I wonder how many times a day Loeffler asks herself, “Wait, why do I want this job again?” Think of what she’s stooped to in the name of winning. Gladhanding QAnon kooks. Demagoging election officials. Fighting dopey pretend culture-war battles with her own employees. She’s worth mega-bucks and could enjoy a happy and comfortable life as a respectable private citizen. Instead she’s waging political nuclear war for the opportunity to … sit quietly in the Senate like the rest of the caucus and rubber-stamp whatever Mitch McConnell puts in front of her.
Maybe she didn’t need to “stoop.” Maybe this is just who she is and what she enjoys.
But that’s hard to believe, just because Loeffler’s ended up in the eye of a populist storm and is very clearly not a populist herself. I think when she was appointed to the Senate by Brian Kemp she imagined running in the jungle primary this year unopposed from the right and possibly winning on election night with 50.1 percent of the vote. Even if she were forced into a runoff, her path would have been clear: As an accomplished businesswoman, she could run to the center and woo back the suburbanites who’ve been drifting left. Instead she had to tack right to fend off Doug Collins in the primary and now has to cling to MAGA loyalty as the base goes all-in on Trumpist conspiracy theories about the election having been stolen. She’s been implicated in “the steal” herself, in fact: Remember that Sidney Powell once suggested that Collins was the rightful winner of his battle with Loeffler.
She’s a passenger on a runaway crazy train and has no choice but to go wherever it takes her. Here’s where it’s taking her:
Shortly after voting, @SenatorLoeffler says she hasn’t decided yet whether she will object to Joe Biden’s electors on Jan. 6 in Congress.
“I haven't looked at it,” she says, adding: “January 6 is a long way out and there’s a lot to play out between now and then.” #gapol #gasen pic.twitter.com/goy1pMZwmg
— Greg Bluestein (@bluestein) December 16, 2020
That’s a nice dodge but it won’t work for long. January 6 isn’t “a long way out,” which is why McConnell and John Thune are already twisting arms within the GOP caucus to make sure no one objects when the electoral votes are counted. A refresher in case you missed yesterday’s post about this: If one member of the House *and* one member of the Senate object to recording the electoral votes of a particular state, each chamber has to debate the matter for two hours and then hold a floor vote on whether to accept those results. There’s no way the GOP can block any state’s results from being accepted, though; if the Democratic House and Republican Senate deadlock, the tie is broken by the governor’s certification in the disputed state. And Biden has already been certified the winner in all of the states Trump is contesting.
But there won’t be a deadlock. There will certainly be three or more Senate Republicans who’ll vote with Democrats to accept a disputed state’s results, guaranteeing Biden’s victory. The only suspense is whether any Republican will object in the first place, forcing a floor vote in which all senators will have to say on the record whether they accept or reject a state’s results. That’s what McConnell’s trying to avoid, reasoning that that sort of vote can only hurt his caucus. If they can’t actually stop Biden, what’s to be gained by asking swing-state Republicans to choose between defending the integrity of the election and pandering to the conspiracy theorists in their base?
What didn’t occur to me yesterday, though, was that Loeffler and David Perdue are in an especially impossible position with respect to that vote. McConnell might be able to twist arms and persuade Senate populists like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz not to object on the merits, but for Loeffler and Perdue objecting may be a matter of simple political survival. Georgia MAGA fans will demand that they take a position on this before January 5. If they refuse to promise that they’ll object, they might lose enough support to tip the race to Warnock and Ossoff. And so:
Talked to a high-level GOP operative the other day who seemed pretty resigned to Trump pushing to overturn the election all the way until the Jan. 6 joint session, and Loeffler and Perdue being forced to go along with it to avoid alienating Trump voters in the Jan. 5 election. https://t.co/1fm59FBPLR
— Jacob Rubashkin (@JacobRubashkin) December 16, 2020
The only person who could conceivably get them off the hook is Trump by saying, “I don’t want any senator to object. Just certify the electoral college’s votes and move on.” But of course, Trump won’t do that. He doesn’t really care about what’s good for the party, as we’re periodically reminded:
“We MUST defend Georgia from the Dems!” he wrote in one recent text message. “I need YOU to secure a WIN in Georgia,” he said in another. “Help us WIN both Senate races in Georgia & STOP Socialist Dems,” he pleaded a few days later.
There’s just one hitch: Trump’s new political machine is pocketing most of the dough — and the campaigns of the Georgia senators competing in the Jan. 5 races aren’t getting a cent.
Trump’s aggressive fundraising blitz appears to be devoted to helping the party defend Georgia’s two Senate seats and, with them, the Senate majority. But the fine print shows that most of the proceeds are going toward Trump’s newly launched PAC, which he plans to use to fund his future political activities. Only a fraction is going to the Republican National Committee, which is investing $20 million into the runoffs.
Trump will certainly want some senator to object on January 6, partly to show that he “fought” to the bitter end and partly because he sees the world as a series of loyalty tests and would appreciate an official list of which Senate Republicans are “disloyal.” That’s what the floor vote will give to him. Loeffler and Perdue will probably have no choice but to make it happen, to McConnell’s chagrin.
As for how many Republicans in each chamber are apt to vote to reject the electoral votes from Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Arizona, I’d guess safely more than half of each caucus. Gotta pass the loyalty test, even if that means taking a public dump on the integrity of U.S. elections. Patterico raises a point here that I hadn’t considered but which strikes me as probably true: If the House GOP had done a bit better on election night, we could be facing a bona fide democratic crisis on January 6.
— Patterico (@Patterico) December 16, 2020
The key word there, I think, is “firm.” If Republicans held a very narrow House majority, there’d probably be a handful who’d balk and vote with Democrats to affirm Biden’s win in order to avert the congressional equivalent of a coup. But if the party held a “firm” majority of 20-30 seats? Yeah, it’s quite possible that the House would reject electoral votes from multiple states. It would fall to McConnell’s Senate to accept those electoral votes in order to prevent Republicans from stealing the election on Trump’s behalf.
Exit question: This guy isn’t going to object on January 6? Really?
“The election in many ways was stolen,” Rand Paul lies, citing no evidence pic.twitter.com/G4m7mU7qRV
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) December 16, 2020