washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Ed Kilgore

December 18: How Kelly Loeffler’s Career Went Off the Rails

As the whole political world becomes obsessively focused on the January 5 Senate runoffs in Georgia, I meditated a bit at New York about the unforced errors afflicting one of the two Republican senators involved:

When Georgia governor Brian Kemp settled on Atlanta sports executive and socialite Kelly Loeffler as his choice to fill the U.S. Senate seat being vacated at the end of last year, he seemed to be making a shrewd calculation for his own and his party’s future in a blue-trending state. The GOP had been rapidly losing ground in the growing north Atlanta suburbs that had until very recently been its electoral stronghold, with moderate women leading the exodus.

She seemed the sort of novice politician such women might find appealing: an urbane woman, a Yankee and a Catholic, who had married her gazillionaire boss, quickly shown her own business chops, and become the co-owner of the Atlanta Dream WNBA franchise. She lived in a mansion in Atlanta’s wealthy Buckhead area, and kept up the social graces with charity work, while rubbing elbows with the diverse fans of the Dream. Compared to the usual Georgia Republican pols — blunt-talking Southern Baptist small-town lawyers and exurban developers with a few Ku Klux Klansmen on branches of the family tree — Loeffler was far more relatable to upwardly mobile suburbanites. And her politics seemed moderately conservative; she and her husband had been major donors to Mitt Romney in 2012, but had also donated to Democrats now and then. Kemp was also certainly aware that Loeffler would be running in 2020 in a special nonpartisan election to claim a full term, not a party primary, meaning she might be able to seize and hold the center and draw votes from moderates as well as conservatives. Best of all, Loeffler was very rich, and could not only self-fund her own 2020 campaign, but potentially a 2022 race for a full term, when she would share the ticket with Brian Kemp, who was expecting a tough rematch with Stacey Abrams. 

For all these reasons, Kemp wasn’t unduly troubled when he introduced Loeffler to Donald Trump and the president remained adamant in wanting the Senate seat for his impeachment attack dog, Representative Doug Collins, a hard-core conservative and ordained Baptist minister from the foothills of the North Georgia mountains.

But Kemp’s estrangement with Trump and Trump’s grip on Georgia Republicans have made Loeffler’s political initiation a real nightmare. And in just a year she has transformed herself from a genial country-club Republican into a snarling ideologue boasting in ads that she’s “more conservative than Attila the Hun” and brown-nosing to Trump so aggressively that she’s turned her back on the governor to whom she owes everything.

To put it simply, Loeffler and her patron, Kemp, picked the wrong time and place to launch a respectably mainstream Republican political career. With conservative activists and Breitbart News egging him on to challenge the RINO Loeffler, Collins quickly launched a challenge to the appointed senator and led her in early polls, drawing strength from the bad press she received from stock deals she and her husband made that smelled like inside trading. (Loeffler was cleared by the Senate Ethics Committee of wrongdoing but it didn’t dispel the unsavory aroma.) She counterattacked with tons of early ads Collins could not match, but it took many months for her to build a lead in a runoff race only one Republican could survive. (Democrats consolidated behind Raphael Warnock for one of the two certain runoff spots under Georgia’s arcane laws requiring a majority for victory.) Every step of the way Loeffler likely feared Trump would jump into the race with an endorsement of Collins. And so she campaigned as the most strongly pro-Trump member of the Senate.

As the election season reached its peak, Loeffler was in a right-wing frenzy. She triangulated against her colleagues and players in the WNBA, attacking their support for Planned Parenthood and Black Lives Matter, and probably ruining some actual friendships while offending the social conventions of her peer group, as the New York Times observed: Her “harsh criticism of the Black Lives Matter movement has run afoul of a longstanding convention in her adopted hometown, sometimes referred to as the Atlanta Way, in which the white corporate class has cultivated a level of solidarity with the city’s African-American leaders and civil rights movement.”

Loeffler reached her MAGA omega point in October when she pursued and secured the endorsement of Marjorie Taylor Greene, the AR-15-wielding, QAnon-backing congressional candidate from Georgia who embodies the far frontiers of Trumpism. Nobody could call Loeffler a RINO anymore! Never mind that most of those in Loeffler’s old social circle in Buckhead are probably horrified by Greene, a woman whom veteran Georgia conservative commentator Erick Erickson called “batshit crazy.”

It may have all seemed worth it to Loeffler when she soundly beat Collins and made the cut for the January 5 general-election runoff, which will determine control of the Senate with her colleague David Perdue facing Jon Ossoff in the same election. But the runoff campaign has provided fresh demands for Loeffler extremism. Because her new idol Trump is refusing to accept his defeat in Georgia, Loeffler and Perdue have to go along with his delusional demands that Georgia’s Republican leadership help him overturn the election. On November 9, the two senators called for the resignation of the state’s Republican secretary of State Brad Raffensperger for the sin of certifying Biden’s victory. Both senators have refused to follow Mitch McConnell in acknowledging Biden as president-elect. And you have to figure it’s a matter of time before Loeffler in particular is forced to denounce Kemp, with Trump now attacking him relentlessly for refusing to illegally call the legislature into a special session to overturn the state’s election results.

Loeffler has firmly trapped herself in this intra-party feud that not only forces her to choose between her great benefactor and her new idol but that also threatens the GOP unity essential to a win on January 5. After all, here’s the standard set by her new great friend, Marjorie Taylor Greene on Twitter: “Every ‘Republican’ that isn’t fighting for @realDonaldTrump’s 2020 landslide victory is supporting the Chinese Communist Party takeover of America.” All righty then!

Greene’s screeds aren’t much more intemperate than Loeffler’s exceptionally nasty ads against Warnock, which specialize in taking old sermons from Warnock’s pulpit of historic Ebenezer Baptist Church wildly out of context, attacking its pastor and the Black religious tradition in ways that make you wonder if she’s risking divine lighting bolts.

Kelly Loeffler’s sold her soul to Trumpian extremism, and even with her enormous wealth, she won’t be able to buy it back.

 


How Kelly Loeffler’s Career Went Off the Rails

As the whole political world becomes obsessively focused on the January 5 Senate runoffs in Georgia, I meditated a bit at New York about the unforced errors afflicting one of the two Republican senators involved:

When Georgia governor Brian Kemp settled on Atlanta sports executive and socialite Kelly Loeffler as his choice to fill the U.S. Senate seat being vacated at the end of last year, he seemed to be making a shrewd calculation for his own and his party’s future in a blue-trending state. The GOP had been rapidly losing ground in the growing north Atlanta suburbs that had until very recently been its electoral stronghold, with moderate women leading the exodus.

She seemed the sort of novice politician such women might find appealing: an urbane woman, a Yankee and a Catholic, who had married her gazillionaire boss, quickly shown her own business chops, and become the co-owner of the Atlanta Dream WNBA franchise. She lived in a mansion in Atlanta’s wealthy Buckhead area, and kept up the social graces with charity work, while rubbing elbows with the diverse fans of the Dream. Compared to the usual Georgia Republican pols — blunt-talking Southern Baptist small-town lawyers and exurban developers with a few Ku Klux Klansmen on branches of the family tree — Loeffler was far more relatable to upwardly mobile suburbanites. And her politics seemed moderately conservative; she and her husband had been major donors to Mitt Romney in 2012, but had also donated to Democrats now and then. Kemp was also certainly aware that Loeffler would be running in 2020 in a special nonpartisan election to claim a full term, not a party primary, meaning she might be able to seize and hold the center and draw votes from moderates as well as conservatives. Best of all, Loeffler was very rich, and could not only self-fund her own 2020 campaign, but potentially a 2022 race for a full term, when she would share the ticket with Brian Kemp, who was expecting a tough rematch with Stacey Abrams. 

For all these reasons, Kemp wasn’t unduly troubled when he introduced Loeffler to Donald Trump and the president remained adamant in wanting the Senate seat for his impeachment attack dog, Representative Doug Collins, a hard-core conservative and ordained Baptist minister from the foothills of the North Georgia mountains.

But Kemp’s estrangement with Trump and Trump’s grip on Georgia Republicans have made Loeffler’s political initiation a real nightmare. And in just a year she has transformed herself from a genial country-club Republican into a snarling ideologue boasting in ads that she’s “more conservative than Attila the Hun” and brown-nosing to Trump so aggressively that she’s turned her back on the governor to whom she owes everything.

To put it simply, Loeffler and her patron, Kemp, picked the wrong time and place to launch a respectably mainstream Republican political career. With conservative activists and Breitbart News egging him on to challenge the RINO Loeffler, Collins quickly launched a challenge to the appointed senator and led her in early polls, drawing strength from the bad press she received from stock deals she and her husband made that smelled like inside trading. (Loeffler was cleared by the Senate Ethics Committee of wrongdoing but it didn’t dispel the unsavory aroma.) She counterattacked with tons of early ads Collins could not match, but it took many months for her to build a lead in a runoff race only one Republican could survive. (Democrats consolidated behind Raphael Warnock for one of the two certain runoff spots under Georgia’s arcane laws requiring a majority for victory.) Every step of the way Loeffler likely feared Trump would jump into the race with an endorsement of Collins. And so she campaigned as the most strongly pro-Trump member of the Senate.

As the election season reached its peak, Loeffler was in a right-wing frenzy. She triangulated against her colleagues and players in the WNBA, attacking their support for Planned Parenthood and Black Lives Matter, and probably ruining some actual friendships while offending the social conventions of her peer group, as the New York Times observed: Her “harsh criticism of the Black Lives Matter movement has run afoul of a longstanding convention in her adopted hometown, sometimes referred to as the Atlanta Way, in which the white corporate class has cultivated a level of solidarity with the city’s African-American leaders and civil rights movement.”

Loeffler reached her MAGA omega point in October when she pursued and secured the endorsement of Marjorie Taylor Greene, the AR-15-wielding, QAnon-backing congressional candidate from Georgia who embodies the far frontiers of Trumpism. Nobody could call Loeffler a RINO anymore! Never mind that most of those in Loeffler’s old social circle in Buckhead are probably horrified by Greene, a woman whom veteran Georgia conservative commentator Erick Erickson called “batshit crazy.”

It may have all seemed worth it to Loeffler when she soundly beat Collins and made the cut for the January 5 general-election runoff, which will determine control of the Senate with her colleague David Perdue facing Jon Ossoff in the same election. But the runoff campaign has provided fresh demands for Loeffler extremism. Because her new idol Trump is refusing to accept his defeat in Georgia, Loeffler and Perdue have to go along with his delusional demands that Georgia’s Republican leadership help him overturn the election. On November 9, the two senators called for the resignation of the state’s Republican secretary of State Brad Raffensperger for the sin of certifying Biden’s victory. Both senators have refused to follow Mitch McConnell in acknowledging Biden as president-elect. And you have to figure it’s a matter of time before Loeffler in particular is forced to denounce Kemp, with Trump now attacking him relentlessly for refusing to illegally call the legislature into a special session to overturn the state’s election results.

Loeffler has firmly trapped herself in this intra-party feud that not only forces her to choose between her great benefactor and her new idol but that also threatens the GOP unity essential to a win on January 5. After all, here’s the standard set by her new great friend, Marjorie Taylor Greene on Twitter: “Every ‘Republican’ that isn’t fighting for @realDonaldTrump’s 2020 landslide victory is supporting the Chinese Communist Party takeover of America.” All righty then!

Greene’s screeds aren’t much more intemperate than Loeffler’s exceptionally nasty ads against Warnock, which specialize in taking old sermons from Warnock’s pulpit of historic Ebenezer Baptist Church wildly out of context, attacking its pastor and the Black religious tradition in ways that make you wonder if she’s risking divine lighting bolts.

Kelly Loeffler’s sold her soul to Trumpian extremism, and even with her enormous wealth, she won’t be able to buy it back.

 


December 16: Trump Delusions Keep Republicans From a Post-Mortem They Need

After watching another week of Trump denials that he lost the 2020 elections, I looked at some of the less obvious consequences at New York:

The weirdest thing about the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election is that those in the winning party are engaged in all sorts of retrospective looks at what went wrong, while those in the the losing party are bellowing triumphantly that they actually won “by a landslide,” as Donald Trump and his campaign keep asserting. (On Monday, the Electoral College confirmed this is definitely not true.)

Yes, some of this funhouse-mirror reaction is attributable to high expectations for Joe Biden and his party that they did not meet — particularly the Senate results that have left control of that chamber to a pair of January 5 runoffs in a state Biden won by the narrowest of margins. But still, Democrats won the big prize, while also hanging onto control of the House (albeit by a reduced margin) and keeping a federal government trifecta on the table at least until Georgia votes.

So perhaps it’s not so unusual that the perpetually self-doubting Donkey Party isn’t celebrating all that wildly, and besides, there’s nothing wrong with winners in close contests seeing room for improvement and debating how to do better. But that Republicans are engaging in little or none of this introspection — much less the postmortem that you might expect from a party that lost the presidential election by over 7 million votes — is purely attributable to Trump’s insistence that the election was stolen from him.

After all, why would the GOP need an “autopsy report” or an effort to expand its reach if its only problem is getting an honest count? The only remedial effort necessary to overcome that obstacle is a massive effort to restrict the franchise, which is exactly what the Trumpified party appears to be determined to carry out, ironically under the rubric of “election reform.”

Without the delusional claim of a stolen election, Republicans could be usefully asking themselves why they’ve lost the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections. With demographic trends not being friendly to their cause, something more promising than only losing the Black vote by 75 points and the Latino vote by 33 points and the under-30 vote by 24 points might be in order. Republicans cannot go forever without a coherent foreign policy or health-care policy, or without anything to say on climate change or economic inequality other than attacks on the patriotism of those raising alarms. As the Washington Post’s Paul Waldman has asked: “How many more election wins can [the GOP] squeeze out of White grievance and voter suppression?”

Building a real as opposed to an imaginary majority is hard and serious work. The real victim of Trump’s bizarre “election theft” narrative of 2020 is the party that buys it.


Trump Delusions Keep Republicans From a Post-Mortem They Need

After watching another week of Trump denials that he lost the 2020 elections, I looked at some of the less obvious consequences at New York:

The weirdest thing about the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election is that those in the winning party are engaged in all sorts of retrospective looks at what went wrong, while those in the the losing party are bellowing triumphantly that they actually won “by a landslide,” as Donald Trump and his campaign keep asserting. (On Monday, the Electoral College confirmed this is definitely not true.)

Yes, some of this funhouse-mirror reaction is attributable to high expectations for Joe Biden and his party that they did not meet — particularly the Senate results that have left control of that chamber to a pair of January 5 runoffs in a state Biden won by the narrowest of margins. But still, Democrats won the big prize, while also hanging onto control of the House (albeit by a reduced margin) and keeping a federal government trifecta on the table at least until Georgia votes.

So perhaps it’s not so unusual that the perpetually self-doubting Donkey Party isn’t celebrating all that wildly, and besides, there’s nothing wrong with winners in close contests seeing room for improvement and debating how to do better. But that Republicans are engaging in little or none of this introspection — much less the postmortem that you might expect from a party that lost the presidential election by over 7 million votes — is purely attributable to Trump’s insistence that the election was stolen from him.

After all, why would the GOP need an “autopsy report” or an effort to expand its reach if its only problem is getting an honest count? The only remedial effort necessary to overcome that obstacle is a massive effort to restrict the franchise, which is exactly what the Trumpified party appears to be determined to carry out, ironically under the rubric of “election reform.”

Without the delusional claim of a stolen election, Republicans could be usefully asking themselves why they’ve lost the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections. With demographic trends not being friendly to their cause, something more promising than only losing the Black vote by 75 points and the Latino vote by 33 points and the under-30 vote by 24 points might be in order. Republicans cannot go forever without a coherent foreign policy or health-care policy, or without anything to say on climate change or economic inequality other than attacks on the patriotism of those raising alarms. As the Washington Post’s Paul Waldman has asked: “How many more election wins can [the GOP] squeeze out of White grievance and voter suppression?”

Building a real as opposed to an imaginary majority is hard and serious work. The real victim of Trump’s bizarre “election theft” narrative of 2020 is the party that buys it.


December 11: House Democratic Majority Will Be Slim in January

With so much attention being focused on the U.S. Senate runoffs in Georgia in January, I thought it would be helpful at New York to remind people that the Democratic advantage in the House is getting a bit iffy, too:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi already had her hands full dealing with a significantly reduced Democratic majority in her chamber wrought by voters who flipped nine net districts from blue to red in November (Republicans also flipped a Libertarian district). With one race (New York’s 22nd District rematch between Democratic incumbent Anthony Brindisi and his predecessor, Republican Claudia Tenney) still uncalled, Democrats currently hold 222 seats. They need 218 seats for the barest possible majority. Now President-elect Joe Biden has compounded Pelosi’s numbers problem by naming two House Democrats for administration positions: Cedric Richmond of Louisiana (Biden’s transition-team chief), who will head up the White House Office of Public Engagement, and Marcia Fudge of Ohio, who will be nominated to serve as secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Both these members of Congress represent heavily Democratic districts, so Richmond and Fudge will be replaced by fellow Democrats. But first they have to resign (Richmond right after Biden takes office in January, Fudge if and when she is confirmed by the Senate), and the governors of their states will choose a date for a special election to fill the vacancies. In the meantime, Pelosi’s majority in the 117th Congress will be down to two or three (depending on what happens in New York). That will give any three or four House Democrats who are inclined to be rebellious some serious leverage over their caucus, and could potentially give House Republicans under Kevin McCarthy more influence than they’ve had since they lost their own majority in 2018.


House Democratic Majority Will Be Skinny in January

With so much attention being focused on the U.S. Senate runoffs in Georgia in January, I thought it would be helpful at New York to remind people that the Democratic advantage in the House is getting a bit iffy, too:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi already had her hands full dealing with a significantly reduced Democratic majority in her chamber wrought by voters who flipped nine net districts from blue to red in November (Republicans also flipped a Libertarian district). With one race (New York’s 22nd District rematch between Democratic incumbent Anthony Brindisi and his predecessor, Republican Claudia Tenney) still uncalled, Democrats currently hold 222 seats. They need 218 seats for the barest possible majority. Now President-elect Joe Biden has compounded Pelosi’s numbers problem by naming two House Democrats for administration positions: Cedric Richmond of Louisiana (Biden’s transition-team chief), who will head up the White House Office of Public Engagement, and Marcia Fudge of Ohio, who will be nominated to serve as secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Both these members of Congress represent heavily Democratic districts, so Richmond and Fudge will be replaced by fellow Democrats. But first they have to resign (Richmond right after Biden takes office in January, Fudge if and when she is confirmed by the Senate), and the governors of their states will choose a date for a special election to fill the vacancies. In the meantime, Pelosi’s majority in the 117th Congress will be down to two or three (depending on what happens in New York). That will give any three or four House Democrats who are inclined to be rebellious some serious leverage over their caucus, and could potentially give House Republicans under Kevin McCarthy more influence than they’ve had since they lost their own majority in 2018.


December 10: Trump to Become “Shadow President?”

As Republicans seek to show their fealty to Donald Trump in the expectation he will soon be gone, they are mortgaging their immediate futures to him, as I observed at New York:

The MAGA rank and file whose main sources of information are limited to Donald Trump, his allies, and hyperpartisan pro-Trump media may truly believe the lies he is telling about what happened in the 2020 election. But the big scandal is that pro-Trump elites who assuredly know better are buying into the misinformation campaign as well. It’s not easy to identify a universal motivation for their complicity in duplicity. It could be a mixture of loyalty and cowardice, or sheer partisanship, or ideological consanguinity.

But no matter what their motives are, they will all soon have a common problem: how to treat the 45th president when he finally does move out of the White House, having failed to talk state legislators, military leaders, or the populace into stealing a second term for him.

Mulling Trump’s prospective status in an interview with Peter Nicholas, South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham (who once said of Trump, “I think he’s a kook. I think he’s crazy. I think he’s unfit for office”) uttered words that may have been prophetic while carefully stipulating that Trump hasn’t lost just yet:

“He has a lot of sway over the Republican Party. If he objects to anything Biden [does], it would be hard to get Republicans on board. If he blessed some kind of deal, it would be easier to get something done. In many ways, he’ll be a shadow president.”

The notion of a “shadow” opposition leader, common in parliamentary systems, has never had any place in the United States, where defeated presidents (or presidential candidates) have no office to fall back upon and no formal status. On January 21, Trump will be a private citizen, albeit one with a Secret Service detail. If the idea spreads in Republican circles that Trump deserves quasi-official status as the victim of a “stolen election,” it could make him the most powerful ex-president since Theodore Roosevelt (or maybe more powerful, since Teddy had to cede party leadership to a designated successor).

Those Republicans who have privately hoped to rid themselves of Trump by jollying him along in his postelection misconduct really need to rethink their strategy. The only thing worse for them than a 2024 Trump comeback effort is a scenario in which he never goes away at all.


Trump To Become “Shadow President?”

As Republicans seek to show their fealty to Donald Trump in the expectation he will soon be gone, they are mortgaging their immediate futures to him, as I observed at New York:

The MAGA rank and file whose main sources of information are limited to Donald Trump, his allies, and hyperpartisan pro-Trump media may truly believe the lies he is telling about what happened in the 2020 election. But the big scandal is that pro-Trump elites who assuredly know better are buying into the misinformation campaign as well. It’s not easy to identify a universal motivation for their complicity in duplicity. It could be a mixture of loyalty and cowardice, or sheer partisanship, or ideological consanguinity.

But no matter what their motives are, they will all soon have a common problem: how to treat the 45th president when he finally does move out of the White House, having failed to talk state legislators, military leaders, or the populace into stealing a second term for him.

Mulling Trump’s prospective status in an interview with Peter Nicholas, South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham (who once said of Trump, “I think he’s a kook. I think he’s crazy. I think he’s unfit for office”) uttered words that may have been prophetic while carefully stipulating that Trump hasn’t lost just yet:

“He has a lot of sway over the Republican Party. If he objects to anything Biden [does], it would be hard to get Republicans on board. If he blessed some kind of deal, it would be easier to get something done. In many ways, he’ll be a shadow president.”

The notion of a “shadow” opposition leader, common in parliamentary systems, has never had any place in the United States, where defeated presidents (or presidential candidates) have no office to fall back upon and no formal status. On January 21, Trump will be a private citizen, albeit one with a Secret Service detail. If the idea spreads in Republican circles that Trump deserves quasi-official status as the victim of a “stolen election,” it could make him the most powerful ex-president since Theodore Roosevelt (or maybe more powerful, since Teddy had to cede party leadership to a designated successor).

Those Republicans who have privately hoped to rid themselves of Trump by jollying him along in his postelection misconduct really need to rethink their strategy. The only thing worse for them than a 2024 Trump comeback effort is a scenario in which he never goes away at all.


December 4: Biden’s Popular Vote Margin Reaches Seven Million

A lot of people have understandably stopped watching election returns trickle in. But they matter, as I explained at New York:

As Donald Trump continues to complain that he actually won, Joe Biden’s popular vote lead over the 45th president keeps growing to more and more impressive levels. He and Kamala Harris now have won more than 81 million votes, or over 10 million more than Barack Obama and Biden won in 2008, the previous high-water mark.

On Thursday, Biden’s popular vote margin over Trump passed the 7 million vote mark, well over twice the 2.9 million margin won by Hillary Clinton in 2016. From a percentage point of view, Biden leads by 4.4 percent — again, well over twice the 2.1 percent margin won by Clinton over Trump four years ago, and also more than the 3.9 percent by which Obama and Biden defeated Mitt Romney in 2012. It’s also higher than the popular vote percentage margins of the winners in 2004, 2000, 1976, 1968, and 1960. 2020 was by no means a landslide, of course, but from a popular-vote perspective it was the next best thing.

The Biden-Harris ticket’s 51.3 percent of the popular vote is pretty impressive, too. It’s higher than the 51.1 percent he and Obama won in 2012, and with the exception of the 52.9 percent they won in 2008, it’s the highest for any Democratic presidential ticket dating all the way back to Lyndon Johnson’s defeat of Barry Goldwater in 1964 (and before that, you have to go back to FDR in 1944 to find its equal).

If we didn’t have the abomination of the Electoral College, the Biden-Harris win would have looked comfortable, not uncomfortably close. Democrats should enjoy it a bit more than they have, and focus on hoping that Georgia will not only give Biden’s party its 16 electoral votes on December 14 when they are finally cast, but also control of the Senate if Democrats win two runoffs on January 5.

If that happens, many of the frowns over disappointing down-ballot results will turn to smiles.


Biden’s Popular Vote Margin Reaches Seven Million

A lot of people have understandably stopped watching election returns trickle in. But they matter, as I explained at New York:

As Donald Trump continues to complain that he actually won, Joe Biden’s popular vote lead over the 45th president keeps growing to more and more impressive levels. He and Kamala Harris now have won more than 81 million votes, or over 10 million more than Barack Obama and Biden won in 2008, the previous high-water mark.

On Thursday, Biden’s popular vote margin over Trump passed the 7 million vote mark, well over twice the 2.9 million margin won by Hillary Clinton in 2016. From a percentage point of view, Biden leads by 4.4 percent — again, well over twice the 2.1 percent margin won by Clinton over Trump four years ago, and also more than the 3.9 percent by which Obama and Biden defeated Mitt Romney in 2012. It’s also higher than the popular vote percentage margins of the winners in 2004, 2000, 1976, 1968, and 1960. 2020 was by no means a landslide, of course, but from a popular-vote perspective it was the next best thing.

The Biden-Harris ticket’s 51.3 percent of the popular vote is pretty impressive, too. It’s higher than the 51.1 percent he and Obama won in 2012, and with the exception of the 52.9 percent they won in 2008, it’s the highest for any Democratic presidential ticket dating all the way back to Lyndon Johnson’s defeat of Barry Goldwater in 1964 (and before that, you have to go back to FDR in 1944 to find its equal).

If we didn’t have the abomination of the Electoral College, the Biden-Harris win would have looked comfortable, not uncomfortably close. Democrats should enjoy it a bit more than they have, and focus on hoping that Georgia will not only give Biden’s party its 16 electoral votes on December 14 when they are finally cast, but also control of the Senate if Democrats win two runoffs on January 5.

If that happens, many of the frowns over disappointing down-ballot results will turn to smiles.