polling will be very close (although I haven’t seen any new polls in the race since Election Day), but the race will hinge on which party and candidate are better able to motivate their voters to take time out from Christmas shopping and get the polls to vote for one race (depending on your county, there may be more runoffs, but there is only one statewide runoff). I think that the Democrats have more to lose and that Republicans won’t be very excited to go out of their way to vote for a candidate they didn’t like the first time.

In 2024, Republican primary voters should look toward electability. They embraced the crazy in 2022 and paid the price. It looks extremely likely that the tab will get a little bit bigger on December 6.

REPUBLICANS PLAN TO SNATCH DEFEAT FROM JAWS OF VICTORY IN 2024: Republicans campaigned on the economy and fighting inflation prior to the midterms. So what are Republicans planning to focus on in the new congressional term? Hunter Biden’s laptop and all manner of investigations, of course.

Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee, said, “We’re going to do a lot of investigations. We’re going to do a lot of probing.”

This may be what the Republican base wants, but I don’t think it is what swing voters signed up for. The Republicans’ own research showed that voters were concerned about things like inflation and gas prices. Politically-motivated investigations are a poor substitute.

Inflation and the economy are hard to fix though. And the Federal Reserve is already raising interest rates, which may be already slowing inflation (although we have had false starts in recent months).

The bottom line is that if Republicans think that fishing expeditions and focusing on Hunter Biden’s laptop are going to win over voters, they should think again. It hasn’t worked so far. Hillary Clinton in 2016 may be an exception, but the success rate is still very low.

Republicans should take their own advice and focus on the economy.

From the Racket

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