Good morning! It’s Tuesday, January 5, 2021. Thanks for waking up to politics. Have questions or comments? Email me.
It’s Runoff Day in Georgia. The two races being held today will decide which party holds the Senate majority for the first two years of the Biden presidency — which could be the difference between success and bitter defeat for many of his legislative priorities and nominees.
Teenage election analyst Niles Francis, who lives in Georgia, contributes a piece below laying out the stakes of the two contests and introducing the four candidates who are competing in them. But first, a look at the national state of play as polls open in the Peach State:
The Republican Party is nearly coming apart at its seams. President Trump is leaving the GOP a dubious parting gift as he nears the end of his four-year White House tenure: stark divisions over loyalty to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
Trump campaigned in Georgia last night, but focused almost exclusively on his own future. “There’s no way we lost Georgia. That was a rigged election,” his rally speech (falsely) began, before continuing on to lambast the state’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp, and Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, for refusing to back his post-election efforts.
The president’s weekend call to Raffensperger, in which he pressed the state official to “find” enough votes to hand him a victory in Georgia, has cast a shadow over the runoffs and created a new fissure within the party, with GOP lawmakers spending Monday criticizing Trump for the conversation. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) called the Trump-Raffensperger call “a new low in this whole futile and sorry episode.”
Toomey has also placed himself firmly in favor of finalizing Joe Biden’s victory on Wednesday. The Electoral College certification vote has also split the GOP open, with prominent Republicans joining both sides of the debate. Toomey is joined by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY), and others. (Trump branded them the “Surrender Caucus” in a tweet on Monday.)
Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and their allies plan to object to the certification. Vice President Mike Pence will be presiding over the session — faced with the awkward choice, as the New York Times put it, of siding with “the Constitution or his boss.”
But more on the Electoral College vote tomorrow. Now, here’s a look at what you need to know about the all-important battle for the Senate going down today in Georgia:
Special to Wake Up To Politics by Georgia elections analyst Niles Francis:
Georgia voters will be deciding control of the U.S. Senate in two blockbuster runoff elections today. One is a special election and the other is for a full six-year term.
The special election is a showdown between two political novices. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a Republican who was appointed to the seat in 2019 following the resignation of longtime Sen. Johnny Isakson, is attempting to hold onto the seat for the remaining two years of Isakson’s unexpired term. Her Democratic opponent is Rev. Raphael Warnock, the senior pastor of Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church and a political activist.
The race has seen a bitter back-and-forth between the two first-time candidates, with Warnock attacking the senator for making stock transactions after a classified coronavirus briefing, and Loeffler attacking the reverend for using hateful and “Marxist” language in his old sermons. The winner of this special election may as well continue campaigning: the seat will be on the ballot for a full six-year term in 2022.
The regular election is a battle between a first-term senator and a familiar face. Republican Sen. David Perdue, who was first elected in 2014, is locked in a tight race with Democrat Jon Ossoff, a documentary filmmaker who narrowly lost a bid for Congress in a 2017 special election. Ossoff, like Warnock, has gone after his opponent for making stock transactions during the pandemic, while Perdue has raised questions about Ossoff’s lack of experience and his film company’s ties to China. The winner of this election will serve a full six-year term.
Georgia voters once again find themselves at the center of the political universe today, as they decide the balance of power in Washington. It’s not every day that control of the U.S. Senate hinges on two races in one state, let alone a swing state like Georgia. Both parties are spending unbelievable amounts of money and voters are being bombarded by TV ads, campaign mailers, text messages, and phone calls from campaign volunteers.
The stakes in this election simply could not be higher. Among other things, these elections could determine how much Americans receive in the next round of coronavirus stimulus checks. They will also determine what President-elect Joe Biden can accomplish legislatively in his first two years as president.
Republicans enter these runoffs holding 50 seats in the Senate. Democrats hold 46, plus 2 independents who caucus with them. Republicans only need to win one of the two runoff elections in Georgia on Tuesday to maintain control of the chamber. But if Democrats manage to win both, the Senate will become a 50-50 tie, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris being able to cast tie-breaking votes.
0 days until the Georgia Senate runoffs.
- 15 days until Inauguration Day 2021.
- 672 days until Election Day 2022.
- 1,400 days until Election Day 2024.
$446.7 million raised among the four Georgia Senate candidates this cycle, a record. (Axios)
- 3 million early votes cast in the runoffs, a record. (Reuters)
- 0.24% margin of victory for Joe Biden in Georgia in November. (New York Times)
- 20.8 million coronavirus cases in the United States.
- 353,632 coronavirus deaths in the United States.
- 4.7 million coronavirus vaccine doses administered in the United States.
Due to a typo on my part, the count to Inauguration Day in Monday’s newsletter was incorrect. There were 16 days until January 20 (now 15).
Additionally, a quote from Sen. Mitch McConnell about Wednesday’s Electoral College certification was awkwardly presented. McConnell said that the vote “will be the most consequential I have ever cast.”
My apologies for those errors and thanks to the readers who pointed them out.
All times Eastern.
Polling places in Georgia open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.
President Donald Trump has no public events scheduled. According to his White House schedule, he “will work from early in the morning until late in the evening. He will make many calls and have many meetings.”
Vice President Mike Pence will lead a White House Coronavirus Task Force meeting at 2:15 p.m. in the Situation Room.
President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will meet with transition advisers.
The Senate is not in session.
The House will convene at 12 p.m. and vote on five bills under “suspension of the rules,” meaning they will require two-thirds support to pass:
- H.R. 21, the FedRAMP Authorization Act
- H.R. 22, the Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act of 2021
- H.R. 23, the Inspector General Protection Act
- H.R. 26, the Construction Consensus Procurement Improvement Act of 2021
- H.R. 27, the Settlement Agreement Information Database Act of 2021
The Supreme Court is not in session.
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