Georgia On My Mind
As of this writing, one of the two Georgia Senate contests has been called. Democrat Raphael Warnock has been declared the winner in his race against Sen. Kelly Loeffler. Democrat Jon Ossoff narrowly leads Sen. David Perdue.
But according to various reports, nearly 24,000 military ballots have yet to counted, and there are thousands of overseas civilian ballots also still to be counted. Those ballots could make a critical difference, especially in the Perdue/Ossoff race, where Sen. Perdue is likely to demand a recount.
However, none of this prevented Ossoff from declaring himself the winner this morning. Remember when Trump was warned not to declare victory during last year's election?
Nor did it stop Chuck Schumer from declaring himself the Senate majority leader. And, of course, there's complete media silence regarding these premature declarations.
Needless to say, the results are astonishing. Georgia appears to have elected two senators who will be among THE MOST liberal senators in the U.S. Senate. It is the equivalent of Georgia electing someone like Senator Bernie Sanders or Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez.
How did this happen? There are myriad reasons, but here's my analysis.
A "Fixed" Election
The same rules that applied in the November election also applied in yesterday's runoff election. You don't have to entertain theories of wired machines or hidden boxes of ballots to understand what happened.
The reality is that weak Republican leadership in Georgia agreed to significant changes in the state's election laws, including massive absentee and mail-in voting. Unsolicited ballots were sent to millions of households.
In the past, if you voted by absentee, your signature on the ballot had to be an "exact match" with your signature when you registered to vote. Stacey Abrams recently bragged about "eviscerating" this requirement. That's all you need to know.
She used her massive grassroots organization, developed right underneath the noses of Georgia's Republican leadership, to harvest hundreds of thousands of votes they would not have received if normal voting rules had been in place.
The coronavirus pandemic was the excuse used for this massive change in voting rules. Beyond that, exit polls showed that voters who backed Ossoff and Warnock had COVID as their main issue. Voters who backed the Republican candidates had the economy and economic growth as their main issue.
But by a 10-point margin (52% to 42%), voters said that containing COVID was more important than rebuilding the economy.
Moreover, polling showed that voters overwhelmingly felt Congress had done too little to help average Americans deal with the economic damage caused by the coronavirus and the imposed lockdowns. (Here, here and here.)
When President Trump warned that Republicans who opposed more emergency relief had a "death wish," he was right. Once again, the president proved that he understood the populist instincts of the country better than the GOP establishment.
The President's speech
This morning, just before Congress convened to count the Electoral College votes, President Trump addressed a massive crowd, which he described as "hundreds of thousands of patriots" who came to Washington to "save our democracy." Many of you who read this daily report were in this crowd today.
The president blasted the "fake news media" as "the single biggest problem we have," and declared that Big Tech "rigged the election." He accused the media and the tech giants of suppressing free thought and free speech. He is right.
President Trump vowed to never concede when "theft is involved," and he outlined a litany of alleged illegal actions in various states that corrupted the election.
The president was bi-partisan in his criticism, directing much of his ire at "weak Republicans," promising to "primary the hell out of the ones that don't fight."
As I have repeatedly done in recent days, President Trump also demanded "sweeping election reforms," and vowed, "Today is not the end. It's just the beginning!"
Unfortunately, it was also obvious that President Trump and Vice President Pence disagree about what authority the vice president has in his role today as he presides over the joint session of Congress. (See next item.)
Vice President Pence has been one of the most loyal, if not the most loyal, vice presidents to a Republican president that I have ever witnessed. My guess is that the position he finds himself in right now is breaking his heart.
I know he believes that he and the president were victims of a stolen election, made easier by cowardly Republican officials in states like Georgia. And the courts were afraid to intervene.
But I believe that if the vice president took the action that the president is urging him to take, it would not stand up under judicial scrutiny, assuming it survived obvious procedural challenges in Congress.
We should all be praying for the president, the vice president and our country's future.
Counting The Votes
As the president was concluding his remarks, Congress began meeting in a joint session to count the Electoral College votes. This is expected to be a long process.
Dozens of members of the House and Senate are expected to challenge or object to the results from six states – Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Each objection requires members to return to their respective chambers for two hours of debate and votes in the House and the Senate.
Then members of Congress will reconvene in the joint session to announce the results of the objection from each chamber, and proceed with the count until the next objection is heard.
That's at least twelve hours of debate. And even more time is required given current COVID restrictions for the votes and reconvening of the joint session of Congress.
Needless to say, we are following these events very closely. But I want to be honest with you: I do not see a scenario that results in Donald Trump taking the oath of office on January 20th.
Please don't blame the messenger. I am obligated to tell you what I see and hear around Washington.
I believe it is extremely important for each objection to be heard in order to expose the irregularities so they don't happen again. But my gut instinct tells me that these challenges and objections face very long odds, primarily because House Democrats will reject every single objection.
Some have suggested that Vice President Mike Pence has the authority to make certain rulings or declarations. I do not believe that is the case.
His role in the proceedings is limited by the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which defines the process for counting Electoral College votes.
Under the Electoral Count Act, the vice president's role is purely ceremonial. The act is clear that any disputes or objections are to be resolved by votes in the individual houses of Congress, not by the vice president.
In recent days, Rep. Louie Gohmert filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Electoral Count Act. His lawsuit sought to give Pence the power to make authoritative rulings.
By virtue of filing that lawsuit, Gohmert acknowledged that the vice president currently does not have that power. Two federal courts dismissed the case.
Those suggesting that Pence has that power would be agreeing with the notion that four years ago Joe Biden could have rejected the Electoral College votes and declared Hillary Clinton the winner of the 2016 presidential election.