Saturday, November 07, 2020

How Does a Defeated Trump Affect the Georgia Race?

Barring a turnaround in North Carolina or a surprise upset from Al "Bear Killer" Gross in Alaska (and the latter does say he think he'll win after all the mail-ins are counted), the season finale of the horror series known as "2020" will be a royal rumble Senate two-fer in Georgia. Incumbent Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler will face challenger Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in a state that Joe Biden just squeaked out a victory in.

Other have written on the best positive strategy for Democrats to take in the race (pushing the "3 M" approach -- Medicaid expansion, minimum wage increase, and marijuana legalization). And it's well-known that Democrats have severely struggled in Georgia run-offs in the past. But right now, I'm curious how the shadow of a defeated Trump affects the dynamics of this race.

It is (as much as I hate to admit it) a truth that Donald Trump has been a big turnout booster for Republicans. Witness Texas, where Joe Biden swelled Hillary Clinton's vote tally by 1.4 million, but Trump managed to keep pace with 1.2 million additional votes of his own. Even without him at the top of the ticket, it's possible that Trump could boost GOP turnout in the run-off if he campaigned aggressively for the GOP ticket, feeding on resentment and spurious claims of voter fraud, inspiring red staters looking for vengeance and the need to head off a Democratic Senate majority.

But Trump is Trump, and he doesn't seem likely to react to defeat by working on someone else's behalf. He's going to be sullen and depressed and whiny, and I doubt he'll be much interested in intervening in the Georgia race at all. If anything, he might put Perdue and Loeffler into a tight spot by continuing to frivolously contest the validity of the election, forcing them to either actively disavow Dear (Fallen) Leader or come off like anti-democratic extremists.

More broadly, it is far from clear that Trumpists will continue to turn out once the aura of invisibility and the joy of "cry more libs" no longer can be guaranteed. It is wrong to say that Trumpism is dead in America -- it continues to be the dominant faction of the GOP, and that isn't likely to change anytime soon. But it is possible that Trumpists will find it difficult to replicate the enthusiasm Donald Trump inspired with their standard-bearer broken. Particularly if the GOP starts the fratricide before the run-off day, one could see a far more energized Georgia Democratic Party facing off against a demoralized, frustrated, "take my ball and go home" Georgia GOP. And that might give Ossoff and Warnock the space they need to pull what I still think would be an upset victory, and hand Democrats the Senate.

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