Is Tuesday’s Georgia Senate runoff a done deal for Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, or does the 2022 midterm cycle have one more surprise in store?
There have been only two public polls released ahead of the vote, one that shows the incumbent up 4 points on Republican challenger Herschel Walker, and one that has Warnock up by 2 points. These are not big margins, but in both polls, Warnock is above the 50 percent threshold with no significant number of undecided voters.
Plus, the atmospherics have been pretty dire in the closing days for Walker and the GOP. Another woman from his past came forward with troubling allegations about the former football star, claims that dovetail with the central message of the Democrats’ closing argument about Walker’s unfitness for office based on his past treatment of women and his children. To make matters worse, this week brought new questions about Walker’s residency in the state, after tax documents showed that he had only recently stopped renting out the Atlanta-area home he claimed as his primary domicile.
And what has Walker been doing in this troubled time? He took a five-day break from campaigning around the Thanksgiving holiday. That may be a good thing in the case of a candidate who so often puts his foot in his mouth, but not if that candidate is getting outspent 2-to-1 on television and by probably an even wider margin on get-out-the-vote efforts.
Republicans also managed to shoot themselves in the foot with changes to voting rules plainly aimed at increasing their advantage in such a situation. The GOP’s rule changes shortened the time between general election and runoff from nine weeks to four weeks, obviously expecting a situation in which a Republican would be protecting a lead from the general, like then-Sen. David Perdue in 2020. Now it’s their man who is trailing and running out of time. Similarly, a unanimous state Supreme Court decision allowing Saturday voting over Thanksgiving weekend was a GOP misfire. Republican officials said state law forbade the practice because of the holiday, but Democratic-led counties sued and won. The result? Polls open in heavily Democratic precincts; polls closed in heavily Republican ones.
One last bid of unglad tidings for the Georgia GOP: Evidence suggests that black voter turnout nationally and in Georgia was as poor as it had been since before the Obama era. While that may not be good news long-term for a party that relies heavily on near-monolithic support from black voters, it is further cause for optimism for Dems in Georgia. The runoff system advantages the party with the most support from high-propensity voters, who tend to be richer and whiter than the electorate as a whole. Forcing a second round of balloting makes it hard for candidates who rely on lower-propensity voters, a category that includes a lot of black Georgians. Yet Warnock didn’t win on the basis of a surge in black voters, but rather despite the fact that the black electorate shrank.
The decisive bloc in the general election was independent voters, who broke hard for Warnock. What might cause any of them to change their minds? Is there a reason pro-Warnock or pro-Walker independents might stay away in fewer or greater numbers?
Certainly Walker has offered no reasons for voters to think better of him as a potential senator, but the change in stakes may not affect turnout evenly. Control of the Senate was the major issue for voters in the general, but that is not part of this discussion now.Since the Warnock win in round one represented Democrats swimming against the tide in a red state—as Gov. Brian Kemp’s easy victory showed—falloff might be expected to be more uneven than it was in the 2021 runoff that gave the Senate to Democrats in the first place. Think of it this way: If Georgia only reverted mostly to its typical turnout, it would be enough to give Walker the win. And Democrats ought to remember that this weekend, lest their expectations be skewed again.
Holy croakano! We welcome your feedback, so please email us with your tips, corrections, reactions, amplifications, etc. at STIREWALTISMS@THEDISPATCH.COM. If you’d like to be considered for publication, please include your real name and hometown. If you don’t want your comments to be made public, please specify.
Biden Job Performance
Average approval: 40.2%
Average disapproval: 53.8%
Net score: -13.6 points
Change from one week ago: ↓ 0.4 points
[Average includes: Quinnipiac: 36% approve-55% disapprove; Emerson College: 39% approve-52% disapprove; Marist College: 42% approve-54% disapprove; Reuters/Ipsos: 40% approve-55% disapprove; NBC News: 44% approve-53% disapprove]
Thinking about this holiday season, do you plan to spend more on gifts this year than last year, less on gifts or about the same as last year?
TIME OUT: ‘250 GRAMS OF MAGIC AND PERFECTION’
AP: “The humble baguette — the crunchy ambassador for French baking around the world — is being added to the U.N.’s list of intangible cultural heritage as a cherished tradition to be preserved by humanity. … The U.N. cultural agency’s chief, Audrey Azoulay, said the decision honors more than just bread; it recognizes the ‘savoir-faire of artisanal bakers’ and ‘a daily ritual.’ … Back in France, bakers seemed proud, if unsurprised. … ‘If there’s no baguette, you can’t have a proper meal,’ said Asma Farhat, baker at Julien’s Bakery near Paris’ Champs-Elysees avenue. … The baguette is indeed serious business. France’s “Bread Observatory” — a venerable institution that closely follows the fortunes of the flute — notes that the French munch through 320 baguettes of one form or another every second. That’s an average of half a baguette per person per day, and 10 billion every year.”
BIDEN TEES UP GUN BAN, SEEKS TO KEEP GOP ON DEFENSE
Washington Post: “Vexed by another string of mass shootings, President Biden has begun calling vociferously on Congress to pass a ban on assault weapons despite the extremely low odds that it will enact such a ban — a reflection of how he may seek to use Republicans as a foil now that a GOP takeover of the House is putting his legislative goals further out of reach. … Some Democrats believe gun control measures are especially popular with the younger voters who helped power the party during their unexpectedly successful midterm elections. Meanwhile, the Democrats’ loss of the House will likely force Biden to focus less on legislative wins and more on rallying Democrats and putting Republicans on the defensive as he heads toward a planned reelection run.”
‘Crossover’ House members bounce back in 2022: Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “The overall number of ‘crossover’ districts — seats that vote for one party for House but the other party for president — has been generally on a downward trajectory [but this cycle increased to 23 districts from 16 districts in 2020]. … The number of crossover districts captured by the opposition party spiked in each of the last 5 midterms. So even though Republicans had a somewhat disappointing year compared to the last 4 midterms — all elections we can classify as waves — this trend still held, although 2022 was also a redistricting year, unlike the previous 4 midterms. … The biggest overperformer here was Rep. Mary Peltola (D, AK-AL), who ran roughly 20 points ahead of Joe Biden’s 2020 showing in Alaska. … There were several Republicans who performed nearly as well as Peltola did compared to the 2020 presidential results, including a couple of newly-elected Republicans in the New York City suburbs, Reps.-elect George Santos (R, NY-3) and Anthony D’Esposito (R, NY-4).”
Buuuuuutttt … state government “trifectas” reach 70-year high:Wall Street Journal: “With the GOP retaining control of the state House and Senate and the governorship, New Hampshire brings to 39 the number of states with a governing trifecta—one party holding a majority in both legislative chambers while also occupying the governor’s mansion. It is the most trifectas since 1947. … Democrats now hold 17 state trifectas, compared with 22 held by Republicans, after the party flipped legislative chambers in Minnesota and Michigan and governorships in Massachusetts and Maryland. The GOP flipped one governorship, in Nevada, loosening Democrats’ grip on a state where that party maintained control of both legislative chambers.”
TABLE FOR ONE: TRUMP CAMPAIGN VOWS TO REIN IN CANDIDATE
AP: “Donald Trump is betting he can win his way back to the White House by reviving the outsider appeal that fueled his success in 2016. But his dinner with a Holocaust-denying white nationalist and a rapper who has spewed antisemitic conspiracies is demonstrating the risks of that approach. … In an acknowledgment of the severity of the backlash and an effort to prevent a repeat, Trump’s campaign is putting new protocols in place to ensure that those who meet with him are approved and fully vetted. … ‘Republicans, we’re looking to 2024 and we’re looking for a winner,’ said New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, who blasted Trump’s dinner as ‘absolutely reprehensible.’ … ‘I think it makes him even less electable in November of 2024,’ he said. So far, Trump has refused to condemn the views of either visitor, despite growing condemnation from his party, including calls for an apology from his former Vice President Mike Pence.”
Leibovich: Pump the brakes on DeSantis hype: Atlantic: “[Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis] works harder than Trump does, and is more disciplined and capable of adapting. … But certain political skills are more innate, and require an ability to ad-lib that DeSantis lacks. He can appear needlessly snappish and reactive (earlier this year, he scolded a group of high-school students for wearing masks onstage behind him). One particular interlude during DeSantis’s 2022 campaign bears revisiting. It occurred during a debate with his Democratic opponent, Charlie Crist, who attempted to pin down the governor on whether he would commit to serving out his four-year term if reelected. In other words, was DeSantis running for president in 2024 or not? ‘Yes or no, Ron?’ Crist pressed him. DeSantis froze. ‘It’s a fair question and he won’t tell you,’ Crist said, filling the silence.”
Embattled McDaniel commissions midterm autopsy: Politico: “The RNC is tapping nearly a dozen people to serve in what it’s calling a ‘Republican Party Advisory Council’ – a group that includes former Donald Trump White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, evangelical leader Tony Perkins and a pair of Senate candidates who ran this year. … The launch of the group comes as [Ronna Romney McDaniel], the longest-serving RNC chair in more than a century, moves to fight off a potential leadership challenge. New York Rep. Lee Zeldin, who waged an unsuccessful campaign for governor, has said he is ‘seriously considering’ running against McDaniel, and has been reaching out to RNC members in anticipation of a campaign. … The panel will also include former Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters, who in the wake of his loss has called on the party to move on from ‘consultant one-size-fits-all strategies.’”
MyMentum or just fluff?: Axios: “MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell announced Monday that he is running to chair the Republican National Committee. ‘I am 100% running for the RNC chairman against [current chair] Ronna McDaniel,’ Lindell told Steve Bannon. ‘I’m all in … and one of the things that one of the big donors said to me, he said, Mike, everybody wants you to be head of the RNC, some of them just don’t know it yet,’ he said.”
McCarthy 2021: Better than nothing: Semafor: “The conservative rebellion against Speaker-not-quite-elect Kevin McCarthy continues, with a small but significant group of members declaring themselves a hard ‘no’ on his candidacy. If even a handful of holdouts don’t crack, McCarthy will face an impossible math problem that will force Republicans to produce someone else. To which McCarthy’s allies have a retort: Who? ‘There’s no Plan B on this, it’s McCarthy,’ Rep. David Valadao, R-Calif. said. … House Freedom Caucus members are also reluctant to name an ideal candidate after McCarthy easily dispatched a try for leader by Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz. … And it’s not clear there’s a leader-in-waiting who could solve their concerns without pushing away moderates wary of handing their caucus too much power.”
Rep. Donald McEachin, trailblazing Virginan, dead at 61—Richmond Times-Dispatch
Sen. Mike Braun launches gubernatorial bid in Hoosier State—Politico
With Schumer and Jeffries, Brooklynites lead Democratic Party—Washington Post
WITHIN EARSHOT: YOU’RE NOT ALONE, MR. PRESIDENT
“Oh, I don’t know about that.”—President Biden responding to supporters chanting “four more years” after an event at the White House.
“As a born and bred Liberal, who has been a free rider until now, I finally relented and subscribed. So now I can vent a little about your otherwise fine tribute to most everyone’s favorite holiday. [Yuval Levin’s] characterization of liberals’ sentiments as arising from outrage was an unfortunate and graceless inclusion in your piece. His statement is as fine an example of virtue-signaling as I’ve ever heard; I’d thought that was the sole province of those of us on the Left. It is possible, even for the likes of us, to hold two contradictory truths in our minds at the same time: to have gratitude for all that we have while at the same time to recognize how lucky we are–that so many others are not as fortunate. That was a gratuitous insult to those of your readers who are sufficiently intellectually flexible to read you, and David, and Jonah, et al. And I put sweet Italian sausage and dried cherries in my stuffing. Perhaps I’ll send you some.”—Ann Winston, New York, New York
Ms. Winston, First, thank you for subscribing! You are the kind of American I urge our countrymen and countrywomen to emulate. But, alas, I can’t go with you on your vision of stuffing as sweet and savory demi-entree. That is a bread cube too far for this reporter, but the freedom to be wrong is in many ways the most important freedom of all. As for Yuval, let’s start with the offending passage I quoted from his 2013 Bradley Prize speech: “To my mind, conservatism is gratitude. Conservatives tend to begin from gratitude for what is good and what works in our society and then strive to build on it, while liberals tend to begin from outrage at what is bad and broken and seek to uproot it. You need both, because some of what is good about our world is irreplaceable and has to be guarded, while some of what is bad is unacceptable and has to be changed. We should never forget that the people who oppose our various endeavors and argue for another way are well intentioned too, even when they’re wrong, and that they’re not always wrong.” You call that “virtue-signaling” and say my inclusion of it was “unfortunate and graceless” and “a gratuitous insult.” It was certainly not my intent to offend anyone with my Thanksgiving missive, and I am sorry that I failed in your case, and probably with some others. Indeed, I included Yuval’s words precisely because they spoke to the virtues of both liberalism and conservatism, the necessity of both gratitude and outrage, and for how gracious he was in taking time in front of an arch-conservative audience to speak up for the men and women of the left. Just as good government balances freedom and order, good people balance respect for tradition and institutions—gratitude—with compassion for the people afflicted by the failures of the status quo—outrage. As the philosophers Rob Base and EZ Rock told us, “It takes two to make a thing go right. It takes two to make it outta sight.” Thanksgiving is a conservative holiday because it is about gratitude for the gifts we have been given. Other holidays are different, though. America’s other major civic holiday, Independence Day, is a celebration of revolution against injustice and tyranny, and our newest civic holiday, Juneteenth, bids us to rejoice in the violent overthrow of the deeply immoral slavocracy. Some things are worth being outraged about, even unto death. I would defend Yuval here even if he wasn’t my boss at the American Enterprise Institute because long before I came to these august halls, I already knew that in public and in private he is devoted to respectful discourse, decency, and the filial love that true patriotism demands. There is no signaling in him, but much virtue.
“A mouth-watering recipe to be sure. But how can it be ‘stuffing’ if it’s not actually, uh … stuffed into the bird? Which brings me to the photo: The Thanksgiving staple shown above is correctly referred to as a) Stuffing b) Dressing c) Filling d) Who cares? May I have some more, please? Finally: yeah, [last week’s kicker] could be Robert Earl Keen, but I’m thinkin’ more likely Hayes Carll. Thanks. Really!”—George Valenta, San Antonio, TexasYou were FAR from alone among our readers in pointing out that the Stirewalt stuffing recipe included in last week’s note is not actually stuffed into anything other than the greedy gullets of Thanksgiving guests. The stuffing vs. dressing debate, however, is not about the food’s location in the oven, but one’s location on the map. Southerners are more likely to say “dressing,” regardless of whether cooked in the bird or in a pan. Northerners, on the other hand, are more prone to call it “stuffing,” even when it is not stuffed at all. There are many regional disputes over this dish, including New Englanders and New Yorkers mixing in damp and slimy meats, seafoods, and fruits or Southerners using tragically dry and gritty cornbread. But the stuffing/dressing question has a modern twist: Food science and culinary trends both reject the bread-in-the-bird approach. By the time you have cooked a stuffed bird to a safe temperature of 165 degrees fahrenheit throughout, the breast meat is drier than a Vermont grandmother’s wit. You get better flavor and faster cooking time by putting aromatic veggies in the cavity, or, do as I prefer, and spatchcock the turkey and roast it over chunks of carrots, celery, and onions. After cooking, you can pitch the veggies and strain the drippings to make your gravy. So, neither stuffing nor dressing should really go in the bird, which makes the already confused taxonomy of the dish more confusing still. But in my mother’s Midwest-meets-Appalachia kitchen, we mostly called it “stuffing,” so that’s where I shall stay. As for the correct Texas troubadour to sing the story of the spider monkey hidden in a beer box, I’d like to hear them all!
“I drove through West Virginia a couple of years ago. Lots of trees. Had lunch at a brew pub. … Other than a lot of trees, jokes about how families are made, and coal, I know nothing of the state. While I can certainly sympathize with a section of the state not being connected to the other parts of a state … what exactly was the precipitating event that caused a good chunk of Virginia to pull away? Judgment call, but was it worth it?”—Earl King, Colts Neck, New Jersey
Good question, Mr. King! The 55 northwestern counties of Virginia seceded from the commonwealth when the commonwealth seceded from the United States of America. (You can read the story here.) West Virginia has not enjoyed the prosperity and advantages of the mother state, it is true. But the state motto promises that “Mountaineers are always free,” and the state seal prominently features the phrygian cap symbolic of freed slaves. Those are things worth fighting for, so I am very much a believer that it was worth it.
You should email us! Write to STIREWALTISMS@THEDISPATCH.COM with your tips, kudos, criticisms, insights, rediscovered words, wonderful names, recipes and, always, good jokes. Please include your real name—at least first and last—and hometown. Make sure to let me know in the email if you want to keep your submission private. My colleague, the perspicacious Nate Moore, and I will look for your emails and then share the most interesting ones and my responses here. Clickety clack!
CUTLINE CONTEST: DELICIOUS CLICKBAIT
As I knew you would, you delivered an *ahem* cornucopia of funny entries for our Thanksgiving-week edition. But our winner managed to be current and media-facing without straining his gizzard.
“Hey green beans, our clicks will go up if you step aside and let pumpkin pie slide into the pic.”—Doug Leo, Scottsdale, Arizona
Winner, Nom Nom Nom Division:
“‘Well, I see my serving of stuffing. Where’s everyone else’s?’ said Chris Stirewalt.”—Chris Lee, Corvallis, Oregon
Winner, Eyes Rolled Division:
“It’s called dressing.”—Jacob Mahugh, Salem, Oregon
It’s also time to crown our November winner, and it’s a good one. For her joke about a picture of now-Ohio Sen.-elect J.D. Vance waving in a manner reminiscent of the Star Trek Vulcan Salute—“Live long and posture.”—reader Linda McKee of DuBois, Pa. has won a “Kirk-Spock ‘92” joke campaign button from that year’s extraterrestrial-seeming presidential contest. Please email us with your address, Ms. McKee so we can beam your prize to you.
Send your proposed cutline for the picture that appears at the top of this newsletter to STIREWALTISMS@THEDISPATCH.COM. We will pick the top entrants and an appropriate reward for the best of this month—even beyond the glory and adulation that will surely follow. Be hilarious, don’t be too dirty, and never be cruel. Include your full name and hometown. Have fun!
SOMEBODY GOT BALTIC AVENUE
KATV: “The board game Monopoly is somewhat established as a source of contention among many families, as a recent incident in Tulsa shows. The Tulsa Police Department arrested a man on Saturday night after a family game of Monopoly turned violent. … Police learned that the family had been drinking alcoholic beverages and playing Monopoly together when a fight erupted between John Armstrong and his stepfather. After knocking over the game board and flipping over furniture, they were told by other family members to take the fight outside. Armstrong drew a gun. … He proceeded to chase his stepfather and step sister down the street, aiming the gun at them.”
Chris Stirewalt is a contributing editor at The Dispatch, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of Broken News, a new book on media and politics. Nate Moore and Lily Nelson contributed to this report.