Skip to content
It’s Runoff Time
Go to my account

It’s Runoff Time

Georgia voters return to the ballot box to pick the 118th Congress’s 100th senator.

Happy Tuesday! For the first time in its history, the Oxford English Dictionary trusted the general public to vote on the word of the year instead of having its esteemed lexicographers make the choice.

Predictably, the general public immediately abused this trust by voting overwhelmingly for the slang term “goblin mode.”

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia launched about 70 missiles at Ukraine Monday—again targeting civilian infrastructure—after Russian officials accused Ukraine of drone attacks against two Russian air bases more than 300 miles from the border, including one used to launch strikes against the country. Ukrainian officials didn’t confirm Russia’s claim, though they’ve hinted at long-range strike capability. The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday the U.S. secretly altered the HIMARS missile systems provided to Ukraine to prevent long-range strikes on Russian territory that U.S. leaders fear could draw nuclear retaliation.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday signed a law against “LGBT propaganda” that blocks Russians from promoting same-sex relationships or portraying them as normal in advertising and media, building on a 2013 law that banned promoting homosexuality to children. Breaking the law, which also includes restrictions on promoting gender transition, can incur fines of up to about $6,400 for individuals or more than $80,000 for organizations.
  • About 19 crude oil tankers have reportedly dropped anchor while waiting to cross Turkish waters after the country demanded fresh proof of insurance in the wake of the new Western price cap and sanctions on Russian crude. The International Group of P&I Clubs—which represents companies insuring about 90 percent of global shipping—said Turkey’s new policy went “well beyond” typical requirements and that the group’s members can’t guarantee coverage in the event of a sanctions breach. Russian insurance companies reportedly provided the requested confirmation letters, allowing Russian-insured tankers passage.
  • Shops in several Iranian cities reportedly closed Monday for a planned three-day strike amid ongoing protests over the September death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, detained for allegedly violating Iran’s hijab law. Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency reported Monday Iran’s judiciary closed a Tehran amusement park because operators weren’t following the dress code.
  • The Supreme Court on Monday heard oral arguments in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, a renewed challenge to Colorado’s law forbidding companies from denying goods or services to customers based on sexual orientation, among other categories. Lawyers for graphic designer Lorie Smith argued that requiring her to make wedding websites for same-sex couples would be compelled speech violating her religious beliefs about marriage, and the court’s conservative justices seemed sympathetic to the argument.
  • Arizona on Monday certified the 2022 midterm results, officially confirming Democratic gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs’ victory over Republican Kari Lake, Sen. Mark Kelly’s return to the Senate, and Adrian Fontes’ election to replace Hobbs as secretary of state. Lake and failed Republican secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem still refuse to concede their elections, contending that ballot printing issues in Maricopa County caused voter suppression despite county election officials’ statements that the issues didn’t prevent votes.
  • The Secret Service said Monday that the China-based cybercriminal group APT41 has stolen at least $20 million of COVID-19 relief money—including small business loans and unemployment insurance payments—in several states since 2020. The group has previously conducted a mix of government-backed and profit-motivated attacks. The Labor Department’s inspector general has previously reported improper payment of about 20 percent of the $872.5 billion in federal pandemic unemployment funding.
  • Investment bank Morgan Stanley upgraded its outlook for Chinese stocks Monday after several Chinese cities loosened COVID-19 restrictions this weekend in response to recent protests over harsh restrictions aimed at eliminating COVID in the country. Some protests reportedly continued this weekend, including a demonstration by students at Wuhan University. The lockdowns and protests have rocked China’s economy—iPhone manufacturer Foxconn on Monday reported an 11 percent year-over-year revenue drop in November after a COVID-19 outbreak and protests disrupted production at its Zhengzhou factory. 
  • Former congressman David Rivera—a Republican who represented Miami’s House district from 2011 to 2013—was arrested at Atlanta’s airport on an eight-count indictment alleging he lobbied U.S. lawmakers and officials starting in 2017 to end sanctions against Venezuela and normalize relations with the country without registering as a foreign agent. Rivera has previously been implicated in wrongdoing on campaign finance and consulting contracts and double-billing taxpayer-funded travel expenses.

Georgia On Our Minds

Georgia Republican senate candidate Herschel Walker after a campaign stop in Dawsonville, Georgia. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

“Low energy” is the refrain of many GOP strategists and activists about the party’s mood going into the contest. Whether this perception manifests as a turnout problem remains to be seen—Republicans in recent years have been more likely to do their voting on election day itself. But there’s a few reasons why the party seems to be sleepwalking to the finish line.

First, the stakes are much lower this time around, with Democrats having already locked up a Senate majority (counting Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote) for the second consecutive Congress. That isn’t to say the Walker/Warnock outcome is irrelevant: Even setting aside the implications for Senate control in 2024 and 2026, there are parliamentary reasons why Republicans would much prefer an evenly divided Senate, which would win them concessions like equal seats on committees. But that’s a far cry from the 2021 runoffs, which determined whether newly elected President Joe Biden would kick off his term with single-party control of government.

Second, there’s the unavoidable fact of Walker’s weakness as a candidate. His local football celebrity and endorsement from President Donald Trump let Walker sail easily through the primary, but he’s been stepping on rakes ever since, with old scandals and new gaffes arising one after another. Republicans swept every other statewide election in Georgia this cycle, headlined by Gov. Brian Kemp’s 7.5-point win over Democrat Stacey Abrams. Walker alone limped into a runoff, trailing Warnock 49.4 percent to 48.5 percent in the final count last month. (In Georgia, runoffs take place when no general election candidate breaks 50 percent of the vote.) Going into election day, polling consistently shows Warnock with a slight head-to-head lead.

Walker trails Warnock significantly in favorability polling. A CNN poll released over the weekend found Warnock narrowly above water in the metric, with 50 percent of likely voters viewing him favorably compared to 45 percent unfavorable. Walker measured 39 percent favorable, 52 percent unfavorable. The same poll showed a strong hold-your-nose-and-vote presence in the Walker camp: While 82 percent of Warnock voters said they would be voting primarily to support Warnock rather than to oppose Walker, only 52 percent of Walker voters said the same, with 47 percent saying they were primarily voting in opposition to Warnock.

Still, a hold-your-nose vote counts the same as an enthusiastic one, and it’s too early to declare Walker cooked yet. The Republican has one advantage Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler lacked in the 2020 runoffs: unified party support. Last time around, the Republicans were hamstrung by former President Donald Trump’s stop-the-steal campaign, which left them stuck trying to straddle two irreconcilable positions: They were afraid to run on their best argument—that Republicans needed to hold the Senate as a check on President Biden—and, when they didn’t back Trump’s election-fraud claims to the hilt, major portions of the MAGA base were furious with them anyway.

This cycle, Georgia Republicans have been determined not to repeat the same mistake.

“We screwed this up in a runoff a few years ago, guys,” state Sen. Bruce Thompson—now Georgia’s labor commissioner-elect—said at a Walker rally near Atlanta last week. “Let’s just face it: We screwed it up. We had people that said, ‘I’m mad and I’m gonna protest and I’m gonna do this.’ You know what? We had to live through that. This is a redemption election, guys. We get a chance to redeem and say we’re red in Georgia.”

National Republicans have gotten with the program. The GOP civil war may be ongoing, but all factions have been showing up to try to get Walker over the top. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund Super PAC is here, and so is Sen. Rick Scott’s National Republican Senatorial Committee. Gov. Kemp, fresh off his own reelection, has put heroic effort behind Walker in the runoff: campaigning with him, fundraising for him, cutting ads supporting him, and—most notably—tapping his formidable political machine to do on-the-ground campaigning on his behalf. And Donald Trump, who endorsed Walker during the primary, has provided remarkable support too. Remarkable, that is, in its restraint: The Walker campaign reportedly asked Trump to keep his distance during the runoff, and, incredibly, Trump obliged. An inconspicuous “tele-rally” with Walker supporters last night was his most notable contribution to the race.

It’s anybody’s guess how Walker will fare without the benefit of Kemp’s coattails on the same ticket, but it wouldn’t take too much of an improvement on last month’s results to put Walker over the top. In the November election, Warnock led Walker by about 38,000 votes. Meanwhile, 200,000 people voted for Kemp but declined to vote for Walker, and 81,000 voted for Libertarian candidate Chase Oliver. 

As of last Friday, more than 1.8 million people had already voted in the runoff.

Worth Your Time

  • Ellie Laughinghouse Crout was on her way to a memorial service for her infant half-sister when she got the call that her youngest brother, Jackson, had overdosed and died just before his 19th birthday. Drug abuse and its fallout shattered the Laughinghouse family, leaving few members alive, and has killed many in their hometown of Greenville, North Carolina. “Oct. 2, 2013, was not the day the drug epidemic reached Greenville,” reporters of this devastating Washington Post piece write. “But beginning with Jackson’s death that day, a group of at least 16 young men and women who grew up together in this small eastern North Carolina city would succumb to overdoses of opioids and other drugs over nine years. More of their peers became addicted or overdosed but managed to survive. ‘It was almost like a generation that went to war didn’t come back,’ said J.D. Fletcher, whose son died in 2019.”
  • National Review’s Charlie Cooke would like a word with those arguing that, because Donald Trump’s call to suspend the Constitution won’t be heeded, it doesn’t really matter. “During the closing days of the 2020 election, I wrote repeatedly about the seriousness of Joe Biden’s refusal to reject his party’s growing demand to ‘pack’—i.e. destroy—the United States Supreme Court,” Cooke writes. “Not once did I receive an email from a Trump voter telling me that my alarm was misplaced on the grounds that, in all likelihood, Biden would not have the votes to do it. Back then—and rightly so—the mere fact that Biden was entertaining the idea was deemed instructive: ‘When people tell you what they want to do with power,’ my correspondents invariably opined, ‘you should believe them. Joe Biden cannot be trusted with power.’ Well, so it is with Donald Trump once again. … American patriots do not seek to overturn legitimate election results or recommend the suspension of the United States Constitution; they respect and defend both at all costs. Donald Trump is not a patriot. He is, in his heart of hearts, a tyrant. Take note, America.”

Presented Without Comment

Also Presented Without Comment

Toeing the Company Line

  • Reminder: The Morning Dispatch is still accepting applications! If you’re interested in helping put this newsletter together on a daily basis, be sure to check out our job listing here. Questions? Shoot a note to members@thedispatch.com with “TMD Job” in the subject line.
  • It’s Tuesday, which means Dispatch Live (🔒) returns tonight at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT! Join us for a conversation about what’s on the docket for Congress’ lame duck session and other headlines from the week. As always, there will be plenty of time for viewer questions. Members can watch for an email later today with details on tuning in.
  • About that whole “terminate” the Constitution thing… In Monday’s edition of Boiling Frogs (🔒), Nick argues that Donald Trump’s egregious comments are just the latest example of the former president reaching his final, authoritarian-wannabe form—and that this might be good. “A second Trump term has moved from toss-up territory probability-wise to something more like a tail risk,” Nick argues. “He’s destroying himself, and will continue to do so.”
  • In Monday’s Wanderland (🔒), Kevin explores the long-established authoritarian impulse to see art as a political tool—or threat. “There are little tyrants among us as well as great ones, the ones who insist that the value of a work of art or literature is in some political criterion,” Kevin writes. “Is it good for the gays? Is it an indictment of the bad thing? Does it advance the good thing?
  • Our Charlotte Lawson opens the reader mailbag (🔒) this month and answers members’ questions about her time at the University of Virginia, what to eat when in Turkey, her favorite rock concerts, and her work reporting on foreign policy and from another country.
  • In the latest Advisory Opinions, David and Sarah review the underwhelming oral arguments in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis as SCOTUS weighs whether a web designer can refuse to build a site for a gay wedding. Also: The 11th Circuit shut down the Special Master review of Mar-a-Lago documents, but did it dunk on Judge Aileen Cannon? Tune in for the debate.
  • On the site today, Charlotte Lawson breaks down the Muslim world’s hesitancy to support the Uyghur cause, and Seth D. Kaplan argues in favor of social policy that promotes strong neighborhood-based communities. 

Let Us Know

Do you find yourself caring about the outcome of today’s runoff in Georgia?

Andrew Egger is a former associate editor for The Dispatch.

Declan Garvey is the executive editor at the Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2019, he worked in public affairs at Hamilton Place Strategies and market research at Echelon Insights. When Declan is not assigning and editing pieces, he is probably watching a Cubs game, listening to podcasts on 3x speed, or trying a new recipe with his wife.

Esther Eaton is a former deputy editor of The Morning Dispatch.