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ATLANTA — Some of the biggest names in national politics jumped into the fiercely contested runoffs for two Georgia Senate seats on Friday, even as a second recount showed that Joseph R. Biden Jr. had maintained his lead in the state and Republicans braced for a visit by President Trump, who has railed against his loss there with baseless claims of fraud.
With Mr. Trump set to campaign for the two Republican incumbents, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, on Saturday, Vice President Mike Pence and former President Barack Obama held dueling events to underscore the vital stakes in the special elections: If both Republicans are defeated, control of the Senate will shift to Democrats just as Mr. Biden moves into the Oval Office.
Mr. Obama appeared virtually at a turn-out-the-vote event for Jon Ossoff, the Democrat facing Mr. Perdue, and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, Ms. Loeffler’s opponent, and spoke of his frustration in seeing his initiatives blocked by the Republican-controlled Senate when he was in office. “If the Senate is controlled by Republicans who are interested in obstruction and gridlock, rather than progress and helping people, they can block just about anything,” Mr. Obama said.
Mr. Pence — with Mr. Perdue and Ms. Loeffler by his side — received a Covid-19 briefing at the Atlanta headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and said later at a rally for the Republican candidates that “we’re going to save the Senate, and then we’re going to save America.”
A second recount of the presidential vote in Georgia has finished, according to the Secretary of State website, showing Mr. Biden ahead by about 12,000 votes with 100 percent of the counties reporting.
New campaign financial reports filed late Thursday showed a staggering influx of money into the state in the first days of runoffs that were expected to set spending records, with more than $300 million booked in television, radio and digital ads, according to data from AdImpact, an ad-tracking firm. Media buyers said the price of ads was soaring, especially for super PACs, to unseen heights.
The Senate races are playing out at a hyperpartisan moment in American politics that has led to a civil war among Georgia Republicans divided over whether to support Mr. Trump as he persists with false assertions that the election was stolen from him. In Georgia and elsewhere, the president’s lawyers remain engaged in a failing, last-minute effort to throw the election to Mr. Trump.
Even as he tweeted this week that he wanted “a big David and Kelly WIN,” Mr. Trump called Brian Kemp, the state’s Republican governor, “hapless” for failing to work to overturn the election results, while also criticizing Georgia’s top election official, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. His sustained assault on Georgia’s voting system prompted an extraordinary rebuke this week from another high-ranking elections official, who warned of violent threats against poll workers and publicly pleaded with the president to cool down his conspiratorial rhetoric.
On Friday, State Senator Elena Parent, a Democrat on the judiciary subcommittee, which met on Thursday, said that she had been the target of violent, anonymous threats that appeared on a public internet chat room.
The president’s appearance in Valdosta, near the Florida border, on Saturday evening comes after a concerted campaign by his advisers and Republican lawmakers to convince him that his presence is vital to increasing turnout among his supporters. Initially reluctant, the president agreed to hold the rally after being told that victories by the Republican Senate candidates would help prove his contention that his own win in Georgia was stolen from him, according to aides familiar with the conversations.
But some Republicans in Georgia and Washington are fearful that Mr. Trump will go off-script, and potentially attack Mr. Kemp or Mr. Raffensperger. Party officials also worry that the president’s claims of fraud could backfire, undermining turnout by convincing Republican voters that the special elections are rigged against them anyway.
L. Lin Wood, a lawyer and Republican supporter of Mr. Trump, and Sidney Powell, a lawyer who has filed lawsuits on the president’s behalf, urged Georgians Wednesday not to vote “unless your vote is secure.”
That same day, a number of prominent Georgia Republicans, including former Gov. Nathan Deal, signed an open letter in which they warned that “the debate surrounding the state’s electoral system has made some within our party consider whether voting in the coming runoff election matters.”
The leaders said that the party needed to focus on winning the two Senate seats, or risk turning the Senate over to a Democratic Party that “wishes to fundamentally alter the fabric of our nation into something unrecognizable.”
Some senior Republicans in Washington are doing little to hide their concern about the damage that they believe Mr. Wood and Ms. Powell are inflicting.
“It’s encouraging the president is going down there to rally the troops, because I know there’s some inconsistent messages being sent to his base supporters,” said Senator John Cornyn of Texas.
Chip Lake, a Georgia-based Republican strategist who most recently worked for Representative Doug Collins — who unsuccessfully vied in November for Ms. Loeffler’s Senate seat — said Friday that Mr. Trump was facing “one of the biggest political speeches the president’s ever had to make, because the stakes are that high.”
“If we have any portion of our base that might decide to boycott this election for any reason whatsoever, then we might be handing over the Senate to Democratic control,” Mr. Lake said.
Although a hand-recount of the state’s five million votes reaffirmed that Mr. Biden had indeed won the Georgia election, Mr. Trump’s campaign demanded a second machine recount. Fulton County, which includes much of Atlanta and is the state’s most populous, certified its results on Friday. As of Friday evening, state election officials had not responded to queries about when they would officially announce the results of the recount or recertify Mr. Biden as the winner.
The urgency of the senate races was reflected in the huge amounts of money pouring into the four campaigns in recent weeks: about $187 million just in online donations from Oct. 15 to Nov. 23, according to federal records from the donation-processing sites ActBlue and WinRed.
In that 40-day period, both Democratic challengers out-raised their Republican opponents every day from online contributions and surpassed the previous Senate fund-raising record for a full quarter. Mr. Warnock raised $63.3 million in online donations and Mr. Ossoff raised $66.4 million.
In that time, the two Republicans raised $58.2 million.
But well-heeled Republicans have erased much of the Democrats’ financial advantage with giant donations to a super PAC that raised $70 million in less than three weeks from a who’s who of Republican megadonors, including Stephen Schwarzman of Blackstone ($15 million) and Ken Griffin of Citadel ($12 million). The media mogul Rupert Murdoch gave $1 million, as did his son, Lachlan, the chief executive of the Fox Corporation.
Ms. Loeffler, one of the wealthiest members of the Senate, put $23 million of her own money into her campaign to get to the runoff and her husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, has donated an additional $10 million to a pro-Loeffler super PAC.
Big contributions from Democratic donors are lagging the Republicans. The leading Senate Democratic super PAC raised a little more than $10 million in the 20 days after the general election, records show. The biggest donation — $2.5 million — came from the organization that Stacey Abrams created, Fair Fight, after her narrow loss in 2018 for the governor’s race.
As Ms. Abrams’s star power has increased, Fair Fight itself has emerged as a major magnet for Democratic giving, pulling in nearly $35 million in 40 days that ended Nov. 23. Ms. Abrams, widely credited with leading the Democratic renaissance in Georgia, also appeared in the virtual rally on Friday for the two Democratic candidates.
“We won this election decisively, and, despite the number of recounts, it keeps giving us the same answer: that Georgia Democrats showed up, that Georgians showed up and that we decided that we wanted to move this nation in the right direction,” Ms. Abrams said.
Mr. Ossoff voiced a major theme that both Democratic candidates were seeking to exploit: allegations that Ms. Loeffler and Mr. Perdue benefited from questionable stock trades as they learned about the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic. “We’re running against, like, the Bonnie and Clyde of political corruption in America, who represent politicians who put themselves over the people,” he said. Mr. Perdue and Ms. Loeffler have denied any inappropriate financial dealings.
On Friday, Mr. Pence rallied on behalf of Ms. Loeffler and Mr. Perdue in Savannah, where he warned that Democrats would advance a liberal, big-government agenda if they were allowed to seize control of the Senate.
“If you don’t vote, they win,” Mr. Pence told the small but enthusiastic crowd at the Savannah airport. “If you don’t vote, there could be nothing to stop Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi from cutting our military, raising taxes and passing the agenda of the radical left.”
Mr. Pence was joined at the airport by Mr. Perdue but not Ms. Loeffler, who returned to Atlanta after a young man on her campaign staff was killed on Friday afternoon in a traffic accident.
Before the rally, Mr. Pence attended the C.D.C. briefing with the Republican candidates, saying the nation is facing a “challenging time” but also “a season of hope,” with the likely approval of the first coronavirus vaccine coming as soon as next week.
Sheryl Stolberg, Jonathan Martin and Rachel Shorey contributed reporting.
GOLDSTEIN: If politicians want decency in politics, be decent – Toronto Sun
Article content continued
But that was then, this is now.
When politicians call for civility, I’m reminded of the saying, “don’t pee on our legs and tell us it’s raining.”
They sound like baseball owners complaining about overpaid baseball players.
Who do they expect to fix the problem?
If federal politicians were ever going to be moved toward simple decency, it would have happened when the late Liberal MP Arnold Chan appealed for civility in Parliament on June 12, 2017.
Dying of nasopharyngeal cancer, which would take his life three months later at the age of 50, Chan — by all accounts a good person who entered politics for the right reasons — used his farewell speech in the Commons to make an appeal for MPs to reach for their better angels.
“We can disagree strongly — in fact we should,” he said. “This is what democracy is about … When we listen, we listen to one another despite our strong differences, that’s when democracy really happens. That’s the challenge that’s going on in the world right now. No one is listening.”
Then Green Party leader Elizabeth May spoke warmly of a note Chan had sent to her when she was wrestling with a difficult political decision.
When he died, Conservative MP O’Toole, and Liberal cabinet minister Ahmed Hussen, were among his honorary pallbearers, reaching across the political divide.
Week In Politics: Trump Is Impeached Again – NPR
Ivanka’s political future comes into sharper focus – POLITICO
When Donald Trump incited a mob riot on Capitol Hill last week, he didn’t just complicate his own political future— he scrambled the political career arcs of his kids as well.
At least three Trump family members are either considering runs for office or being urged to do so, according to well-connected GOP operatives and Trump family allies.
Top party officials say that Lara Trump, wife of the president’s son Eric, is actively contemplating a run for the Senate in North Carolina, where an open seat awaits in 2022. “It’s real and she is legitimately interested in it,” said one Trump family political adviser.
The president’s eldest son, Don Jr., is eyeing a future in politics as well, though allies say it’s unclear when or what office he’d seek after he passed on running for the Senate in Wyoming this last cycle. He and his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle have also been scoping out real estate in Florida.
The newest and most-buzzed about possibility, however, surrounds the president’s daughter Ivanka. The senior White House adviser is set to decamp to Florida after her father’s presidency comes to a close. And though talk of her launching a primary challenge to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has given off the faint whiff of political fan-fick, in reality, Trump officials say, there have been machinations behind the scenes.
One person in contact with the president said that Jared Kushner is viewed as “working single-mindedly to protect and promote his wife’s ‘political career.’” And two sources, including one top GOP fundraiser, said that Trump ally and mega donor Tom Barrack had been pressing fellow Republican financiers to put together some type of operation that could lure Ivanka into entering the race.
“He’s calling people and trying to line them up saying Rubio is terrible, worthless, he’s probably going to lose, Ivanka is going to go there and we should all get together and pledge our support to her and get her to run,” the GOP fundraiser said.
Tommy Davis, a Barrack spokesman, said no chatter of challenging Rubio ever took place.
“It’s not true. He’s never made any comments like this about Marco and he’s not making these calls,” said Davis. “Maybe people are getting confused because we did as much work as we could for the Senate Leadership Fund for the Georgia race. But that was before Christmas. But, no, nothing about Ivanka and nothing about Marco.”
And one person close to Trump said that Ivanka herself had denied having interest in running for office. But the president’s advisers are openly playing up her political potency.
“Ivanka only got into politics to help her father and help his agenda but what’s now clear is that Ivanka is a political powerhouse in her own right,” said Jason Miller, a senior adviser to Trump.
Others in Trumpworld say the signs are evident that Ivanka is leaving the door open to elected office. In late October, Ivanka, who had been registered as a Democrat in the past, gave an interview in which she declared herself “unapologetically pro-life.” One top Florida Republican who is close to the Trumps and Rubio noted that she not only upped her appearances on the campaign trail during the 2020 cycle — both for her father and the two Republicans in the Georgia Senate runoff — but passed out food at a food distribution event in Miami before Christmas.
“We’re taking the possibility seriously,” the Republican official said. “And so is Marco. And that’s a good thing. But you never know. She’s a Trump and the Trumps move on their own timetables.”
And, perhaps most tellingly, in the last week, Steve Bannon, as he was renewing his contacts with Trump himself, began talking up Ivanka’s political resume.
“The second most fire breathing populist in the White House was Ivanka Trump,” the president’s one-time adviser said on a recent podcast of his. If, Bannon added, Rubio voted for the certification of Joe Biden’s election — and he did — then, “I strongly believe and would strongly recommend that Ivanka Trump immediately…. if she is not going to remain an assistant to the president, she should immediately file and run for the senate and primary Marco Rubio in Florida.”
American politics has seen its share of family dynasties before. And though Donald Trump’s standing may have taken a hit by his handling of his election loss — which included inciting a riot that led to violence on Capitol Hill, his ouster from major social media platforms, resignations from his Cabinet, public disgust from party leaders and his second impeachment — public polling still shows that his name remains the most dominant in Republican circles. Virtually everyone expects that to transfer to his children.
“Their brand was certainly stained and it’s a stain we’ll never be able to erase,” said one top Republican strategist. “At the same time, the name of the game is winning a primary and someone with the last name of Trump could win.”
But running in theory is different from running in practice. In Florida, Rubio’s standing has been considered largely stable up to this point. The senator was trashed by hardcore Trump supporters for his vote that certified the Electoral College results. But those close to him said he was expecting far worse. They also point to his solid support in Miami-Dade County, Florida’s most-populous, where 74 percent of the GOP voters are Hispanic and overwhelmingly Cuban-American like Rubio.
“We have nothing bad to say about Ivanka,” said a Rubio adviser. “He’s going to run his race. I’m not sure she really wants to run? She just finished working in the White House and she has three small children — and now she’s going to move to Florida and run against Marco Rubio in a Republican primary?”
For that reason, the expectation among Trump allies and even establishment Republicans is that Ivanka will take her time considering a run while Lara jumps in. One Republican operative who worked with both Lara and Ivanka Trump in 2020 noted that Ivanka was less interested in the rallies and retail politics that come with running for office.
Ivanka Trump is expected to take some time off after leaving the White House, according to one former White House official, and she is currently working on closing out her work, including mitigating the fallout of the riots on Capitol Hill. After that, her family is expected to pack up their home in Washington.
A person close to Lara Trump, meanwhile, said that she has not made any decisions on entering the race in North Carolina, although consultants have been “poking around” for her in the state.
“For [Ivanka] to take on Marco or Florida she’s gotta be ready to rock and roll,” the operative said. “Whereas with Lara, I get the vibe she is ready to go.”
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