The most surprising figure of the bunch is Geoff Duncan, the Republican lieutenant governor of Georgia, who’s just 45 and clearly well positioned to run for governor someday. Or at least he was:
— Alli Hedges Maser (@AllisonLHedges) November 9, 2020
Biden’s going to end up winning Georgia by at least 10,000 votes. Only Duncan knows why he vouched for the credibility of his state’s process here, whether because he’s a good leader speaking up for the integrity of his team or because he thinks a bogus “voter fraud” narrative in his state will alienate swing voters before the big Senate runoffs in January. But either way, he’s violating the most sacred priority of the Republican Party right now: Make sure the president’s feelings aren’t hurt.
I don’t think there’s enough appreciation for the fact that GOP senators/congressmen, most of the conservative commentariat/@FoxNews, and leaders of industry are all pretending like they think there might be election fraud just because the presidents feelings are hurt.
— Tim Miller (@Timodc) November 9, 2020
The job of cronies like Lindsey Graham and 2024 jockey-ers like Ted Cruz is to sustain the unreality forcefield around Trump in which he didn’t actually lose the election, partly so that the president can absorb the truth at his own pace and partly in order to signal their own loyalty to MAGA Nation. If Duncan wanted to show his own loyalty, this was his chance to do so as someone close to the action in a battleground state and thus able to give that unreality forcefield a major boost. He told the truth instead.
I’d say his political career is over.
Officials from Michigan and Pennsylvania have also spoken up in defense of the process in their states over the past few days:
— Tina Barton (@TLBsStory) November 7, 2020
“Counting votes is not a bad thing. Counting votes cast on or before Election Day by eligible voters is not corruption. It is not cheating. It is democracy,” says Philadelphia’s Republican election commissioner Al Schmidt. https://t.co/JroHtTzyhk pic.twitter.com/6l9EkZnIYk
— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) November 9, 2020
What’s so jarring — but also entirely predictable — about Team Trump’s “voter fraud” effort so far is how phoned-in it is. If Trump really thought he’d been cheated out of a victory, he wouldn’t have been chilling on the golf course this weekend. He would have been hunkered down in a legal war room 24/7 strategizing about how to “stop the steal.” And he definitely wouldn’t have agreed to make Rudy Giuliani, a character with no credibility left outside the Fox News viewing audience, the face of his operation. Anti-Trumpers spent the weekend cackling at the fact that Giuliani’s “Four Seasons” press conference on Saturday was held not at the Four Seasons hotel in Philadelphia but in the parking lot of a landscaping company called “Four Seasons” at the edge of town located next to an adult bookstore. To all appearances, someone on the campaign told an underling to book “the Four Seasons” for the presser and whoever made the reservation misunderstood. It ended up playing like a bit from the Borat movie in which Rudy had a cameo, except this time Team Trump maneuvered themselves into it with no help from Sacha Baron Cohen. Just this morning Politico is reporting on the first “witness” to voter fraud whom Giuliani introduced at that press conference:
“It’s such a shame. This is a democracy,” Daryl Brooks, who said he was a GOP poll watcher, said at the press conference, held at Four Seasons Total Landscaping in Northeast Philadelphia. “They did not allow us to see anything. Was it corrupt or not? But give us an opportunity as poll watchers to view all the documents — all of the ballots.”
Trenton political insiders watched with bemusement as Brooks took the podium.
Brooks was incarcerated in the 1990s on charges of sexual assault, lewdness and endangering the welfare of a minor for exposing himself to two girls ages 7 and 11, according to news accounts.
Brooks has run for various offices, including U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives.
Okay, but what about the “Hammer” and “Scorecard” computer fraud that supposedly flipped votes to Biden? That’s real, isn’t it? You should read this Daily Beast report on the “infamous ‘hoax’ artist” who’s responsible for that claim, who once managed to convince the U.S. government that he had discovered secret terrorist messages in Al Jazeera broadcasts about looming Al Qaeda plots. The feds actually grounded several flights as a precaution because of them. Quote: “French intelligence officials, furious that [Dennis] Montgomery’s data had been used to ground French planes, debunked the ‘technology’ and reportedly convinced CIA officials to drop Montgomery, according to the Times.” One intel official told the paper, “We got played.”
There’s more at the link about the guy on whom the credibility of the “Hammer” and “Scorecard” story rests. It’s BS, says Chris Krebs, the head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency:
To be crystal clear on ⬇️, I’m specifically referring to the Hammer and Scorecard nonsense. It’s just that – nonsense. This is not a real thing, don’t fall for it and think 2x before you share. #Protect2020 https://t.co/f2FpSbRXKy
— Chris Krebs #Protect2020 (@CISAKrebs) November 7, 2020
For a non-exhaustive list of other conspiracy theories being pushed — and debunked — at the moment, read this. As I say, it’s jarring that this stuff is so threadbare and easily challenged that it’s all but guaranteed not to gain traction outside of the true blue MAGA base. But it also makes sense if you recognize that the battle against “voter fraud” in court isn’t designed to succeed or to persuade skeptical Americans that Trump was actually cheated on a massive scale. It’s just a cover story to let him save face — to spare his hurt feelings, as Tim Miller put it — as he gradually exits the stage. And as with so many pre-political Trump ventures, it’s partly an ego stroke but also partly a grift: Donations to Trump’s “legal fund” will be used not just for the court fight but to retire his campaign’s debt, it turns out.
All of that being so, why shouldn’t they hold a press conference next to a dildo store or trot out characters like Daryl Brooks or Dennis Montgomery as their key witnesses? It’s not a serious legal effort. It’s a pantomime of a serious legal effort for hardcore fans to give them some bare pretext to say, “Trump has never been defeated in a fair fight.” I mean, really:
This is from the Court of Appeals in the State of Michigan. The Donald Trump Legal Team cannot even file appeals the right way. They have reached shit show level of legal competency at this point. This is the most basic of tasks – filing an appeal accordingly. pic.twitter.com/wbiHfhAm0Z
— Abed A. Ayoub (@aayoub) November 9, 2020
Republican politicians have no choice but to play along if they value their careers, realizing that this is a pure loyalty exercise and that “disloyalty” will be held against them. Right now, I promise, figures like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are holding their breath and hoping that Trump throws in the towel so that they don’t need to keep up this charade of pretending to believe something was rotten about Biden’s win into December or January. But if Trump forces them to do it, they’ll do it. Even though the conspiracy theory that Trump was cheated, especially in Philadelphia, continues to make no sense on the merits:
Surprising stat from @hollyotterbein:
Trump ultimately earned more raw votes in Philly than in 2016, going from nearly 109,000 to more than 126,000 today.
W/ 96 % of the estimated votes counted, Biden is underperforming Hillary by about 26,000 voteshttps://t.co/drcEwBGH99
— Alex Thompson (@AlxThomp) November 7, 2020
If you’re going to rig the vote in Philly to benefit Biden, why would you make it so that Trump overperformed his 2016 numbers and Biden underperformed? If you’re going to rig it nationwide, why would you make it so that Republicans hold the Senate and gain in the House, leaving President Biden effectively powerless?
And what happened to that army of poll-watchers whom Trump recruited this year? “Over the past few months, I’ve had numerous local GOP officials boast about their poll-watching program, describing its sophistication, exuding confidence that they would have eyes and ears in every room as votes were being counted,” wrote Tim Alberta recently in Politico. “’The Trump campaign is on it like white on rice. They’re watching everything,’ Matt Albert, chair of the Outagamie County GOP in Wisconsin, told me last month. If anyone tried to cheat, Albert emphasized, they wouldn’t stand a chance.” Eyes and ears in every room — and there’s so little legitimate voter fraud to highlight that they’re relying on the likes of Daryl Brooks to try to scratch out a claim somewhere because they have nothing sturdier.
What’s really going to bring pressure from within the party on Trump to knock this off is if polling in Georgia shows a backlash to the “I was robbed” claims. (To the extent polling can ever be trusted again, that is.) Republicans desperately want to see David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler win their Senate runoffs, extinguishing Democrats’ last chance at a majority. They’re favored to win too, especially with Trump not on the ballot this time. But if his cries of having been cheated turn off swing voters, that’s apt to push those voters towards Democrats. And if his cries manage to *convince* Republican base voters, who knows how that plays out? Maybe angry Republicans will turn out in Georgia to defeat the Dems or maybe they’ll stay home in disgust at the idea of participating in a system where “cheating” is rampant. Keep an eye on McConnell. If the Trump “I was cheated” defeat tour looks like it’s playing badly, he’ll start making noise recognizing Biden as president in order to distance the party from the president.