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The (Unfinished) Battle for the Senate


After the tumult of last week’s voting, one crucial question remains: Who will control the Senate?

The answer lies in Georgia, where two runoff elections in January will decide who has the advantage in the upper chamber.

With so much at stake, we look at how those races might shake out.

Guest: Julie Hirschfeld Davis, congressional editor for The New York Times.

For more information on today’s episode, visit nytimes.com/thedaily.

Background reading:

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Hey, it's Michael every day you listen to us now we want to hear from you so that we can keep making the shows that you love so whether you're a long time listener or a new one were asking you to fill out a survey about this show and others at N Y Times, dot com, slash the daily survey, that's N Y times, dot com, slash the daily survey, and thank you for your time I'm Michael borrow. This is a daily teddy abiden. Victory was expected to translate into democratic control of the sun, Julie Davis on why that hasn't happened and how both parties are preparing for a pair of Senate races in Georgia. That will determine the,
balance of power in Washington, it's Wednesday November or love Until now we have been very focused, I think, understandably, on the presidential is, but now that race has been called and called for. as an electoral. We want to turn to the fate of Congress. Switch, alas, is not at all a settled matter, just how unsettled a matter is Congress at this moment, while it still pretty unsettled Democrats are on track to have held their house majority, they had kind of a rougher night than they expected and they lost since its in the house. But in the Senate. It's a much more complicated picture and majority still hangs in the balance. someone how we get to this moment, what Senate races were on the ballot on election last Tuesday, so going into
this election. You know Republicans had a lot more to lose than Democrats. Did they have twenty three seats? They were defending Democrats because of the way Senate raises are staggered. Every two years only were defending twelve seeds and they had some good pick up opportunities around the country you had and who are facing voters in cholera. Korea gardener Martha MC in Arizona. They were both very vulnerable and seen as potentially going to lose that's Susan Collins in Maine, there is a moderate president. Trump is very unpopular in her state social seen as very vulnerable Tom tell us in North Carolina was also seen as somebody who could in a potentially lose his seat to a Democrat, but Democrats also knew they were going into the cycle with at least one member who was almost certain to lose that's Doug Jones in Alabama. So, given that the Senate balances,
our is very narrow. Democrats have forty seven seats, Republicans have fifty three. They were going to have to pick up at least four c in order to be able to have a chance of control of the Senate, and even then that would only be the case if Joe Biden were to win the presidency. Therefore, his vice president would have the power to cast typewriting votes, so the mass was full of opportunities for Democrats, but it was still gonna, be an uphill battle and that's kind of how they were looking going into election day and, as the months went on, and present trumps popularity, sagged even more the pandemic got worse. The economy was getting worse, the poles were showing that
Leaders were extremely unhappy with republican leadership and Washington Democrats started to see opportunities to go even further and reach for seats in places like Alaska, where Dan Sullivan was up for Reelection Texas, where John Cournand was up for reelection and even South Carolina, werent Lindsey Gram, one of president trumps, most loyal allies was free election. So by election day they had pretty high hopes of doing very well in competitive states and maybe even being able to flip some of these
states where they haven't had opportunities in the past and then the air starts to come out of the blue. That's right! It became clear pretty quickly that some of these more difficult races in conservative leaning states just were not panting out for Democrats, republican incumbents were hanging on and even in the four competitive states, where Democrats thought they had the best opportunities it turned out to be a really mixed bag. So let's talk about what happened in these four competitive states, starting Julie, where we would like. Well, let's start with, where Democrats did what they expected, they were going to do, which is to pick off the Republican and comments, and that was in Colorado. An Arizona in Arizona
Our Kelly, the astronaut, whose married two former Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords, was able to defeat Martha exactly the Republican who had been appointed to her seat and in a special election to finish out the term of the late Senator John Mccain and in Colorado and increasingly democratic leaning, stay John Hagen Loop or the former govern I was able to be Corey Gardener, who was the first term senator by a very wide margin. So those were two important pick ups that were pre much crucial to Democrats, hopes of retaining the Senate if they were going to be able to do that right and what a bowed in North Carolina. So North Carolina was a very different story going into the election time till s first term senator was seen as very vulnerable. Incredibly on popular running behind President Trump in his state, but that race also gotta.
All complicated at the end, because Cow Cunningham, the democratic candidate, late in the game. It was revealed that he had been carrying on an extramarital fair and some racy texts emerged, and he was running kind of his character and, as a wholesome, you know better candidate than Tom. Tell us, and so this was pretty damaging to him, but then also Senator tell us contracted the corona virus after attending this reception that President Trump had at the White House to announce his nomination Amy cunning bear for the Supreme Court, and that was seen as a kind of emblematic of the administration not taking the virus seriously. In all of the reasons that voters were frustrated with Republicans and by extension with Senator, tell Us- and it happened just a moment that these texts were coming out and it was really unclear where voters we're gonna come down there.
In the end it looked like President Tromp was actually doing quite well in North Carolina. It seems like He's headed for a win there and that did help senator tell us, and so he was able to hang on in a way that I think neither party really fully anticipated right and so far. If there's a theme here seems to be. If president tromp did really well honesty, then the republican incumbent,
it pretty well in the state, and if your Biden carry the state, then the democratic challenger seem to prevail. That was true almost everywhere, except fur main president tromp was very unpopular in mean he lost the state by a very wide margin by ten points, but Susan Collins, veteran, moderate Republican she's, the last remaining New England Republican in Congress was able to win real action and people really split their votes between Joe Biden and Susan Collins, and so that result was really different than the rest country, where you really did see the Senate race is trending toward the presidential race into the. How do you explain what happened there, because Susan Collins has been held up by Democrats as the symbol of kind of dangerous complicity in the Trump era ratio is an abortion rights supporting Moderate Republic in
whose denunciations of the president's conduct of various moments have struck people, s kind of contorted and half hearted and she reliably voted with the President animist hot button issues, including the confirmation of bright cabinet to the Supreme Court. Despite the theoretical threat he poses to Roby Way aid which she supports. So what do you make of what happened there? Well, I mean it's a fascinating case. Study of a campaign run, I think, really. Well, I mean you're you're right that going in to the election. I would say that many Democrats and progressive activists detested Susan Collins more than any conservative republic. I can think of, and so there was a huge amount of democratic money and a huge amount of activism. Just sky focused on mean and getting rid of Susan Collins. But what p forgot about Susan Collins is that she had been in the Senate for more than two decades. She is choosing
ignoble, unknown person and brand in her state. she's been delivering. The kinds of you know federal aid and local projects and constituents service that people talk about when they talk about what a member of Congress is really supposed to do for all this time and she was actually able to do a thing that is really difficult in politics, particularly in the Trump era, which is to separate herself in the minds of voters from president Europe and the Republican Party and run as Susan Collins of Main, who also happens to be a republican and, if you look at the numbers you, she won her race by a substantial margin, and the mass just shows you that there were many voters who said you know what I'm sick of president tromp. I don't want to vote for President Trump anymore, I'm gonna vote for Joe Biden, but when it comes to the Senate, I'm gonna keep my republican senator
but Michael there is one other place where odors may have delivered a split verdict and that it in Georgia, where it looks like Joe Biden is on track to win that state and turn it blew, but when it comes to the two Senate, races that were on the ballot this year, it was a lot of our common. Right and those are the two centuries is that will determine control of the entire site. That's right we'll be right back. Do you remember when tax treatment tapping numbers to spell out every word or the first time you streamed playlist without downloading Mp3S? I'm Christina warn the hosts of networks, the five g future
a new podcast from Verizon Anti Brands. Each new network improves our lives in ways we couldn't imagine, and here Five g could reshape how we work play and connect, listen to networks that five g future wherever you get your part cas everyone, it's dead, Herndon political Rapporteur for the New York Times. I think that journalists m- that is accurate and fair as a bedrock of democracy, is how folks make informed decisions is how we learn thing than other people many times, people in power are trying to hide and when you are taking the idea faring this seriously. That means that you have made clear to both sides of the out what you intend report. You have made sure it's accurate and that it lives. to the standards of independence that the New York Times believes in it's. Not just people can trust. What we're saying has been that it is that we have gone through that process without
trying to calibrate or dilute that information to appease once the other. If you want to support the work that we do, you can subscribe to the New York Times that in my times that calm, slash, subscribe. Socially control, the Senate comes down to two unfinished centre: races in Georgia. My precautions. Why are there to send it raises in Georgia in the same way that never seems to happen and my senses that that is by design rights. A Senate feeds are staggered every two years. Only a third of the Senate is up for reelection every two years and its never both seats in the same state at the same time, but because one of Georgia's senators retired before his term was because of health issues, and another Republican was appointed to his seat. That person then had to face a special
action to serve out the remainder of that term. So you had both the regular Senate race that would always have been on the ballot and twenty twenty an especial election. About this year, got it, and why aren't these two races, one regular ones, So. Why are they resolved from election day? There not resolve, because Georgia has a rule that in order to win an election, some candidate has to get a majority, so fifty percent or more, and if no candidate gets too that fifty percent, then it goes to a run off between the two top Getters. Ok, so tell us about these two races that produced these two one. So, let's start with the regularly scheduled election right through the right the election is between the incumbent, Senator David produce, a Republican and John US off the Democrats challenging and going into the race it didn't seem like Senator Purdue was partake
Well, how vulnerable he had won by a wide margin in twenty fourteen he was a very close ally of president trumps in a conservative, leaning state. He seemed to be in pretty good shape, but over the months of the campaign, John US off, who is about forty years, his junior created some sort of viral moments that I think really made life difficult for Senator Purdue and made him actually seem like he was a lot more vulnerable to defeat than people might have thought. The candidates are eight feet. Apart, Amber can see. There is a plexiglas during some other debates. John off ass would sort of go really hard at him for his financial background and his investments will perhaps Senator Purdue would have been able to respond properly to the cupboard nine pandemic. If you hadn't, been fending off multiple federal investigations for insider trading senator You is a former executive of Reebok and
are generally very wealthy and he had a lot of investments. You did say covered. Nineteen was no deadlier than the flu you did say there would be no significant uptake and This is all the while you were looking after your own assets and your own portfolio, and there are all sorts of questions during that corona virus pandemic in the early months of whether here other senators had sort of traded on their knowledge about the virus. Thrive tried to make me He asked of the fact that there was a pandemic and also really hammered him hard about this. Can you looked down the camera and tell the people of the state why you voted for times to allow insurance companies to deny us health coverage because we may suffer from diabetes or heart disease?
or ass he attacked a senator produce many attempts which he had in common with the rest of the Republican Party, about trying to repeal the affordable care act and said you know it's not just that you're a crooked that you're trying to take people's health care away with everybody out there watching at home. You need to know if he has his way insurance companies will be able to deny you coverage because you got heart disease or diabetes or recovered from cancer. As your time, MR also move- and you know these attacks- really resonated innocent That was feeling a lot of economic difficulty from the pandemic. Also late in the game, Purdue made some pretty bad gaffes of his own critics. Representative David produce campaign employed imagery historically used against Jews as more Anti Semitism seeps into politics. His campaign ran out against us off, in which us off, who is jewish, appeared with no
does that was like enlarged and made to look sort of hook like drew instant accusations of anti, amateurism produce campaign blames and outside vendor, claiming that was in unintentional error that will remove the add to ensure there is absolutely no confusion. David Prettiness campaign said that it was the vendors file but I think that stung him. He got attacked pretty widely for that and then just a week before the election He was at a rally with President Ciampi make in Georgia the most insidious thing, church, tumor Joe Biden or try to perpetrated warning and Elizabeth Income are workable, overcome all mile em. All about I dont know whatever and kind of deliberately seem to book,
Common Harris, his name in a way that you know also quickly jumped daddy's actin, like the schoolyard bully making jokes about heritage of his political adversaries and sagging. Oh, that was racist bullying. This is why his campaign is in freefall, gets desperate and it's pathetic, and so what is happening as this cup blundering Purdue faces off with this young deft debating also on election day, so election night? The race looks a lot like the presidential race, which was that senator produce the republic in was narrowly leading John off and it looked like you when he was over the majority of the vote, that he would need in the early returns, but as the night wore on and they counted more votes. He started to drop below fifty
sad and in the end, because there was a libertarian candidate in the race. Senator Purdue ended up just under fifty percent leading John Ass off by only a couple of percentage points got, so nobody ended up getting over two percent, thus triggering this one off. What about the special election? What happened there? So the special election was a little bit less of a cliffhanger, because there were really three major candidate in the race, a Democrat, Raphael Warnock and the incumbent Republican Kelly Leffler, as well as another republican congressmen, Doug Collins. Who was also vying for see, and how does it work because too, begins in a general election race sounds like some kind of weird general election primary hybrid raises. This is another of Georgia's cookie election rules. You can have several candidates, some from the same party, some from different parties all squaring off against each other.
In the same election and what matters is who gets a majority or if no one gets a majority who the top to vote? Getters are gods, who told me about the three candidates, Republicans and the Democrats. So in this race you have Senator Kelly Leffler, who was appointed to the Senate, see at the end of twenty nineteen after Johnny Isaacson retired, by the republican governor of the state she's a businesswoman. She is sort of do I of Atlantis society W Mba team she's, the wealthiest member of the Senate, and she was chosen in part because she was seen as a sort of a more broadly appealing republic in who could really draw support from the suburbs, where
Republicans have really started to worry. They were losing ground because of voters. Reactions to President Trump, the second republic in the Republican that President Trump wanted to run was Doug Collins. He is a republican congressmen, the top ranking member of that. Judiciary Committee he was a combatant fur president Trump in the impeachment drama. and he is a real. You know dyed in the wool concern. It is very much this profile of candidate who appeals to your typical based voters, but maybe we'd have a harder
I'm reaching out and broadening the electorate. And then the Democrat is Reverend Raffle Warnock, who is the pastor of Martin Luther King Juniors church in Atlanta, very well known in the state, he's an unapologetic progressive and his message really was tailor made for the cycle that he found himself running in where he was talking about Rachel, just as he was talking about economic inequality and health disparities during a pandemic in a state that was very hard hit by the corona virus and found itself in pretty dire straits. So you have a real contrast between his message and both of the Republicans.
Raised so predictably, on election day, given that there are three significant candidates in this race. Nobody gets to fifty percent, but how exactly did each of them fair? So Doktor Warnock ended up with just under thirty three percent of the vote leading the field. Senator leffler ended up just under twenty six percent, and congressmen Collins got twenty percent so that knocked him out of contention in the run off and triggered a contest between Doktor Warnock and Senator Leffler JANET socially looking ahead to January. Am I right in thinking that these are both
challenging run off for the Democrats or do I have that wrong? No, I think that's right. I mean, I think it's especially true in the special election, where you saw Kelly Leffler and Dead Collins split the republican vote, it's a little bit of a different picture in the regular centre, raising the produce affrays because the two of them were so close. But again with a third candid, gone, it is very likely that Senator Purdue we'll get at least some of those voters and be able to maintain his lead, but in some ways it feels like these resources, these two one of their about to become not really about the candidates in these races in Georgia, but about which party controls the Senate and why to imagine. Both parties are gonna poor tens of millions of dollars into both these races, they're gonna put hundreds baby thousands of their staff on the ground and that's gonna really scramble
Oliver normal assumptions about how to send it run offs proceed right. This is now not about these individual cases at all, but it's about the balance of power in Washington and we are already seeing it happen, he had started the inner fundraising appeals, the opposition researched arms all started basically, as soon as it became clear that the second race had gone to run off and for Democrats, it's a really high stakes situation right now they thought- They had a crack and taking the Senate. They still might actually have quality and with it, the ability to actually allow Joe Biden to have a working majority. That would let him get his agenda through. That would let him have the cabinet that he wants That is how they are thinking about this staggering if they are able to win these two races Then they really will have dominance in the Congress and in the White House to do what they want to do and if they don't than they really want right- and the same is true for Republicans.
who understand that they have fallen just short of keeping their republican majority there on the brink of being able to really have the power to deny Joe Biden some of the policy legislation that he wants to have a very heavy hand in steering who is in his cabinet and whose personnel, but they need to win these two races, first The media is desperately trying to get everyone to Coronel Joe Biden as the next president, but that's not how works that is part of the reason.
we will work with by nifty winds, but has not lost that. We are seeing such a bitter back and forth unfold in Washington. Right now do not concede most approach that fight hard, and so many Republicans. The core principle here is not complicated. All the way up to Mitch Mcconnell Republican Majority leader of the Senate are basically backing up the president's refusal to concede the election. If any major irregularities occurred this time of magnitude, it would affect the outcome. Then every single American should want them to be brought to light and holding out the possibility that in fact, there could have been, as the president keeps alleging without foundation fraud and massive abuses that have had the result of tipping this election against, and we have the tools and institutions we need to address and it concerns the president has every right and look into allegations.
Was rigged out on a law. we're. How is that? How is that connected to Georgia? Well, the republican base is incorrect
really angry and energized over the thought that President Tromp was denied his rightful victory. The republican base is who Republicans need to turn out to return Kelly, Leffler and David per due to the Senate. That's how they're gonna win these races if they're gonna win is by massively driving the energy and money and anger of the republican bees in to the effort to win these races, and so everything you're seeing is driven, at least in part by that, and in fact, David Purdue and Kelly Leffler to the extraordinary step this week of calling on the Secretary of State of Georgia a Republican to resign alleging that there had been.
You know the lack of transparency and potential fraud and that they were outraged at the way that this election had been administered. They are getting ready to argue that tens of millions of people in this country or disenfranchised because of voter fraud that no one has seen any evidence of and that that is the reason that they need to be elected so that they can preserve some degree of republican power in Washington. Well, I'm curious if the republican strategy is to keep talking about, as you said, nonexistent voter fraud and send that message
voters all over the country, but also to republican voters in Georgia, is that a message that's going to draw out republican voters to back Purdue and Leffler, or is that potentially a message that says to republican voters falsely but repeatedly dont phone, don't trust the system. While I think that is a big part of what we're gonna find out and a big part of what's gonna drive the result here. Do people except the notion that the entire system is rigged against the president, but yet still go out to vote for these two and combat Republicans, who are saying they need to get back to Washington to protect the parties.
Power and deny Joe Biden his agenda, or do they say? Well, I guess the system is useless. I guess our democracy really is fatally flawed and we're not gonna participate, but it seems like they made the calculation that keeping people activated. and angry and energized is the way that there are going to keep these seats and so to be all in with the strategy. At this point Julie, thank you very much appreciated. Thank you Michael
during a noose conference on Tuesday, secretary of State, like palm pale, became the latest number of the Trump Administration to publicly refuse to acknowledge that the president was defeated. Fears the state vermin currently preparing to engage with the binding transition team, and, if not, what point does a delay hamper a smooth transition pose a risk to national security? There will be a smooth transition to a second drug administration right. What we're ready that the world is watching what's taking place it we're gonna speaking to reporters later in the day President Elect by
off the statements from Trump and pump Hale, saying that they would not hinder the transfer of power. We're gonna do exactly what we re doing if he had conceited and said with one which we have been so there's nothing really changing, we'll be right. Back, I'm Christina wherein the host of networks, the fibers. future. A new podcast Verizon Anti Brands on the show I'll find out how five g can bring innovation to every corner of our lives. Our connect with industry experts like this, you of Zog Doc, mine's behind cookie might go alone Help horizon five g can help these innovators make an impact at work at home and anywhere. We connect listen to networks, the five she future. Wherever you get your pike ass, huge what else
you need to know in moral arguments for a Supreme court case about the future of the affordable care act too. Conservative justices John Roberts and Bread Cavanaugh Signal that they are prepared to join their liberal, colleagues in upholding the legality of the law. What you yourself ability presidency does feel clear that the proper remedy would be to sever the mandate, provision and leave them. so the act and plays a provision in extra just with lawyers, both Roberts, Ann Cavanaugh, indicated that would be willing to remove the laws penalty for not obtaining health insurance with out straight
down the easiest larger framework, and here I was left the rest of the law intact when it load the penalties euro. That seems to be compelling evidence on the question. Such a ruling would be a major victory for President Elect Joe Biden, who helped past the law in twenty ten and a major defeat for President Trump who has repeatedly tried to dismantle
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Transcript generated on 2020-11-11.