Georgia decides

Unfinished midterms’ business will be wrapped up tomorrow when Georgia voters choose between Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker. The runoff has been a far more low-key affair than was the case two years ago, and understandably so given that Democratic control of the Senate is assured.

And yet Georgia seems to have slipped further out of the spotlight than is warranted. No number of Democratic senators can get all that much done given Republican control of the House, of course. But in several important ways, the difference between fifty and fifty-one senators matters. While a fifty-fifty Senate gives the president’s party effective control via the vice-president’s tie-breaking vote; the same isn’t true of committees, which are split evenly. And so a one-seat majority gives Democrats the ability to avoid tied votes that bung up the system and slow the pace of nominations for both the judiciary and the executive branch.

And then there are the less direct consequences of the vote: the embarrassing fact for Republicans that if Raphael Warnock wins, the chronically unpopular Joe Biden will have added to his Senate tally two years into his administration. A Walker loss would also be another high-profile case of the Trump-backed candidate underperforming.

But perhaps the real reason for the fading interest is that everyone seems to think that Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock will emerge victorious tomorrow night. Warnock finished first in the first round of voting in November and the polls point to him doing so again tomorrow.

Faced with these numbers, Republicans have also been underwhelmed by Walker’s campaigning on the home straight. He took a break over Thanksgiving. This weekend, as Warnock crisscrossed the state delivering his stump speech, Walker attended a college football tailgate where he did not speak and a single rally on Sunday.

The Republican strategy in Georgia has been to deploy Brian Kemp, the popular governor who outperformed Walker on Election Day in November, as the campaign’s surrogate-in-chief. But if that strategy aims to persuade independents and moderate Republicans, it is undermined by Trump’s divisive headline-grabbing antics in recent weeks.

*** Sign up to receive the DC Diary in your inbox here ***

The Trump slump

Hot on the heels of Trump’s ghoulish Florida soirée, where he dined with Kanye West and Nick Fuentes, comes fresh antics from the former president that will surely have more and more Republicans wondering what they stand to gain from having him as the national face of the party.

In response to revelations about how Twitter surprised the Hunter Biden laptop exposé ahead of the election (more on that here), Trump claimed that “a Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution.” This sort of deranged attack on the constitution is exactly the sort of thing that Republican politicians are fast losing patience with. Increasingly, it looks like the voters are too. A new poll by Marquette Law School is the latest evidence of Trump’s slumping numbers. In a hypothetical choice for 2024 Republican nominee, it shows DeSantis with a twenty-point lead.

So much for Jim Crow on steroids

One concrete takeaway from the Georgia runoff so far: voting in the Peach State seems to be reasonably straightforward. That is the unavoidable inference from the news that early voting for the runoff is smashing all records in the state. Nearly two million Georgians have already voted, and according to GeorgiaVotes.com, more than 76,000 voters who did not vote last month have so far cast a ballot in the runoff. In other words, the reality of democracy in Georgia is a far cry from the absurdly over-the-top cartoon of voter suppression painted by Democratic politicians over the last year or so.

What you should be reading today

Alina Chan: Will 2023 be the year we learn the truth about Covid’s origins?
Charles Lipson: Elon Musk’s Twitter files demand answers from government
Matt Purple: The delusion that unites Biden and Macron
Damir Marusic, the Atlantic: Taiwan faces its Ukraine moment
Yang Jie and Aaron Tilley, Wall Street Journal: Apple makes plans to move production out of China
Ryan Mills, National Review: Taking on China, woke corporations top DeSantis agenda as 2024 speculation swirls

Poll watch

President Biden job approval
Approve: 41.0 percent
Disapprove: 54.1 percent
Net approval: -13.1 (RCP Average)

Direction of country
Right direction: 30 percent
Wrong direction: 66 percent (Rasmussen)

Sign up to receive the DC Diary here.