Tucker Carlson sends a message to Georgia Republicans thinking of sitting out the Jan. 5 runoffs

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On the roster: Narratives collide in Georgia runoffs – Partisan flamethrower Tanden tapped for budget boss – Congress returns to face rapidly approaching cliff – The dating scene there is totally dead

NARRATIVES COLLIDE IN GEORGIA RUNOFFS
The Republican Party has a pretty good story to tell about the 2020 elections, but will its voters listen? 

The short version goes like this: The success of GOP candidates from local races all the way to the Senate suggests that President Trump was something of a one-off. Despite their distaste for Trump, swing voters didn’t hold it against Republicans.

We can’t know what precise combination of voters’ preference for divided government, anxieties about left-wing radicalism or affinity for Republican policies is responsible, but the success is undeniable. 

Democrats are only just now beginning to come to terms with the consequences of their missed opportunity. After failing to flip a single state legislative chamber, Dems face a tough redistricting process ahead of midterms. 

And if 2022 wasn’t going to be hard enough for the Blue Team, they will have to defend the House with a smaller majority – one more likely to be held hostage by progressive insurgents. 

Some had dreamed of a gulley washer of a storm that would punish Republicans top to bottom for the excesses of Trump’s presidency.  What they got was water in their own galoshes. 

“There’s a significant difference between a referendum on a clown show, which is what we had at the top of the ticket, and embracing the values of the Democratic ticket,” Pennsylvania Democratic operative Nichole Remmert, fresh from a statehouse defeat in suburban Pittsburgh told the NYT. “People bought into Joe Biden to stop the insanity in the White House. They did not suddenly become Democrats.” 

This is the thinking behind Republican efforts to preserve the two Georgia Senate seats – and their Senate majority – in a Jan. 5 runoff election. High-propensity voters in the suburbs may be glad that President Trump will be gone, but they know that giving Democrats control of the White House and both houses of congress would produce an urpy lurch to the left. 

That was what Republican National Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel was selling on a Thanksgiving-weekend campaign trip to the Peach State. What she forgot, though, was the other side of her party – the same one she has been nuzzling with talk of “very, very serious” problems with election results and by hosting the gonzo press conference with Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell

As it turns out, the voters who dug McDaniel’s conspiratorial vibes do not dig her call to jump right on back into the voting booth. 

Here’s the AJC report: “McDaniel faced questions at the Cobb GOP headquarters from skeptical Republicans who bought into President Donald Trump’s claims of a ‘rigged’ election. In one sharp exchange, a Trump backer quizzed McDaniel on why Georgia voters should bother to invest more ‘money and work when it’s already decided.’ ‘It’s not decided. This is the key — it’s not decided,’ McDaniel told the crowd of dozens, nodding toward Perdue’s roughly 88,000-vote advantage over Democrat Jon Ossoff in the first round of voting.” 

Now how are you going to quote vote totals from the same election that you’ve been saying was fishy? 

Given the purported circumstances of the election according to the Red Team, isn’t that voter right? If George Soros and the ghost of Hugo Chavez can hack the machines, why bother? If what the president claims is true, then wouldn’t the first, most important task would be to find those responsible and bring them to justice and rightly place Trump back in the White House for four more years? 

Trump himself has been enthusiastic in his attacks on the integrity of the election in Georgia. The leader of a party that gleefully mocked the loser of the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election for refusing to concede had this to say in an interview with Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo on Sunday: “You’re using the same garbage machinery, Dominion, and [Stacey Abrams is] going around, she’s going around screaming she’s got 800 or 850,000 ballots. What kind of an election is it?”  

Doesn’t sound like a free or fair one. Sounds like a rigged contest. 

Trump is heading to Georgia this weekend to rally for… well, we can’t quite be sure. He will certainly mention the Republican Senate incumbents fighting for their political lives, but we would imagine as much or probably more time devoted to attacking the election results and the Republican state officials under whose supervision the upcoming runoff will be held. 

Democrats best hope for winning one or both of the Georgia seats is if the contests become a true referendum on Trump’s claims of a stolen election. If those same voters who shunned Trump but voted Republican down-ballot feel obliged to punish Republicans for Trump’s conduct, that would be bad for the GOP. But if that happens and even a modest slice of the MAGA army won’t participate in what they believe is a fraudulent system, that’s doomsday. 

In explaining to the strategy for his pro-Trump outlet and its embrace of the president’s claims of having won the 2020 election, Newsmax founder Chris Ruddy put it simply to the NYT: “In this day and age, people want something that tends to affirm their views and opinions.” 

It’s not “this day and age” – it’s human nature. And ambitious people have always seen the value in telling people what they want to hear. The only thing that’s different now is that there are so many ways Americans can have flattering fallacies ladled out for them. 

What Republicans in the twilight of Trump are going to have to figure out is how to get them away from the punchbowl. 

THE RULEBOOK: LOVE YOUR PASSION
“The idea of restraining the legislative authority, in the means of providing for the national defense, is one of those refinements which owe their origin to a zeal for liberty more ardent than enlightened.” – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 26

TIME OUT: ‘THE CLAW IS OUR MASTER’
cnet: “There are roughly 2,800 live satellites currently orbiting Earth. That’s a lot, but it’s absolutely nothing compared with the amount of defunct objects — aka space junk — also circling the globe. Scientists estimate that almost 3,000 dead satellites are orbiting our planet, which doesn’t account for the 900,000 pieces of debris less than [4 inches] long that could cause a catastrophe should a chunk hit the wrong satellite at the wrong time. [The] European Space Agency is in the beginning stages of executing one of the more bizarre solutions: a space claw that would grip larger defunct satellites and steer them back into the Earth’s atmosphere, where both the satellite and the claw itself would burn up in peace. … The claw’s first target is a [Vega Secondary Payload Adapter] that’s been orbiting Earth since it helped launch an ESA Vega rocket back in 2013. The VESPA weighs [247 pounds] and, according to the ESA, is close in size to a small satellite.”

Flag on the play? – Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.

GOT A WILD PITCH? READY TO THROW A FASTBALL?
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PARTISAN FLAMETHROWER TANDEN TAPPED FOR BUDGET BOSS
USA Today: “President-elect Joe Biden announced Neera Tanden as his pick to head the White House Office of Management and Budget on Monday, drawing angry reactions from progressives and conservatives alike. In response to a New York Times article about Tanden’s expected nomination, the communications director for Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Tanden, who heads the left-leaning Center for American Progress, ‘stands zero chance of being confirmed.’ Drew Brandewie tweeted that Tanden ‘has an endless stream of disparaging comments about the Republican Senators whose vote she’ll need.’ Tanden’s reported selection also sparked angry reactions from the left, such as Brianna Joy Gray, the former press secretary for Sen. Bernie Sanders‘ 2020 presidential campaign, who called Tanden ‘a woman who is openly disdainful of Bernie Sanders and his coalition, but who is friendly with extreme bigots online.’ Gray was particularly critical of Tanden’s views on Social Security ‘Everything toxic about the corporate Democratic Party is embodied in Neera Tanden,’ Gray tweeted.”

Obama administration reloaded – WSJ: “Mr. Biden’s selections include outspoken advocates for aggressive fiscal stimulus to help return the economy quickly to its pre-pandemic health, a cause that could run into resistance in a closely divided Congress. The advisers are also known for advocating expanded government spending they say would boost the economy’s long-term potential, in areas that are liberal priorities such as education, infrastructure and the green economy, and policy changes aimed at narrowing racial disparities in the economy. Several of the choices, including Ms. [CeciliaRouse, Mr. [JaredBernstein and Mr. [AdewaleAdeyemo, are former Obama administration officials who played key roles in the aftermath of the financial crisis. … Some members of the economic team are likely to please party progressives. All three picks for the CEA are known for their work giving greater prominence in policy debates to inequality.”

Biden sticks with experience for comms team – Fox News: “President-elect Joe Biden will have an all-female senior communications team at his White House, led by campaign communications director Kate Bedingfield. Bedingfield will serve as Biden’s White House communications director. Jen Psaki, a longtime Democratic spokeswoman, will be his press secretary. … Karine Jean Pierre, who was Vice President-elect Kamala Harris‘ chief of staff, will serve as a principal deputy press secretary for the president-elect. … Pili Tobar, who was communications director for coalitions on Biden’s campaign, will be his deputy White House communications director. … Ashley Etienne, a former communications director for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, will serve as Harris’ communications director. Symone Sanders, another senior adviser on the Biden campaign, will be Harris’ senior adviser and chief spokesperson.”

The start of a honeymoon? – Gallup: “President-elect Joe Biden’s favorability rating has risen six percentage points to 55% since the election compared with his final preelection reading. At the same time, President Donald Trump‘s favorability has edged down three points to 42%. Biden’s current rating is the highest it has been since February 2019, two months before he declared his candidacy for president, when it was 56%. … The increase in Biden’s favorability between Gallup’s final preelection and first postelection readings is driven by independents and Republicans, whose positive ratings of Biden grew from 48% to 55% and 6% to 12%, respectively. Democrats’ nearly unanimous positive ratings remained constant.”

Andrew Yarrow: Biden’s success with male voters offers insight, opportunity – USA Today: “Two years ago, I wrote that Democrats and progressives needed to appeal to white men and address the problems particularly of non-college educated white men. Although the party may not have been so explicit about what the problems of this population are and the ways in which they would tackle them, at least at the presidential level, Democrats were successful in winning many of them over. … Biden made an impressive 11 percentage point gain among white, college-educated men and a 6 percentage point gain among white, non-college educated men, supposedly Trump’s core constituency. This is a big deal in two ways. One, which has been widely noted, is that Trump made surprising gains among nonwhite Americans. The second, which has not been extensively examined, is the shift of white men to the former Vice President.”

Killing of Iranian nuke maestro changes Biden’s options – WaPo: “In the wake of Friday’s killing of Iran’s top nuclear scientist, the questions have quickly shifted from who carried out the brazen daylight attack to why. Commentators, brushing past Israel’s refusal to comment on an assassination that showed the hallmarks of an Israeli clandestine operation, have moved on to asking what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hoped to achieve. Did he seek to draw Tehran into a military response that would, in turn, justify an American assault on Iran’s nuclear program in the waning weeks of the Trump administration? To spoil conditions for the diplomatic reset that President-elect Joe Biden is expected to seek with Iran? Or did Netanyahu simply seize an opportunity to take out Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the brains of Iran’s nuclear program who topped Israel’s target list, in hopes that Iran would show restraint in its response, as it has since the attack?”

CONGRESS RETURNS TO FACE RAPIDLY APPROACHING CLIFF
Bloomberg: “Congress faces a rapidly approaching deadline to pass a new round of funding for the U.S. government, with dimming odds both of confirming Judy Shelton to the Federal Reserve Board and hashing out another coronavirus relief package.Lawmakers have only a few weeks to wrap up work before the year-end holidays… That doesn’t bode well for either a retry of a vote on Trump’s nomination of his controversial economic adviser Shelton, or for breaking the months-long stalemate on a stimulus bill. The Senate is set to return Monday afternoon, though Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hasn’t outlined a full agenda of votes beyond confirming a roster of Trump nominees. … The House doesn’t return for votes until Wednesday. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told lawmakers to prepare to stay in Washington through the weekend as talks continue on government funding, coronavirus relief and the annual defense authorization.”

The members already facing the squeeze on redistricting – Politico: “The 2020 elections were ugly. The redistricting battles of the next two years will be even more brutal. The decennial process will produce hundreds of new congressional districts, turning safe seats into hotly contested battlegrounds, forcing colleagues into cutthroat internecine wars and spurring a cascade of early retirements. Ultimately it will determine the balance of power in Congress for the next decade, and both parties are gearing up for the fight. … It could be months before Census apportionment data shows exactly which states will gain and lose seats, and it will take even longer to gauge the impact of the maps, from those drawn by partisan state legislators to commission-drawn maps in places like Michigan and New York. But already, there are a few members of Congress who will almost certainly find themselves in more challenging terrain in 2022. This redraw will be most painful in the roughly ten states which are on track to lose a district, particularly ones with smaller populations.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Wisconsin Elections Commission to begin certifying Biden’s victory Monday – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Arizona secretary of state certifies election results for a Biden win – Arizona Republic

AUDIBLE: MAJOR PAIN
“It is anticipated that he will likely require a walking boot for several weeks.” – Joe Biden’s doctor Kevin O’Connor’s comments after scans came back showing Biden’s fractured foot. The president elect hurt himself while playing with his dog, Major, over the weekend.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“We the American people not only need but, we must have, elections we can be sure are above board in each and every election cycle. We’ve been told that this election was the most secure and transparent in American history.  Now after four plus years of many exaggerations, or outright lies about our President and his administration we’re now supposed to take their word as gospel truth. Everyone keeps saying there’s not enough evidence of corruption to even investigate the many signed affidavits to the contrary. As important as an election is to our Democracy shouldn’t every [inkling] of a problem be investigated?” – William Hockett Twain, Harte, Calif.

[Ed. note: But they have been, Mr. Harte! Courts and elections officials from coast to coast have heard about claims, including some of the zestier allegations offered by the president’s legal team. The result has been no findings of large-scale problems. That process will continue through the final state certification on Dec. 11 followed three days later by the votes of the members of the Electoral College. It may be helpful for you to tease out your thinking on the phrase “their word.” The “they” you’re talking about here includes Democrats, Republicans and independents. It includes Trump appointees, state party officials, prosecutors, etc. The process is transparent and accountable. It’s not “them,” it’s your neighbors and fellow Americans who make up the quite boring but very important U.S. elections system. They’re the ones telling you, not your political enemies.]

“As a politics student in the UK, the Trump Presidency has been compelling, and given us students plenty to talk about! I am expecting a further stress-test for the US constitution with Trump likely to announce a raft of Clintonesque pardons, including, possibly, for himself, before January 20th.” – Alec Taylor, United Kingdom

[Ed. note: Given what we know about the Trump administration to this point, I can imagine some zany antics over the next 51 days. Every president makes politically unpopular lame-duck pardons and commutations, but we’ll have to see whether Trump turns it up to 11, as is usually his wont.]

“It seems that the Democrats have been fighting with Trump for nearly 4 years.  Their adrenalin must surely be at an all time high.  But with Trump soon to exit the playing field, who will the Democrats fight with?  I suspect that they’ll probably fight with each other.  It should be fun to watch!” – John May, San Diego

[Ed. note: I think that’s substantially right, Mr. May. The 2020 truce that got Biden elected is at its end. What we don’t know is how willing Democrats are going to be to indulge the demands of the far left. I see some ugly business ahead on score settling. But don’t forget about the post-Trump fights to come inside the GOP. Those will be quite the show, as well.]

“In the 11/24 report you twice consider the topic of gratitude. George Washington considered gratitude the greatest of the virtues, from which all the others flowed. When I first read this as a young man it seemed a little silly. Decades later I considered it a reasonable opinion, with some truth in it. Since 2016, Donald Trump has illuminated by counter-example the perfect wisdom of that opinion. It’s remarkable how much wiser Washington has become in just four short years.” – Marvant Duhon, Bloomington, Ind.

[Ed. note: As in many things, Washington was leaning on a tradition far older than himself. He, a vestryman at Truro Parish, would have many times heard these words: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” That is an insight so sound that the truth of it would have revealed itself to you, whomever would have been president — then or now.]

Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

THE DATING SCENE THERE IS TOTALLY DEAD
Cox Media Group: “[A] Tellico Plains [Tenn.] man went to a cemetery expecting to meet a date. Instead, a man shot at him at least seven times and set his car on fire… Keith Brandon McJunkin, 39, [was] charged with theft of property under $1,000, arson, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon… While the victim waited in his 2000 Ford Expedition, McJunkin allegedly came out of the woods near the cemetery and walked toward the vehicle. The victim said McJunkin leveled what appeared to be a .22-caliber rifle and fired three shots at the driver’s side window…The victim said that as he drove away, McJunkin allegedly fired four more shots at the rear of the vehicle. The victim then jumped out of the car and ran into the woods… He later asked his sister to return to the cemetery to get the vehicle, but she said the vehicle was on fire… The woman managed to put the blaze out and drove the vehicle home.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“…I offer the Krauthammer Conjecture: In sports, the pleasure of winning is less than the pain of losing. By any Benthamite pleasure/pain calculation, the sum is less than zero. A net negative of suffering. Which makes you wonder why anybody plays at all.”  Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on June 29, 2017.

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here. 

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