From The New York Times, I'm Michael Barbaro. This is The Daily. In three weeks, an election will take place that may be as important as the presidential election in determining the course of the next four years.
Today, my colleague Usted Herndon with a guide to the two Senate races in Georgia. It's Friday, December 11th. I said, to recap a bit of political history, there are two Senate races underway in Georgia because for a variety of reasons and quirks within Georgia's election system, these races were not resolved in November.
Nobody won them outright. And that left the future balance of the Senate uncertain.
It will all be decided by what happens in these Georgia runoffs. If Democrats win seats, they'll control the Senate. If Republicans win one or both, they will retain power. And so it now seems like the entire country's political machinery, its fundraising muscle and its media might have all converged on this single seat.
And you have been in Georgia. So what has that been like?
You know, in Georgia, it feels like the general election has a sort of overtime or a fifth quarter.
I'm John USCIRF. And the path to recovery is clear. First, we listen to medical experts to control this virus.
I'm David Perdue and I approve this message. John Asaph and Chuck Schumer have been caught in a lie.
The same level of intensity around organizing, around energy, around money has flown into the Senate races and has really made living and being in this state feel like a time capsule from the summer. Every commercial on television is basically about this race.
I'm Kelly Lefler. I approve this message. Raphael Warnock talking Puppis because he doesn't want you to hear this.
Not every digital advertisement if you're trying to watch a video on the Internet is about this race.
She makes sail after sail. Keli's for Kelly Warnock is for us. I'm Raphael Warnock and I approve this message.
It has taken over the state partly because there's just so much national interest about the result.
OK, so let me start with a very basic question, a question I suspect a lot of people have right now. Which party is favored in these two Senate races? Can we say that right now? One way or another?
We can't really talk about a favorite because the margins we know are going to be so small. And there are things here that give Democrats some signs of hope, but also give Republicans some signs that they could be the ones to pull this out. Will Democrats come out in the same numbers that we saw in November? Will the voters, who some of them who did not like President Trump back some Republicans further down the ballot? Will they have that ticket splitting?
Will Republicans base be as motivated without Trump on the ballot, particularly as he's been crisscrossing the state in the country, making arguments about voter fraud that have no basis, in fact or evidence? And then will Democrats be able to inspire people on a policy based message? What you hear is that it's not just about removing Trump. It should be about giving President Biden the latitude to make big kind of policy investments. Is that something that voters want or is that they just want to remove a uniquely divisive incumbent president?
I think that all of those things kind of work in tandem to create a really murky picture where we don't know who is the favorite persay, but we do know the election will be very close and each side kind of expects it to be within maybe two percentage points of a difference. Mm hmm.
OK, so given that backdrop and these unanswered questions, these pretty messy dynamics, tell me about these two races and how the four candidates within them are approaching this contest in this post November political environment, the races feel both like a duel kind of joint ticket to Republicans versus to Democrats, but they also have some unique kind of distinctions between them.
When we think about the race between Senator David Perdue and Democrat John Asaph, David Perdue is a kind of tried and true Georgia Republican.
Georgia want somebody to fight for them, though. I heard that loud and clear in the state. And Bonnie and I are committed to go to Washington and fight for you and not the special interests and not the insiders in Washington, but you, the Georgians, that we will know someone who has a long and storied career in business.
And that's kind of pitched there to originally be elected as the kind of Georgia low taxes. Moderate Georgians want good paying jobs.
And to do that, we've got to get this economy going. We have to finally resolve our tax problems. And I'm going to fight for the fair tax. He's a relative of the former governor, Sonny Perdue, and he's kind of been a low key member of the Senate. And what this race has done has really tried to get him to hew closer to Trump and to try to lean in to some of the Trump cultural messaging as a base motivator.
So what does that look like, a kind of classic old school Republican gravitating more towards Trump ism?
You know, it's looks like the way we've seen Republicans shift across the country.
The biggest moment that David Perdue has had in this race was at a Trump rally, something that Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden were trying to perpetrate in Maloney and Elizabeth. And come on. Come on, come on.
I don't know whatever kind of intentionally and flagrantly mispronounced Senator Kamala Harris name. When you listen to other Republicans in the state, they say that that is a sign of a politician trying to catch up with Trump politics. And that's kind of what you have seen throughout this garbage pickup up.
Look, I was at an event in Perry, Georgia, a couple of weeks after the election.
And David Perdue says explicitly, I don't need you to worry about the issues you've already done, that we've already litigated that with these other guys.
We don't need to talk to the other side. We don't need to talk about issues.
What I need you to do right now is just pray to God that we get our vote out and you've got to do that yourself.
We are only here to motivate our own voters.
This is something that you can do. People tell me all the time, David, we know how serious, what can I do? Go vote.
And I thought that was a kind of stunning admission that it was just a pure political thing, that he did not even think that it was worthy of kind of debating on issues or kind of going back and forth with his opponent on policy. He's saying, hey, if we turn out, our people will win this.
So his message since November is not I need to adjust for a post trump world, a world in which the president has lost and I need to reach across to moderate Republicans. It's I am going to appeal in a singular way to Trump supporters. Absolutely. And I think that's for a couple of reasons. You both have the nature of the runoffs, what will be less people turning out. And so they think that motivating their own base could be the most important factor.
But then you also have David Perdue in the November election, even as Joe Biden won, was a point and a half ahead of John Rosoff, which means there were some likely Joe Biden and David Perdue voters. He is kind of making the bet that the prospect of a unified democratic government is one that would be scary to some folks, even on a kind of taxes structural change level. And that will be enough people to claw back while he motivates his base through the Trump red meat.
So his strategy assumes the support of many Trump voters and the skepticism of some non Trump supporters that a Biden White House and a Democratic Congress are a great idea.
Right. Those who want a check and balance on the system, that is part of his pitch also. OK, so let's talk about Perdue's Democratic rival, John OSF. How has he been campaigning over the past few weeks?
John USCIRF is a 33 year old former documentary filmmaker who really exploded onto the political scene when he was the candidate in twenty seventeen during a special election. That was really the first race after Trump's inauguration that was seen as a real referendum on this moment. It was a special election in the Georgia 6th District, which was a real Republican district. And Asaph really kind of tried to embody the new message of Democrats focusing on restoring Obamacare and kind of saying that Trump needed a check and balance.
Now, Asaph wasn't successful, but what they did was really help the name recognition and kind of give him the infrastructure that has really built to this Senate moment.
What's happening in Georgia right now is history in the making. And he is trying to position himself as a pragmatic Democrat.
We need stimulus for the people. We need economic relief for small businesses. This is a movement for health, jobs and justice for the people. Someone who is certainly much more comfortable with progressive messaging on things like civil rights and the like.
That means that we passed a new Civil Rights Act to secure equal justice under the law for all of us, regardless of race and regardless of class, we can do all these things while also steering clear of the kind of issues we think about as being the left defining issue.
So rejecting things like the Green New Deal or defunding the police or things like that while also talking about himself as kind of a part of the New South that tries to build multiracial coalitions, that tries to, you know, lean in to a kind of vision of a changing Georgia, but steering away from the furthest left parts of the Democratic Party.
OK, so having navigated the left wing moderate schism within the party to get to this point, what is his message in the runoff against David Perdue if Mitch McConnell still controls the Senate?
He will try to do to Joan Comilla, just like he tried to do to President Obama, it will be obstruction and gridlock and partisanship and government shutdowns.
He is telling Georgia that voting for Biden should not be the end of their mission, that what Biden needs is a Congress that can help him actually accomplish the things that he set off for. It's a kind of extension of Abidin argument. We heard in the general election that it was not just enough to beat Trump, that you have to build back better, that you have to implement kind of a coronavirus plan, a health care policy, voting rights, things that require a Congress that can work with Biden's administration.
Asaph is say that you have to elect him to make that possible, to not simply be motivated by removal of Trump, but really embrace the Democratic message and the kind of liberal policies of Abidin administration.
Mm hmm. Don't be afraid of a unified democratic government, which is, of course, what David Perdue is saying they should be afraid of. Right.
Both sides agree that electing a unified Democratic House and Senate and White House would make a lot more liberal policy possible. What John Osthoff is saying, lean into that rather than run from it. I don't even know where to begin.
In addition to that, Asaph stands out by how much he talks about his opponent directly.
I mean, let's talk about it. Let's talk about David Perdue.
David Perdue is a crook, but every campaign staff staff is trying to tie Perdue to corruption, specifically on the issue of stock trading.
Let's talk about David Perdue, who lives on a private island and treats his Senate office like it's his E-Trade account.
Perdue, who has a long business career as one of Congress's most active stock traders, trading banking stocks while he sits on the banking committee, buying shares in manufacturers of vaccines medical equipment while he's getting classified briefings on covid-19 and telling us it's no worse than the flu.
And what Asaph is saying is that he is trading on privileged information and that he is also enriching himself before kind of legislating for the American people, particularly in this moment of the pandemic. That has been the message he has tried to hit over and over and over again and kind of trying to draw him into a fight. That fight has been something that the senator has largely ignored.
In fact, good evening and welcome. I'm barely mentions Asaph on the trail.
Senator Perdue declined to participate in this debate and has refused to debate him in the runoff and is represented by an empty podium that lets an incredible kind of TV scene last week where John Osthoff was on one side and an empty podium was on another as he got to debate himself, like David Perdue, so arrogant that he disregarded public health expertise and so arrogant that he's not with us here today to answer questions.
And so if Perdue is just making a kind of calculation that this young Democrat who's really riding on a name recognition and does not have a kind of real policy brand in the state, he can kind of give him a cold shoulder. And that's actually a better strategy than engaging him on the issues.
Hmm. So basically acts as if Asaph is not really there all that much.
At one event, he called them a trust fund baby or that he he hit him on making documentary films that he said no one watched, but largely he doesn't mention him and does not kind of find his campaign worthy of a direct rebuttal. In fact, at times he has talked more about the other Democrat in the race, the Reverend Raphael Warnock, more than he has talked about his opponent, John Asaph. I think that speaks to what has become increasingly clear in both of these runoffs.
The Republicans have made a determination that their villain in this race is Reverend Warnock, and that is because they both see him as a richer vein of material, frankly, and they also see him as a bigger threat. Who is energizing the Democratic base and really driving the core of what will be this turnout game come January?
When we come back, Reverend Warnock.
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Learn how MassMutual helps Samantha plan for her future at NY Times dot com slash MassMutual. I'm Samantha Forbes. I'm the owner of Mother Planet Urban Farm. I'm a farmer, beekeeper, entrepreneur and educator. OK, I said, you have now very much piqued our curiosity about this second Senate race and in particular the Democratic candidate, Raphael Warnock, why is he such a rich vein of attack for the Republicans in Georgia?
I mean, there are no easy answers and there are more complicated. It was the easy one is that he's black and he would be the first black senator in the history of Georgia. And that is drawing both attention and kind of makes him as a figure, the one who has embodied the new versus old south that is clashing here. The longer one is about what he represents in his life.
If you just preach the gospel of American consumerism and narcissism and hedonism, you don't disturb the culture because he is the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church where Martin Luther King once was the pastor.
Well, then Jordan Davis can be slain for playing loud music. Trayvon Martin can be killed for carrying iced tea and Skittles, and the world remains intact.
And he is a figure. And Atlanta's civil rights for a long time before he became a political figure.
But if the people of God would ever get enough nerve and unmitigated audacity to preach about the radical and revolutionary love of God, the God who loves all of us, the God who transcends racism and sexism and all of the other isms, we will turn the world upside down.
And that comes with all of the moral weight on the social justice front. But that also comes with a real history of an explicit indictment of whiteness.
Martin Luther King Jr. and those who work with him, they didn't simply say black people and of America's kind of failure on race.
The Republicans have tried to seize on by going through his sermons line by line, nit picky, even bad faith readings, looking for things that can cast him as a radical and in some cases trying to cast him as anti white, save the South from itself.
It was choking on his own racism, choking on his own backwardness.
But thank God that his endorsement of things like Black Lives Matter and the like is something to be scared of rather than something that should trouble you to have to get ready.
We're going to have to save America again. Mm hmm. So how central is that line of attack to Reverend Warnock's, Republican opponent Kelly Lefler?
The Democrats want to fundamentally change America, and the agent of change is my opponent, radical liberal Raphael Warnock.
She called Warnecke a radical liberal opponent, radical liberal Roffey, radical liberal Rafael, a radical liberal, Raphael Warnock 13 times and their debate, radical, radical, radical.
Last Sunday, my opponent, radical liberal profit over Iraq is a socialist. He supports policies.
That's a lot of times that is a lot of times I mean, it was like almost instinctive response.
Raphael Warnock is dangerous every single campaign that you hear about against God and the military.
Raphael Warnock attacks our military from Lefler and also from Republicans who are supporting her. Also use that language.
Raphael Warnock, a radical radical. And that is for a number of reasons.
We're told that the smear ads were coming.
Warnecke has been able to run a largely positive campaign. You would think that Kelly Lefler might have something good to say about herself. He was running ads that literally had him with puppies.
She's trying to scare people by taking things.
I've said out of context, saying I even as these negative advertisements come, just know that I love puppies also.
He's just standing there with puppies. Yes. He was sitting with a little puppy saying as Kelly left Lefteris, negative advertisements come remember me as like a nice guy and the like.
I'm Raphael Warnock and we approve this message. The numbers that were coming out of November were saying that he was the candidate who people disliked the least had the lowest unfavorable. That's partly why Republicans have zone so clearly in on him to murder the Democrats most energizing force in this race, which is river water.
So what is Kelly Levelers message when she is not characterizing Reverend Warnock as a radical socialist?
You know, she has also tried to fashion herself in the mold of President Trump. This is a senator who was appointed in twenty nineteen. And the thought at that time was that she was not a kind of cultural first conservative, a grievance, first Republican. And Senator Lefler is very, very rich with a net worth of what some estimate to be near almost a billion dollars. Her husband's the head of the New York Stock Exchange and they have a private jet.
This is someone who has been tied to that kind of elite upper crust of the south for a long time. She could appeal to suburban voters, particularly white women who are conservative while also the base, and that that was not something that she needed to make a choice between, but can really live in both of those worlds. What has happened, though, is like all Republicans, she has had to triple down on the Trump base as the language that she speaks on the campaign trail.
One Republican senator stands on the Black Lives Matter movement, sparking swift and ongoing backlash. Georgia Senator Kelly Loffler.
So over the summer when we had protests around police brutality and Black Lives Matter, she who is the owner of the WNBA team and Atlanta team, the Atlanta Dream, and spoke out against a plan for players to wear a Warm-Up jerseys with Black Lives Matter and say her name on them, denounced her own players who are coming out on that front organization.
Black Lives Matter has Marxist foundations, and it's important that people understand what their goals are.
She was going on kind of far right wing programming.
It has a objectives of defending the police, of defending the military, of destroying the nuclear family. It's anti-Semitic.
And that actually grew her support among Republicans and really launched her into the kind of political message that she still is going with today.
So this is a pretty familiar playbook. Both Leffler and Perdue are very much mimicking the approach of President Trump in November, characterizing their Democratic rivals as socialist, as radical, you know, transforming the country in a menacing way. But we know that Donald Trump's strategy didn't work in Georgia. So why do Leffler and Perdue think that running that same strategy is going to somehow win them these two Senate races?
This is the great kind of paradox of the results that we saw from the November election. While President Trump's message did not work and Joe Biden made the gains back in necessary states to win, including in Georgia, there was real success of that message down ballot. There was success, that message in terms of winning House seats and kind of fighting off Senate candidates. And there was just a surge of new voters for President Trump that most folks didn't expect. And so there kind of decision has been to stick with that motivation and hope that Democrats trail back and fall off rather than kind of switch up the playbook, because it's not as if that playbook didn't work for other Republicans, even as the president has failed.
It is somewhat a bet that's saying without the baggage that Trump individually has from his specific actions in the White House and his own rhetoric that his playbook can work. Right.
So this strategy will rise or fall based on whether or not these two Senate candidates can turn out these voters that the president tapped into in November, hence their pretty blatant appeals to that base throughout this campaign.
But we know that that's a pretty tricky proposition because of the way that President Trump has been speaking to Georgia voters over the past couple of weeks, right?
You know, it's funny because the one who is complicating the strategy for them is the same president who they're mimicking. You know, what Trump has done since the election has not been to behave in a way that makes things easier for Leffler and Perdue. He has focused only on his own concerns, only on his own grievance, only on his own race. And that has meant attacking the secretary of state in Georgia, attacking the Republican governor in Georgia and saying that anything less than that is not sufficiently loyal to the president.
That has forced Lefler and Perdue to be supportive of those efforts. They called for the secretary of state to resign. They have put pressure on the governor who appointed Lefler to that seat. And that is because they know if they don't, the base will turn from them.
And in your reporting, what have you found that a message from the president that fraud has occurred in a widespread way in the state, a state run by Republicans has done to the possibility of Republicans turning out for these two Republican Senate candidates, Carly Lefler and David Perdue.
This is the big fear among Republicans that what Trump is doing not only erodes confidence kind of largely in democracy, but is just bad short term politics, that it just does not help kind of the question of party unity and motivate folks to get involved.
Hello, Georgia. We did a great job. You know, we won Georgia, just so you understand, on Saturday when President Trump visited southern Georgia, you saw the party trying to wrestle with both of these messages.
The evidence of fraud is overwhelming. And again, I'm going to ask you to look up at that very, very powerful and very expensive screen.
They were having full montages, hidden cases of possible ballots or rolled out from under a table of baseless and debunked claims of election fraud and conspiracy in order for the U.S. Postal Service revealed that his trailer full of ballots simply went missing after he dropped them off, while at the same time, those montages ended with a banner that says vote January 5th for Kelly Lefler and David Perdue.
And right now, we have to get out to vote for David Perdue and Kelly Leffler to show the radical left that we will never surrender, we will only win. We're going to win. We always win.
This is them trying to wrestle with both of those sides. And that is true for Perdue and Lefler themselves.
We are going to vote because if we don't vote, we will lose that country. If we vote, we will. When they got when they took the mike on Saturday. I want to say something personal to president from the crowd there, shouted them down.
Wow them to fight for Trump, fight for Trump.
And we're going to fight with those two states and make sure you get a fair square deal in the state of Georgia. God bless you, Mr. President. That is a warning sign to those senators that the base will not accept anything less than complete loyalty and support for the president's baseless, unfounded and disproven claims. Leffler and Perdue, in that moment on that rally stage, are not even seen as their own distinct political brands. What they are are people who should be loyal soldiers to President Trump.
Mm hmm. And where does that leave this race, especially on the Democratic side?
I think Democrats are hoping that the same backlash to Trump that, you know, helped them in the state and helps Democrats across the country will help them again. And that there is actually a benefit for the Democrats, for the amount that Trump has involved himself in this race, that they can go to those people who might have even supported Joe Biden, then David Perdue and say, hey, the only way to get a Washington that's even functional, the only way to get to Washington that is not to elect a complete conspiracy about the election is to back Democrats.
And they think that that is a more potent message for them. They think this is another way for them to make further inroads in Georgia and that Donald Trump is a motivator for their base. And if he wants to involve himself in the election, that that's actually not a bad thing for them. Right.
It could have been the case that not having Donald Trump on the ballot might have depress Democratic turnout. But you're saying that because Trump is in no way receded from the stage but remains central, that it may, in fact, inspire Democratic voters?
Exactly. That is their argument. And it's one that in some ways is a gift from Republicans, because the easiest message for Republicans to do right now would be to say Trump is gone, but you don't want Democrats to run while they can't even do that because of the bind that he's put them in, the bind being that Republicans can't live without Donald Trump in this moment in these two races.
But living with him is itself quite perilous because of this predicted backlash. Right. And in this race, it is another example of the inability for the Republican Party and thus the country to get to the post. Trump reflection. It is a president that is refusing to let that happen in a base that does not want it to happen. Right. So even the results of here would not get us any step closer to knowing what the Post trump American politics looks like, because this is still an election that is wrapped up in the press until we get evidence that that stranglehold is loosening, that is going to dictate all of our politics.
The White House itself might have pushed back and removed Trump, but the country is still kind of tied up in Trump ism.
Wanstead, thank you very much, we're going to keep talking to you, of course, until this race is over. Thank you. We'll be right back. Super Micro delivers better, faster, greener server and storage systems to optimize your cloud, 5G Iot and A.I. infrastructures, utilizing the powerful second generation Intel unscalable, scalable processors. Super micro systems are simply better, with application optimized solutions for your demanding workloads faster, with record breaking performance and greener design to reduce environmental impact and save on energy.
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Here's what else you need to know today, on Thursday night, Pfizer's vaccine passed a crucial milestone when a panel of independent medical experts formally recommended that the FDA approve it for emergency use. The panel's vote was 17 to four, with one abstention. The FDA is expected to grant approval within days, allowing health care workers and nursing home residents to receive the vaccine as soon as next week.
And we all hope to when I come to this current state of the surge in Pennsylvania that will not allow us to wait.
Pennsylvania and Virginia became the latest states to impose new restrictions as infection and death rates surged. Pennsylvania will ban indoor dining and closed gyms, theaters and casinos for three weeks, Virginia will impose a curfew from midnight to five a.m., an order that masks be worn in indoor spaces.
Wherever people gather, the deal is made by feel welcome. Andy Mills, Lisa Tobin, Rachel Quester, Lindsey Garrison, Annie Brown, Claire Tennis, Geter Hedgecoe, Michael Simon Johnson, Brad Fisher, Larissa Anderson, Wendy Dor, Chris Wood, Jessica Choung Skeleton. Alexandra Lee Young. Lisa Chow. Eric Krupski Mark George Luke Vandersloot Kelly Prime Sindhu. Yana Samandar MJ Davis, Liv Austin Mitchell. Nina Puttock, Dan Powell. Dave Shaw, Sydney Harbour.
Daniel Guimet. Hanz Butoh. Robert Jemison. Mike Benowa. Bianca Gaber, Liz Oblon, Oscar Chaturvedi, Rachelle Manja, Alix Spiegel, Diana Wynne, Marian Lozano and Soraya Shockley. Our theme music is by Jim Grundberg and Ben Landsburg of Wonderly. Special thanks to Sam Dolnick, McCaleb Bouchard, Lauren Jackson, Julia Simon, Mahima Chobani, Nora Killer, Sofia Milan and Des Evercore. That's it for The Daily, I'm Michael Barbaro. See you on Monday.
Samantha Fox dreams of turning her urban farm into a school. To do that, she needs to create a secure financial plan.
It's called growing a business for a reason, be planting seeds into one phase of the business and watching that grow.
Learn how MassMutual helps Samantha plan for her future at NY Times dot com slash MassMutual. I'm Samantha. I'm the owner of Mother Slyness Urban Farm. I'm a farmer, beekeeper, entrepreneur and educator.