President Trump’s lawsuit-heavy coup to overturn the election results hit a little snag over the weekend.
Sidney Powell, the very serious attorney who refers to herself as “The Kraken” while promising “biblical” revelations of nonexistent election fraud, went so far off the deep end that even Donald Trump had to disavow her. After a week spent promoting increasingly outlandish conspiracy theories — including that Georgia’s Republican Governor Brian Kemp was bribed to rig the election for Joe Biden — the Trump campaign on Sunday released a statement claiming Powell is “practicing law on her own” and “not a member of the Trump Legal Team.”
This is pretty hard to square considering the degree to which Trump, the Republican Party, and the rest of the the president’s legal dream team have rallied behind Powell as a representative of their interests.
Here’s Trump tweeting about her:
Here’s the GOP posting a clip of her appearance during a bizarre press conference held by Trump’s legal team last week. “President Trump won by a landslide,” Powell said before claiming the team was prepared to “reclaim the United States of America for the people who vote for freedom.”
Smiling in the background as Powell cried conspiracy was Jenna Ellis, who has described Powell as a member of Trump’s legal team, and praised her performance at the press conference. Giuliani said that the press conference was “representative of our legal team.”
It was Ellis and Giuliani who signed the statement released Sunday attempting to distance the team from Powell.
So what happened? Spend five minutes perusing Powell’s social media and it isn’t hard to pick up on why she might be a liability. Her Twitter is nearly indistinguishable from a QAnon account. Powell has posted conspiracy theories, grandiose mythological imagery, and vague promises to release incontrovertible proof that Trump actually won the election by millions of votes. As of Monday morning, she’s tweeted over 105,000 times, which is … a lot. This is what she does.
Powell’s latest claim, and possibly the one that led Trump’s team to sever ties, is that Brian Kemp, Georgia’s Trump-loving Republican governor, helped rig the state’s election in favor of Biden is exchange for a monetary payoff from communist-aligned foreign interests. “Georgia is probably going to be the first state I’m going to blow up, and Mr. Kemp and the Secretary of State need to go with it,” she said on Newsmax before describing her forthcoming legal filing as “biblical.”
The Washington Post reported on Sunday that Trump told allies that Powell was “too much” and that he no longer found her “helpful” to his anti-democratic coup to overturn the election results. This may be true, but it’s also true that the president has been gleefully promoting many of the same conspiracy theories as Powell. Going “too far” seems to be the entire point of whatever it is Trump’s team has been trying to accomplish since Biden won the election. As some have pointed out, the real reason for the statement might simply be that Powell crossed a line by going after a Republican as powerful as Kemp.
Regardless of why Trump’s legal team is suddenly trying to distance itself from Powell, it’s hard to argue with Trump’s reported claim that she wasn’t helpful. As Democratic lawyer Marc Elias pointed out on Sunday, Trump and the Republican Party are currently 2-34 in post-election court cases.
Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan called Rudy Giuliani’s Thursday news conference a “train wreck” and said it only distracted from the real work that must be done as President-elect Joe Biden’s team works on the transition from President Donald Trump.
Hogan told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd Friday that the news conference by Trump’s personal lawyer — during which some kind of dye ran down Giuliani’s face — was an embarrassment.
“I thought it was a train wreck. … I thought it was absolutely incredible,” Hogan said. “On the one hand, it’s outrageous. On the other hand, it’s really not surprising. … But it’s all a sideshow.”
Hogan said that “real progress” was being made, citing meetings he had with Vice President Mike Pence, the coronavirus task force and members of Biden’s incoming administration.
“When you get away from the sideshows of what’s going on, … people are working together on the important issues in the country,” Hogan said.
Hogan is among a host of GOP politicians — which includes Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Vermont Gov. Phil Scott — who have either supported Biden or criticized Trump for trying to undermine the election.
Hogan wrote a July editorial in The Washington Post decrying the president’s scattershot COVID-19 response and criticizing Trump for calling South Koreans “terrible people” in front of his wife, Yumi Hogan, who is of South Korean descent.
Hogan has also called Trump’s premature election remarks “a terrible mistake” and repeatedly argued that America’s system of democracy is more vital than any one election or person.
Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) drew backlash on Wednesday for soliciting campaign funds while speaking in the halls of Congress ― a potential violation of Senate ethics rules ― during an interview with Fox News.
Loeffler, who will face off against Democrat Raphael Warnock in a runoff election in January, warned Georgia conservatives that “hundreds of millions of dark, liberal money is pouring into our state” ahead of the contest.
“That’s why it’s so important that everyone across the country get involved,” Loeffler told Fox News with the pillars of the U.S. Capitol appearing behind her. “They can visit KellyforSenate.com to chip in 5 or 10 bucks, and get involved, volunteer.”
The Senate’s rules and standards of conduct for campaign activity prohibit Senate members and staff from receiving or soliciting campaign contributions in any federal building.
Loeffler’s campaign did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
Alex Floyd, spokesman for the Democratic Party of Georgia, called Loeffler’s fundraising pitch “shameless” and “a clear ethics violation.”
It’s “yet another example of how Senator Kelly Loeffler is looking out for herself,” Floyd said in a statement.
“It’s been months since Senator Loeffler has taken action to help Georgians impacted by the pandemic,” Floyd added, “and instead of using her time in Washington to fight for coronavirus relief, she’s doing what she thinks is best for her political campaign.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), one of Loeffler’s top supporters in the Senate, drew similar scrutiny last month after telling reporters on Capitol Hill that his supporters should donate to his reelection campaign.
The South Carolina Democratic Party filed a complaint with the Senate Select Committee on Ethics, in which the party accused Graham of having “committed a crime and violated longstanding ethics rules by openly raising money for his campaign in a Federal government building while leveraging his official U.S. Senate activity.”
A spokesman for Graham’s campaign said at the time that “any possible violation” committed by the senator was “unintentional and does not represent a pattern of behavior.”
Loeffler, a former financial executive, assumed office in January after being appointed by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) to replace Sen. Johnny Isakson, who retired for health reasons. Georgia scheduled two Senate runoff elections for Jan. 5 after none of the candidates received at least 50% of the votes in their respective races this month. (Republican Sen. David Perdue will face off against Democratic opponent Jon Ossoff.)
The closely watched runoffs will determine whether Republicans maintain control of the Senate. If Democrats succeed in flipping both seats, the Senate would likely be split 50-50. Democratic Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would have the power to cast a tiebreaker vote.
Watch Loeffler’s full interview with Fox News below. Her fundraising comments begin around the 5:30 mark.
There’s an old legal saying: “If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the law and the facts are against you, pound the table and yell like hell.”
Rudy Giuliani, at a federal court hearing in Pennsylvania as part of outgoing President Donald Trump’s long-shot legal crusade to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, pounded the table and yelled like hell. Pennsylvania officials, on the other hand, argued both the facts and the law.
While Trump has made absurd and evidence-free claims of mass voter fraud, things haven’t been going well for the Trump campaign in courts, where the candidate who told voters that they’d win so much they’d get “tired of winning” has been on a major losing streak.
One of the last remaining battles is in Pennsylvania, which was a must-win state for the Trump campaign. Trump and Giuliani have said hundreds of thousands of votes should be invalidated in the state because observers were limited in their ability to watch votes being counted, although the Trump campaign effectively scrapped that component of the lawsuit. Biden currently leads in Pennsylvania by more than 73,000 votes.
Giuliani, during Tuesday’s hearing, made broad, sweeping and unsubstantiated allegations of “widespread, nationwide voter fraud.” Giuliani said that Democrats, during the coronavirus pandemic, “were not going to let a serious crisis go to waste,” and decided to use mail-in ballots to steal the election. He said the “Democratic machine” decided to commit voter fraud on a “grand scale.”
At one point, he claimed more than 1.5 million votes were “entered illegally,” and the Trump campaign has claimed they should be tossed out. Mark Aronchick, an attorney for Pennsylvania counties, called Giuliani’s arguments “disgraceful.” Uzoma Nkwonta, an attorney for the Democratic National Committee, pointed out that ― despite Giuliani’s arguments ― Trump campaign lawyers had not actually made substantive claims of voter fraud in court.
U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann gave Giuliani a lot of leeway to make his argument. But he later pressed the Trump legal team, which he said was asking the court to invalidate more than 6 million votes and disenfranchise “every single voter in the commonwealth.”
“Can you tell me how this result can possibly be justified?” Brann asked.
Giuliani then went on an extended rant about how the votes “could have been from Mickey Mouse” and said it was wrong for election officials to give voters a chance to correct their ballots.
Brann later got Giuliani to admit that ― despite his claims of mass voter fraud during oral argument ― the Trump campaign’s argument did not “plead fraud with particularity.”
The Trump campaign’s amended complaint focuses on “Democratic heavy counties,” alleging that officials in those jurisdictions did a better job than officials in Republican-heavy jurisdictions of allowing voters to fix, or “cure,” problems with their mail-in ballots before Election Day. The lawsuit claims this alleged disparity denied some Pennsylvanians “the equal protection of law,” and seeks to prevent Pennsylvania officials from certifying the results of the election.
Nevertheless, Giuliani used the hearing to talk a lot about the claim that there was no meaningful access for elections observers in Philadelphia. Unfortunately for Giuliani, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected that argument in a separate case Tuesday afternoon, ruling that the regulations were “reasonable” and did in fact allow candidate representatives to observe the board as it counted votes in Philadelphia.
Republican voters have long been primed to subscribe to the false belief that voter fraud is a significant problem in elections. A number of former Republican-appointed top federal prosecutors spoke out about Trump’s “reckless” voter fraud comments, with one former Republican-appointed U.S. attorney saying his voter fraud campaign “smells of desperation.”
Even some longtime proponents of voting restrictions, like conservative activist and former Justice Department lawyer J. Christian Adams, said that the Trump’s effort in Pennsylvania was a long shot, and that legal claims need to be based on “real evidence,” not made-up evidence.
“There’s no case that ever says not allowing observers in can overturn an election,” Adams said on Fox Business. “That case doesn’t exist. So it’s a heavy-duty ask to ask a federal court to overturn this. I don’t think there’s any chance of that.” (Even so, Adams suggested that Pennsylvania legislators might seek a “political solution” and send Trump electors to the Electoral College, but said there must be a factual predicate that is “reasonable, sound, credible, voluminous.”)
There were some big changes to the Trump campaign’s legal team in the final hours before the hearing. Giuliani, who held a press conference to highlight overblown and unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud at Four Seasons Total Landscaping in northeast Philadelphia on the day that networks called the election for Biden, joined the team.
Another new member of the team, talk show host and attorney Marc Scaringi, previously told his audience that “litigation will not work” and “will not reverse this election,” as The Washington Post reported.
Linda Kerns, a Republican divorce and family law attorney associated with the conservative Federalist Society, sought to be removed from the case, but the judge wouldn’t let her. Kerns previously received an award from the Republican National Lawyers Association, where she told the audience that Philadelphians “treat me like I’m the problem” when she appears in court on elections issues. “But I’m not the problem,” Kerns said.
Kerns previously wrote a letter complaining that voters were dropping off two or three ballots ― presumably from other members of their households ― at Philadelphia ballot box locations, earning a warning from Pennsylvania’s attorney general, who said that the Trump campaign’s initiative of videotaping voters dropping off ballots could be considered illegal voter intimidation.
The wife of a U.S. Air Force major lashed out after she and her husband were falsely accused of “criminal voting fraud” in Nevada by Donald Trump’s campaign.
“We knew our votes were legal and we had done nothing wrong, but our integrity was being challenged,” attorney Amy Rose told The Military Times. She called it “upsetting” to be used to “undermine legitimate election results.”
“We take our duties as citizens very seriously, and it’s just a shock to see that this accusation had been made without any basis in fact,” Rose told NBC affiliate KSNV-TV in Las Vegas.
Rose, the former legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, said she and her husband voted by absentee ballot from Davis, California, where her husband is working on his doctorate.
Military personnel often vote by absentee ballot because they may be assigned to different locations — including overseas.
The Trump campaign’s Nevada list of alleged voter fraud includes votes mailed from hundreds of overseas military post office boxes, and more than 1,000 locations where military personnel are stationed, according to Military.com’s analysis.
“The list has addresses that are literally on Air Force bases,” Rose said.
Trump campaign attorneys from the Weir Group nevertheless listed the voter information in a Nov. 5 letter to Attorney General William Barr, stating: “We write to bring to your attention criminal voter fraud in the state of Nevada in the 2020 general election.”
“Voter fraud is a serious federal felony, one that cuts to the heart of our representative democracy,” the Trump lawyers wrote. “We understand that these are serious allegations and we do not make them lightly.”
The list available to the public doesn’t include names, but does include communities and zip codes. Rose said she was “shocked” to find her information on the list.
“Our names were … sent to the Department of Justice for investigation for criminal voting fraud,” a stunned Rose told The Military Times. “It’s incredibly frustrating and upsetting that our votes are being used in this way, to try to undermine legitimate election results in Nevada.“
To “see my integrity challenged, along with other members of the military, to be challenged in this way, it is a shock,” she added. “To be potentially disenfranchised because of these actions, that’s not okay.”
Rose told the newspaper that other military spouses in similar circumstances have reached out to her.
The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act created special provisions for military service members and U.S. citizens living overseas to vote by mail in elections.
Democratic Rep.-elect Cori Bush made history last week by becoming Missouri’s first Black congresswoman. But on her first day of work, GOP colleagues mistakenly called her “Breonna” because she wore a face mask with Breonna Taylor’s name on it in memory of the Black woman killed by police in her own apartment in Louisville, Kentucky.
Bush has spoken about the challenges of being a woman of color on the job and tweeted Friday that “it hurts” to encounter people who appear not to know about Taylor. But, she added, “they’ll come to know her name [and] story because of my presence.”
Bush is Breonna Taylor only in the sense that she “could be a Black woman murdered in [her] bed tonight,” she told reporters.
“This Breonna Taylor was murdered in her bed at night, and she does not have justice,” Bush said, pointing to the name on her mask.
She added: “We have to stretch ourselves and pay attention to what’s happening in other parts of the country. … People have protested in the streets with this name, and it just saddens me that people in leadership — people that want to be in leadership — don’t know the struggles that are happening to Black people in this country. And it was hurtful, absolutely hurtful. I didn’t hear it once. I didn’t hear it twice. I heard it several times.”
Bush is a St. Louis native, Ferguson activist and former nurse who unseated Republican Rep. William Lacy Clay in August and defeated Republican Anthony Rogers on Nov. 3.
She previously tweeted that she was the first nurse attending Congress from Missouri in the middle of a pandemic and intended to champion working class people who “need representatives who look like them and who have experienced their struggles.”
A number of lawyers were so disturbed by Rudy Giuliani’s conspiracy-riddled rant at a news conference last week that they bailed on commitments to work on President Donald Trump’s election legal challenges, Politico reported Saturday.
Now Trump has put Giuliani, his personal attorney, in charge of all of his campaign lawsuits, which already faced stiff odds.
Campaign aides reportedly tried desperately to talk Giuliani out of his wild Nov. 7 news conference in Philadelphia on the day several media outlets declared Joe Biden the winner of the presidential election. The bungled event took place at the wrong Four Seasons — not the luxury hotel but rather the Four Seasons Total Landscaping company between a sex shop and a crematory.
Earlier in the week, Giuliani was widely mocked after he argued that mail-in ballots “could be from Mars as far as we’re concerned.” He also said Biden could have voted “5,000 times” in Pennsylvania, a state where he’s not registered to vote.
“I can’t imagine that a rational person … wouldn’t be adversely affected by the way he conducts himself,” Barry Richard, a lawyer who represented George W. Bush in the 2000 Florida election recount, told Politico.
Unnamed sources told Politico that Giuliani’s over-the-top claims sharply undercut a “meticulous” legal strategy forged over months by Trump’s advisers. Campaign aides characterized the news conference as a disaster that triggered the flight of valuable legal talent that the campaign had spent months cultivating, sources told Politico.
Now they fear not only that the suits will wither, but also that Giuliani will further hurt Trump’s reputation and his political future.
Trump tapped Giuliani to handle his lawsuits on Friday after a series of setbacks in the president’s court battles to challenge the outcome of the presidential election.
Lawyers from the prominent law firm of Porter Wright Morris & Arthur withdrew from the campaign’s lawsuit in federal court in Pennsylvania.
Meanwhile, judges in Pennsylvania and two other states dismissed the Trump campaign’s lawsuits seeking to prevent or stop mail-in ballots from being counted.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany refused to accept the reality that President-elect Joe Biden will be inaugurated at the White House on Jan. 20 and told Fox Business that President Donald Trump will likely attend “his own inauguration” instead.
McEnany told Fox Business’ Stuart Varney on Friday that Trump was “not even at that point yet” of conceding to Biden and instead remained focused on various lawsuits challenging the election’s outcome.
“It would look pretty bad if he did not attend the inauguration,” said Varney, normally an adamant supporter of Trump. “It would look like sour grapes, wouldn’t it?”
“I think the president will attend his own inauguration,” McEnany responded. “He would have to be there, in fact.”
“You really think you can turn this around?” a skeptical Varney asked.
“Absolutely,” McEnany said before adding that Trump’s administration only wants to “lift the hood of the car” and examine the election results — though there is no evidence to support the president’s claims of election fraud.
McEnany predicted before the election that Trump would win in a landslide. On Friday, she argued that Trump was “fighting for the men and women of this movement who have brought real questions and claims forward” about the voting process
These were far from McEnany’s first comments at odds with the reality of the election and its aftermath. She deflected a question on “Fox & Friends” Tuesday about allowing Biden access to daily classified briefings, saying that such an issue would better be addressed by “the White House” —ignoring the fact that she is, in fact, the spokeswoman for the White House.
Watch the full video of McEnany’s statements to Fox Business below.
Democrats are calling on a key government agency to sign off on President-elect Joe Biden’s victory and aid in the mammoth task of transitioning between presidents before Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration.
The General Services Administration, headed by Trump appointee Emily Murphy, has resisted signing the paperwork that would give Biden and his team access to millions of dollars in transitions funds, as well as official access to government officials and equipment to prepare the incoming administration, according to The Washington Post.
Until Murphy formally ascertains that Biden has won the election, the former vice president cannot access government funds or communicate with federal agencies. Biden’s team, for example, cannot receive the same intelligence briefings as Trump because of the GSA’s refusal to sign off on the election results. Acknowledging Biden’s victory would also grant his team access to $9.9 million for salaries and spending up to the inauguration.
“We hope you will recognize that every hour between now and January 20, 2021 is critical for the transition team’s preparations for taking on the multiple, pressing challenges our nation faces,” Maryland Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, who serve on committees overseeing the agency, wrote in a letter addressed to Murphy on Monday.
“In the spirit of national unity and common purpose in addressing the needs of the American people, we request that you extend the necessary funding, resources, and assistance to the transition team upon their request and without delay,” the senators added.
The letter cited the GSA’s obligation under the Presidential Transition Act of 1963, which promotes the orderly transfer of executive power between presidents.
The standoff between the GSA and the Biden team is unlikely to end soon. Trump continues to refuse to concede the election to Biden by citing baseless claims of widespread voter fraud. Top Republicans ― including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) ― are standing with him.
A spokesperson for the GSA told Politico on Monday that the agency’s position on the matter is unchanged.
“An ascertainment has not yet been made,” the spokesperson said.
Some GOP senators said on Monday that it was time to begin the transition process, even as they acknowledged Trump had a right to contest results in court, no matter how unlikely such an effort would prove at changing the result.
“There’s a very likely prospect that there will be a change in administration and for the purposes of a smooth transition and national security, we have a national interest in the transition proceeding as rapidly as can be done,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who has congratulated Biden on his win, told HuffPost on Monday.
But Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, which handles election matters, downplayed the impact of a delayed election certification by the federal government.
“Until just a few years ago, there was no federal money for the transition. Twenty years ago, George W. Bush didn’t have any money for the transition until almost January,” Blunt told HuffPost. “I don’t think the transition is as hinged on the federal government stepping up and saying ‘we’re going to start paying for everything today’ as it is on knowing what you’re doing.”
Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon had led GOP Sen. Susan Collins in polls ― public and private, Republican and Democratic ― for months. Her likely victory over the longtime incumbent was a key building block in Democrats’ plan to retake the Senate after six years in the minority.
But in the final weeks of the 2020 election, Democrats started to worry. Their internal polls showed Collins not only fighting back, but closing the gap with Gideon. In the days leading up to the election, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called other members, warning them Gideon may lose. Republicans saw a similar uptick, though many still thought Gideon would triumph after Maine’s ranked-choice voting process.
Instead, Collins romped, winning 51% of the vote to Gideon’s 42%. Even if the ranked-choice voting process had eliminated two independent candidates, Gideon likely only would have reached about 47%.
Republicans and Democrats working on Senate races quickly reached the same, somewhat unexpected conclusion. The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ― which both sides thought would hurt Collins’ chances by reminding Maine voters of her unpopular decision to back Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation in 2018 ― instead gave her a renewed chance to highlight her independence with her vote against the nomination of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, persuading enough swing voters to cast ballots for both her and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
Senate Democrats entered the fall riding high. While only two of the states they were targeting ― Colorado and Maine ― voted for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton four years earlier, they believed they had created a map of almost unprecedented breadth. With the help of millions of dollars of grassroots fundraising, Republican-leaning states from Alaska to Montana were in play, and swing states like North Carolina and Arizona seemed to be trending in the Democratic direction.
Super PACs allied with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) agreed with their wallets, pouring tens of millions of dollars into defending incumbents like Lindsey Graham in South Carolina and Steve Daines in Montana.
Democrats still have a chance at winning the Senate, where before the election they had a 53-47 disadvantage. They’ve won two states ― Colorado and Arizona ― while suffering an expected loss in Alabama. But their once-optimistic chances have now faded dramatically, reliant on either a miracle win in Alaska or on sweeping two runoff elections scheduled for January in Georgia.
Collins’ unexpected comeback in Maine is only one part of a story of how Democrats’ boldest Senate dreams crumbled ― a story that also involves sex scandals, late breaks and massive polling errors ― ultimately culminating in a wipeout in key states fueled by ultra-high Trump-powered turnout.
“I was hoping that we would sweep to victory with a number of Senate wins,” former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat who defeated GOP Sen. Cory Gardner, said on MSNBC on Wednesday. “It’s not the level of excitement I was hoping to wake up to.”
By August, a once-narrow Democratic path to the Senate majority had opened up, buoyed by the successful Democratic recruitment of candidates like Hickenlooper, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, astronaut Mark Kelly in Arizona and party-switching state Sen. Barbara Bollier in Kansas. Even candidates who began with a lower profile, like real estate developer Theresa Greenfield in Iowa, former Democratic National Committee official Jaime Harrison in South Carolina and former state Sen. Cal Cunningham in North Carolina, had made their races competitive.
“We found a lot of candidates who were uniquely good for their states and for this environment,” Justin Barasky, a senior adviser at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said in an interview the day before the election. “Republicans underestimated these campaigns and these candidates.”
But each side pursued different strategies. Republicans largely developed individualized attacks for each Democratic opponent, often using opposition research. They attacked Iowa’s Theresa Greenfield over her business record, and unsuccessfully attempted to tie Kelly to the Chinese government.
Democrats relentlessly hammered incumbent Republicans, regardless of state, for supporting the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and its protections for people with preexisting conditions. The head of the major Senate GOP super PAC, Senate Leadership Fund, conceded the ads had a significant impact.
“If you were to turn your TV on in every state in the country that had a competitive Senate race, you would see exactly the same ad run by every Democratic candidate, every Democratic outside group and the DSCC,” Steven Law said. “Our data suggests the Democratic attacks were particularly effective there.”
Law said Republicans would need to address the issue. “We’re going to have to do more in that vein,” he said of legislation protecting preexisting conditions. “You’re foolish if you think [these attacks are] just going to evaporate.” But he also wondered if Democrats were too reliant on a few key issues and whether their attacks would “become an over-chewed piece of gum by the time the election came around.”
Democrats were confident voters would punish the GOP for recklessness on a key issue. “These senators, the ones who actually were elected, all won in 2014 on an ACA repeal strategy,” Barasky said. “They had six years to come up with a replacement. None of them did.”
The low point for Senate Republicans essentially matched the low point for the president they ran alongside ― President Donald Trump’s off-the-walls performance in the first presidential debate, followed by the president’s coronavirus illness. GOP candidates’ standing in the polls plummeted. Over the week that followed, Republican groups would reserve $20 million worth of air time in three solidly GOP states ― South Carolina, Kansas and Alaska.
Million-dollar donations would keep coming throughout the final weeks, according to Federal Election Commission records. After raising $90 million in September, Senate Leadership Fund would bank $1 million from a coal executive on Oct. 2; $2 million from the National Association of Realtors on Oct. 6; $5 million from banking fortune heir Timothy Mellon on Oct. 9; a matching $5 million from hedge fund manager Ken Griffin on Oct. 14.
Along with record fundraising from the National Republican Senatorial Committee ― it raised $275 million this cycle, smashing a previous record of $155 million ― the cash would prove crucial to fending off Democratic candidates powered by record-breaking grassroots fundraising.
In the midst of Trump’s personal battle with coronavirus, Republicans got their first break. A conservative website, then mainstream newspapers in North Carolina, reported that Cunningham had exchanged sexual texts with a married woman. Cunningham, a former military lawyer, had long led the unpopular Tillis by narrow margins, even running ahead of Biden.
The affair gave Republicans hope of upsetting that dynamic. Tillis’ campaign, along with outside groups, would run more than a dozen ads highlighting it in the closing weeks of the race as Cunningham dodged the press. Public surveys showed Cunningham’s image tanking, even if he held onto a small lead in the polls.
The GOP always had a clear advantage in most other states on the map. “We have, to some extent now, a home field advantage,” Law acknowledged. “We have states that mostly trend Republican in presidential elections.”
Voters in these states reverted to form. GOP internal polling showed that as voters across the board became more aware Biden was likely to win the presidency in the final weeks, it became harder for Democratic candidates to win over the Republicans and conservative-leaning independents they needed to win. The chance to compete slipped away from Democrats in Kansas and Montana. Greenfield’s advantage over Ernst in Iowa ― one poll showed the Democrat winning 10% of Trump voters ― evaporated.
The four major groups spending on Senate races ― The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Senate Majority PAC for Democrats, plus the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Senate Leadership Fund for the GOP ― put a combined $660 million into Senate races across the country. In the end, roughly $152 million of that total went to races that were decided by 10 percentage points or more, according to data from OpenSecrets.
By the final weeks of the race, it was clear at least some of this money ― never mind the tens of millions Democrats raised from grassroots donors ― was heading straight into the political furnace. Amy McGrath raised nearly $100 million for a race neither the GOP nor Democrats thought was a key battleground. In South Carolina, Democrat Jaime Harrison desperately began to air multiple ads boosting Constitution Party candidate Bill Bledsoe, hoping to lower the bar he needed to clear to defeat Graham.
Republicans were particularly baffled by the $20 million two Democratic groups ― Senate Majority PAC and Future Forward ― poured into the Texas Senate race with only weeks left in the election. The GOP was never worried about defending Sen. John Cornyn, who eventually defeated Democrat M.J. Hegar by 10 percentage points ― 5 points ahead of Joe Biden in the state.
Republicans turned out in surprisingly high numbers across the map, dooming Greenfield, Bullock, Bollier and Harrison’s efforts in GOP-leaning states. Cunningham’s bruised image meant he ran behind Biden, who is narrowly losing in North Carolina, instead of ahead of him. Collins topped Gideon.
Before the results were known, Law ― a top ally of McConnell ― was asked if he thought Democrats had made any major mistakes over the course of the election cycle. He had a few critiques, like suggesting they had wasted money boosting Cunningham during his primary, but mostly thought they pursued the correct strategy.
“I felt like they played their hand fairly smartly,” Law said.