Georgia’s curious concatenation

NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!

**Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.**  

On the roster: Georgia’s curious concatenation - Bipartisan stimulus bill set for big reveal - Biden calls Becerra back to Washington - Arizona legislature forced to shutter because of Rudy - Buddy love 

If you are fascinated by the big changes happening in American politics today, next month’s Georgia Senate runoffs have it all – and with nothing less than control of the Senate on the line. 

Here’s a state that just went for the Democratic presidential nominee for the first time in nearly 30 years and is the centerpiece of the party’s new Sun Belt strategy. 

President-elect Joe Biden won Georgia thanks in large part to the state’s traditional African-American, Democratic base. The real difference maker, though, was Biden’s strong showing with white suburbanites, a typically Republican bloc in recent elections. 

But it’s also the same state where Democrats have lost seven of eight statewide general election runoffs since Georgia adopted the system more than 50 years ago. In the only two previous Senate runoffs, 1992 and 2008, Republican candidates saw sizable runoff boosts. 

Twelve years ago, Republican Saxby Chambliss won the first round of his Senate re-election bid by 3 points, but fell short of the majority needed under state law to win outright. When the runoff was held a month later, Chambliss won by an easy 15 points. 

Nobody is expecting those kinds of plus-ups on Jan. 5 for either of the Republican incumbents this time. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler would both be pleased to just get to a win, no matter the margin. In the wake of Biden’s victory, state Republicans know they can’t just count on the Peach State’s typically red skew to see them through. 

But its more than just history that’s going against Perdue’s challenger, Jon Ossoff, and Loeffer’s foe, Raphael Warnock

With all of the other Senate races in the nation resolved, Republicans hold 50 seats and Democrats hold 48 seats. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is waiting to be sworn in and ready to cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate, which means if Democrats win both seats next month, the Blue Team will have control of the upper chamber for the first time since 2014. 

The stratospheric stakes are good news for Ossoff and Warnock in that they will help keep voter intensity and contributions sky high. The way Republicans have dominated Georgia runoffs for years is that state Democrats relied on support for poorer voters, who tend to be less likely to participate in minor elections. 

With hundreds of millions of dollars already spent, wall-to-wall coverage and near-constant campaign visits from marquee political names, including President Trump and former President Barack Obama, there’s not much chance Georgians will see anything minor about this runoff. 

Nearly 1 million Georgia voters have already requested absentee ballots for the runoff. That isn’t quite the 1.3 million mail-in ballots voters returned in the general election, but it’s certainly an all-time high for a runoff in the state. With early voting, which kicks in on Dec. 14 and runs through the end of the month, we’re likely to see more evidence of red-hot intensity. 

The high stakes, though, work to encourage turnout on both sides. And the issue of Senate control plays on the concerns of many of the same voters who gave Biden the win last month. While Biden may have beaten Trump, Georgia voters showed continuing support for the GOP down ballot. 

Perdue outperformed Trump statewide, and Trump lagged the state’s Republican House candidates. And the affluent, college-educated suburban voters who made the difference for Biden are the very same kinds of voters most likely to be interested in preserving divided government in the Biden era. 

Complete Democratic control in Washington is going to be a hard sell in the still-conservative precincts that will likely decide the runoffs. 

But while Trump may not be on the ballot this time, Democrats are hoping that he may help them out again. As we saw in his visit to the state Saturday, the president seems determined to divide the state GOP at exactly the worst time. 

Since his re-election defeat, Trump has been claiming that he actually won and pressuring Republican lawmakers across the country to try to reverse the decision of the voters and keep him in power for another four years. 

Unfortunately for Loeffler and Perdue, Georgia is one of Trump’s top targets for subverting the results. He has been relentless in his attacks on the state’s Republican elected officials, including Gov. Brian Kemp, to try to overturn the November election. 

Trump’s sustained attacks on the state’s elections process hits the Republican Senate candidates with a triple whammy. 

First, many of same hardcore Trump supporters whom Loeffler and Perdue have spent so long cozying up to are now threatening to sit out the runoff. For some, it’s because they either believe Trump’s claims that the nation’s electoral system is fatally compromised and don’t want to participate. For others it seems to be to punish the candidates and state Republicans for not backing Trump’s effort to nab the state’s electoral votes by political force. 

Second, Trump is hitting those key crossover Biden voters right where they live: worries about the commander-in-chief’s character. His post-election behavior, a radical departure from that of any of his predecessors, might be enough to either push persuadable voters toward the Democratic Senate candidates or just get them to sit it out. 

Third, it fires up Democrats like the blue blazes. Trump may help drive Republican turnout in rural counties, but he will be a Democratic get-out-the-vote juggernaut in metro Atlanta. Certainly, Ossoff and Warnock would love the race to be a referendum on Trump’s efforts to cling to power. 

The pain Trump is causing his party was evident watching Loeffler struggle in Sunday’s debate with Warnock. She tried to hold her position that there was serious, substantial corruption without following Trump to the logical next step of such a claim and calling for the seizure of the state’s electoral votes. Her answers would have been pleasing to none of the groups mentioned above. 

Georgia is one of only eight states that have runoff elections. 

Because of the retirement of Sen. Johnny Isakson, the Republican whom Loeffler was appointed to replace, Georgia was the only state to have two Senate elections this year. 

And Georgia is one of just two traditionally Republican states, along with Arizona, to bolt the Red Team on the presidential level this year. That makes it a top target for Trump’s subversion effort.

It may not feel this way to Georgians with attack ads everywhere, junk mail crowding out their Christmas cards and around-the-clock news coverage; but they’re quite lucky in a way. Because of this remarkable concatenation of events , they have a front-row seat to political history in a very eventful time indeed.

“Whence could it have proceeded, that a people, jealous as the Greeks were of their liberty, should so far abandon the rules of caution as to place their destiny in the hands of a single citizen?” – James MadisonFederalist No. 38

AP: “Navy sailor Mickey Ganitch was getting ready to play in a Pearl Harbor football game as the sun came up on Dec. 7, 1941. Instead, he spent the morning — still wearing his football padding and brown team shirt — scanning the sky as Japanese planes rained bombs on the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Seventy-nine years later, the coronavirus pandemic is preventing Ganitch and other survivors from attending an annual ceremony remembering those killed in the attack that launched the United States into World War II. The 101-year-old has attended most years since the mid-2000s but will have to observe the moment from California this year because of the health risks. ‘That’s the way it goes. You got to ride with the tide,’ Ganitch said in a telephone interview from his home in San Leandro, California. … Altogether, more than 2,300 U.S. troops died in the attack. ‘We’re respecting them by being there, and showing up and honoring them. Cause they’re really the heroes,’ Ganitch said.” 

Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.

We’ve brought “From the Bleachers” to video on demand thanks to Fox Nation. Each Wednesday and Friday, Producer Brianna McClelland will put Politics Editor Chris Stirewalt to the test with your questions on everything about politics, government and American history – plus whatever else is on your mind. Sign up for the Fox Nation streaming service here and send your best questions to HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM.

Bloomberg: “Bipartisan negotiators on a $908 billion pandemic relief package are planning to unveil more details of their proposal on Monday, aiming to settle on language that can satisfy enough Republicans and Democrats to secure passage of one final tranche of Covid-19 aid before Congress breaks for the year. The outline of the plan spurred a flurry of optimism last week when it won the endorsement of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer and a number of Republican senators as a basis for fresh talks after a half-year of stalemate. Louisiana Republican Senator Bill Cassidy, part of the group behind the proposal, said Sunday he was confident President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell ‘will come on board’ with the plan, which he emphasized was a short-term boost for a nation still reeling from the pandemic.”

Pergram: Congressional Dems want to limit the window for Trump recess appointments - Fox News: “Mark Jan. 3, 2021 on your calendar. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., indicates the new 117th Congress is likely to begin at noon on Jan. 3 – even though it falls on a Sunday. The 20th Amendment to the Constitution mandates that Congress begin at that day and time. But the Constitution offers Congress the option to change the start date – if it can pass a law. Congress has done so many times in recent years, especially if Jan. 3 falls on a Sunday like it does in 2021. But Jan. 3 is more likely this time around for a host of reasons. The first question is whether Congress can or wants to approve a bill to move the date – although Hoyer did leave open the possibility of beginning the 117th Congress on Jan. 4 or 5. Moreover, congressional Democrats want as tight a window as possible to end the current 116th Congress – and then begin the new Congress immediately in January.”

Fox News: “President-elect Joe Biden announced Monday that he intends to nominate California Attorney General Xavier Becerra for secretary of Health and Human Services. Becerra is cutting short his term as his state's attorney general, which would have lasted until January 2023. Republicans are already signaling their opposition to Becerra. … Additionally, Becerra's being chosen to lead HHS essentially puts him out of the running for the Senate seat that will open up once Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is sworn in. California Gov. Gavin Newsom will appoint a senator to fill out the remainder of her term, and Becerra was rumored to be a leading contender. … Biden also named Dr. Anthony Fauci as his chief medical adviser on COVID-19. … Dr. Vivek Murthy has been picked to return to his post as surgeon general, which he held during the Obama administration.”

Wants bigger role for CDC under new chief - Politico: “President-elect Joe Biden has selected Rochelle Walensky, the chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, to run the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to two people with knowledge of the decision. Walensky, who is also a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and an expert on AIDS and HIV, will be tasked with rebuilding a critical health agency that has been sidelined by the Trump administration amid a pandemic. Walensky will replace Robert Redfield, who assumed the role of director in March 2018, and take a top role in helping the Biden administration curtail the coronavirus pandemic. … In the Biden administration, the CDC will take on a much larger and public role, with plans to revive regular media briefings and give a central role to career officials who have been pushed aside by President Donald Trump. Biden and his advisers have emphasized that they want to prioritize scientists over politics in responding to the pandemic.”

Arizona Republic: “The Arizona Legislature will close for a week ‘out of an abundance of caution’ after Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump's personal attorney, possibly exposed several Republican lawmakers to COVID-19. The president announced Giuliani had tested positive for the virus Sunday afternoon, less than a week after the former New York City mayor visited Arizona as part of a multistate tour aimed at contesting 2020 election results. The 76-year-old was later admitted to Georgetown University Medical Center. Giuliani had spent more than 10 hours discussing election concerns with Arizona Republicans — including two members of Congress and at least 13 current and future state lawmakers — at the Hyatt Regency Phoenix last Monday. He led the meeting maskless, flouting social distancing guidelines and posing for photos. Giuliani also met privately with Republican lawmakers and legislative leadership the next day, according to lawmakers' social media posts.”

Trump plots Inauguration Day drama - Axios: “President Trump is considering a made-for-TV grand finale: a White House departure on Marine One and final Air Force One flight to Florida for a political rally opposite Joe Biden's inauguration, sources familiar with the discussions tell Axios. The former network star is privately discussing using his waning powers as commander in chief to order up the exit he wants after dissing Biden by refusing to concede the election, welcome him to the White House or commit to attending his inauguration. The Trump talk could create a split-screen moment: the outgoing president addressing a roaring crowd in an airport hangar while the incoming leader is sworn in before a socially distanced audience outside the Capitol, as NBC News first reported. Immediately announcing he is running for re-election in 2024 would set up four years of Trump playing Biden's critic-in-chief.”

Pro-Trump squad menaces Michigan secretary of state in nighttime visit - Detroit Free Press: “A couple of dozen protesters gathered in front of Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson's home Saturday night shouting through megaphones against the certification of the election and demanding a forensic audit. A portion of the demonstration was broadcast live on Facebook around 9:30 p.m. The protesters are seen walking up to Benson's Detroit home, some wearing President Donald Trump paraphernalia and carrying American flags. … The group then begins chanting, ‘Stop the steal’ and ‘We want an audit,’ touting signs displaying a stop sign that read, ‘Defend our liberty, stop the steal.’ Benson said the protesters gathered in front of her home as she and her 4-year-old son were finishing putting up Christmas decorations…”

NYT: “With most of the slow-to-report votes tallied, we finally have a clearer picture of last month’s presidential results. Despite the high polarization in the country that carried over to the reaction to the results …. in some respects the vote itself was less polarized than in 2016. Compared with 2016, in 2020 there was less difference by race or ethnicity, and urban areas and suburban areas voted more alike. But the economic and education partisan divides widened. Mr. Biden gained in well-educated suburbs and exurbs, often in places that have tended to vote Republican in recent decades, like the Atlanta, Dallas and Phoenix areas.”

Kraushaar: ‘Voters rejecting identity politics at the ballot box’ - National Journal: “One of the most heartening developments in the last decade of politics is the diminishment of racial tribalism in voting behavior—even during a time when partisanship and cultural tribalism have risen to historic levels. Just over 10 years ago, I wrote a column decrying the absurdly low number of nonwhite lawmakers representing majority-white states and congressional districts (six Democrats, 13 Republicans at the beginning of 2011). At the time, Republicans held an advantage over Democrats in electing diverse talent to higher office, boasting six African American, Hispanic, and Asian American governors and senators, compared to only four Democrats. My concern was that Democrats, in the age of President Obama, had become self-satisfied in electing minorities to majority-minority districts… At a time when the concept of identity politics wasn’t as central in the public imagination, many Democrats had assumed that white voters simply wouldn’t vote for nonwhite candidates.” 

Report: Barr debates leaving DOJ before Trump’s term ends - NYT

R.I.P. Paul Sarbanes - Baltimore Sun

“I think it’s really important to do that and to realize that people sitting on the other side of the dais aren’t your enemies. They may just have different views.” – Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., in an exit interview with Roll Call ahead of his retirement after 20 years in Congress.

“I have recently found myself disturbed by the amount of adjectives used by the media/press. At first thought I did not understand why they needed to be used at all, however upon more reflection I understand why they have to be used.  We need to know if a house is big or small to understand some of the story.  I now think my problem is with the actual words being used and with what I believe is the intent of their use. To me it is understandable to say that a claim is unproven until it has been fully vetted. [Until that’s true] it has neither been proven or disproven. To say it is baseless or false without the vetting being completed implies some bias and an attempt to sway the readers opinion. In our current circumstance the baseless and false adjectives began prior to any vetting having occurred. In my opinion the vetting has not been completed until all avenues of research have been completed. At this time the claims are unproven but not yet baseless or false. A fair press would understand that it is not their job to persuade the reader but to inform them and allow them to decide. I once heard this referred to as fair and balanced, we report you decide.”  Robert Zeck, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

[Ed. note: One thing you are sure right about, Mr. Zeck, is that so much of journalism comes down to the adjectives. That’s why we always want to be careful and specific with them. But that doesn’t mean we don’t use them. In fact, the adjectives are crucial to fairness and accuracy. So here’s one that might apply to your letter, with an adverb to boot: Highly subjective. We have talked here on multiple occasions about my dislike for reporters using modifiers to editorialize in their copy. I think it is better to show readers rather than just telling them. But I think you’re setting the standard way too high here. As we have before, let’s think about due process and the presumption of innocence. Leave aside for now the concerns about how President Trump is trying to delegitimize the system and the presidency of his successor. I don’t think anyone expected him to be a gracious loser, especially given the months he spent developing his sore-loser narrative about mail-in votes. But let’s instead focus on the wild accusations he is leveling against his fellow Americans. They are indeed baseless, as in: offered without evidence and/or repeatedly proven to be false. You sound very concerned that Trump is being mistreated by the adjectives you read. Do you have any worries for those individuals on whom the president rains down his adjectives every day? I share your concern for the preservation of fair reporting, but I think you may be only looking at one side of the street here.]

Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

Fox News: “A California man ended up in a brawl with a bear to save his best friend – a pit bull named ‘Buddy,’ according to reports. Buddy was playing outside Kaleb Benham’s Nevada County home the day before Thanksgiving when Benham heard a growl and saw a bear had the dog in its mouth, CBS 13 Sacramento reported. … Benham did save Buddy – by running out and punching the 350-pound bear in the face. ‘I just ran down there, plowed into the bear, tackled it and grabbed it by the throat and started hitting it in the face and the eye until it let go,’ Benham said. Even after the heroic rescue, Benham was worried he might lose Buddy… Buddy went into surgery and came out after three hours with some stitches and some staples, but was able to return home for Thanksgiving. Benham and Buddy spent the holiday in bed resting up and healing. Buddy is expected to make a full recovery.”

“Face it: Our kids are not going to beat the South Koreans at math for decades. But we can still produce a thinking dog. For now.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on July 15, 1994.

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up