Monday, November 14, 2022

Georgia Dems Battling Election Fatigue; Alaska's Murkowski Poised to Sting Trump, Again

 Election fatigue. 

That’s the challenge Democrats must overcome in Georgia if they are to cement another seat in the Senate, thereby giving them a 51-49 majority free of the need to have Vice President Kamala Harris cast tie-breaking votes for items ranging from federal judge appointments to confirmations for ambassador and executive nominations as she has been forced to do during the last two years of a 50-50 Senate.  

As it was in 2020, when Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock stunned the nation with their twin Senate victories, Georgia commands the attention of political junkies. Can Warnock now secure in a run-off election a full six year term against what even Dave Chappelle in a “Saturday Night Live” monologue called an “observably stupid” Herschel Walker, the Republican candidate promoted by Donald Trump?

We will find out December 6 if Democratic enthusiasm remains white hot. Or will Republicans rally to save some face, even if that face belongs to a less than perfect, or appropriate, candidate. 

For Democrats, Warnock represents more than just another seat. He could help them counterbalance mavericks Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema who have stymied passage along strict party lines of some of President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda. 

There’s general consensus that Ossoff and Warnock benefitted from anti-Trump sentiment in 2020. Trump has promise big news Tuesday, November 15. If he announces another run for president, as is widely expected, will he galvanize voters for Walker or Warnock? We won’t know until the December 6 votes are counted. Don’t believe anyone who tells you differently.

Given his polarizing impact, why would Trump declare his candidacy again? Because, as Gilda among others has reasoned, Trump’s ego is so large he needs to be in the spotlight, he needs to be seen as relevant. Without klieg lights shining on his every movement, he would shrivel into if not obscurity, then into insignificance, as the Republican Party shifts to younger, more structured and less offensive candidates.  

Indeed, if Trump jumps into the race, it will be fascinating to observe the reaction of party leaders and potential presidential candidates, many of whom worked in Trump’s administration. Will they assert their independence or their fealty?  

Meanwhile, as most of the focus is on Georgia and Trump, one Republican senator, Lisa Murkowski, is in a tight fight to win her fourth full term representing Alaska. Murkowski defied Trump by voting to convict him in his impeachment trial following the January 6 insurrection, opposed Brett Kavanaugh’s elevation to the Supreme Court and voted to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson to the highest court.

Her main opponent in a four person race is a Trump Republican acolyte—Kelly Tshibaka. 

Tshibaka received 94,138 votes (44.2%); Murkowski 91,205 (42.8%); Democrat Pat Chesbro 20,265 (9.5%); Republican Buzz Kelley 6,244 (2.9%); Other 1,050 (0.5%). 

Alaska uses a ranked system of voting. A majority of votes (50% plus 1), is required for victory. If no one achieves that level, ballots for the lowest vote getter are scrutinized to determine if voters indicated a second choice. If after awarding those votes to the remaining candidates still doesn’t get anyone to 50% plus 1, the process of allocating second choice votes is repeated, this time from the remaining lowest vote getter. 

Though Tshibaka leads Murkowski by fewer than 3,000 votes, she wouldn’t secure the required percentage even if she received all of the second choices from Kelley and Other. 

On the other hand, as Democrats would hardly choose a Trump-backed candidate as their second choice, “Murkowski is expected to overtake her on second-choice votes once Democrat Pat Chesbro is eliminated and her 20,000 ballots are reallocated,” according to Alaska Public Media. 

Oh, and in case you missed it, Sarah Palin is projected to lose her bid to unseat Democratic Representative Mary Peltola. Both Palin and Tshibaka are contemplating challenges to the official vote count.