All eyes on Georgia (again)
The Peach State reprises its 2020 role as the Senate battleground as early voting kicks off today.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Early voting in Georgia starts today as the state reprises its 2020 role as the battleground for control of the Senate in next month’s midterm elections.
The Peach State is a case study of how shifting demographics, redistricting and sophisticated disinformation campaigns have warped our national politics. It’s not much of a stretch to say where Georgia goes so does the rest of the country.
The Warnock-Walker faceoff: Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican nominee Hershel Walker last Friday matched wits in the only debate of the campaign.
The debate was wide-ranging and covered the economy, election laws and voter turnout (more on this below), abortion, student loan debt, the war in Ukraine, crime and violence and personal integrity.
Walker warned voters that another six-year term under Warnock's leadership would be bad for the state without sharing any serious policy proposals for voters to consider as alternatives. And he did himself no favors with the fake sheriff’s badge and his assertion that Type 1 diabetics should “eat right” in defense of his opposition to the insulin price cap Sen. Warnock authored and passed into law for Americans on Medicare as part of the Inflation Reduction Act.
But Walker really only had one job: To reassure undecided and apprehensive Republican voters that he takes the issues as seriously as they do — even if he has less command of the legislative machinations of Congress as Warnock. And he did that.
I’m not the only reporter with this analysis, which has spurred criticism from the left that the media is carrying Walker’s water.
And while I won’t speak for other reporters, I can say I’m simply reporting what I’m seeing. Republican voters have moved the goalposts on what makes an electable politician and consistently demonstrated they’re willing to vote for controversial candidates like Walker and J.D. Vance in Ohio, Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania or Blake Masters in Arizona as long as it means the party controls the Senate. Republican leaders are selecting candidates that reflect the vision voters want. It’s up to voters to build coalitions powerful enough to rebuke it.
Related: “Herschel Walker’s Black supporters say their votes are about Senate control and conservative values” (Curtis Bunn / NBC News)
Warnock focused on his individual and the Democratic Party’s legislative achievements to make the case for his reelection. But was unmistakably evasive on questions about his divorce, the ethics of the church he pastors and whether Biden should run in 2024. He was much stronger in last night’s Atlanta Press Club Senate debate with Libertarian Chase Oliver though (Walker was a no-show).
Warnock is up nearly four points in the latest polls, according to Five Thirty Eight.
SB202’s impact: It’s unclear how the Election Integrity Act of 2021, a bill Georgia elected officials passed after a historic turnout fueled the elections of President Joe Biden and Democratic Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, will affect early voting.
The law, known initially as Georgia Senate Bill 202, expanded the hours that many counties can have early voting open but in areas like Fulton County, voters can no longer use mobile voting buses to cast votes. And thanks to one of the law’s more controversial provisions, Georgia residents are prohibited from offering food or water to voters within 150 feet of the building or within 25 feet of the polling line.
SB202 also altered Georgia’s absentee voting system.
Voters were unable to request an absentee ballot until late August — about 11 weeks prior to Election Day instead of 180 days from Election Day before the law was passed. The deadline to complete the absentee ballot is October 28, two Fridays before Election Day as opposed to one. This is despite the fact that counties mailed out those ballots approximately three weeks later than before. And while there is a secure drop box in every county, they’re located inside early voting sites and only open during early voting days and hours, a hurdle for people who work during those windows. Not to mention, voters submitting an absentee ballot will have to provide a driver’s license number, state ID number or a voter ID.
Related: “Meet the woman who took the case for free federal IDs to Congress”
The fraud pre-text: Critics of bills like SB202 argue that they solve a problem that didn’t exist.
Former President Donald Trump and his allies falsely claimed in 2020 that tens of thousands of ineligible votes in Georgia, but this allegation was debunked.
They falsely claimed election workers pulled out suitcases of ballots and counted them in secret, but this allegation was debunked.
They falsely claimed voting systems were hacked to electronically switch votes from Trump to Biden, but this allegation was debunked.
They falsely claimed some ballots were illegitimate because they weren’t “creased,” but this allegation was debunked.
And they claimed ballots were shredded, but this allegation was debunked.
But it’s the youngest, poorest and most melanated Georgia voters who will pay the price for these myths.
FLOTUS campaigns for Abrams: Georgia voters will also decide if Stacey Abrams will be successful in her second attempt to defeat incumbent Republican Brian Kemp for the governor’s mansion.
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden on Friday attended a fundraiser for Abrams in Atlanta’s Inman Park neighborhood and described the Democratic candidate as a much-needed unifying figure who has “spent her entire career fighting for the people to Georgia. Not fighting for blue or red, but one Georgia.”
Abrams said the race against Kemp is closer than the polls suggest and spoke about raising the pay of educators, expanding universal pre-K offerings and expanding Medicaid.
Abortion rights received one of her biggest applause lines: “It took a man to break Georgia’s promise to women,” she said. “It’s going to take a woman to put it right.”
The minimum donation for the event was $1,000 to Abrams’ One Georgia Leadership, per a Biden adviser. The event was capped at 75 donors, according to an Abrams campaign official.
Related: “How Jill Biden became Democrats’ most popular midterms campaigner” (Katie Rogers / NYT)
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IN THE KNOW
Retailers to start selling lower-cost hearing aids: Starting today, Walgreens, CVS and Walgreens will sell over-the-counter hearing aids for thousands of dollars less than they previously cost. And later this week, Best Buy and private grocery chain Hy-Vee will do the same after the Food and Drug Administration issued a rule in August that authorized adults with mild-to-moderate hearing loss can buy hearing aids at a store or online without a prescription, exam, or audiologist fitting.
The FDA estimates this could lower average costs by as much as $3,000 per pair —providing significant breathing room for the nearly 30 million Americans with hearing loss, including nearly 10 million adults under age 60.
Biden takes a Sunday shopping trip: The president stopped by a Jos. A. Bank men's clothing store in a shopping center near his church after service and emerged 20 minutes later carrying a large bag of unknown contents. Presidents, they’re just like us!
Biden treats his sweet tooth: After a campaign event on Saturday in Oregon, President Biden made an unannounced stop at a local Baskin Robbins for a double-dip chocolate chip in a waffle cone. After he got his ice cream, he told reporters that he feels good about the Democrats’ chances in next month’s midterms and that the video evidence presented by the January 6th committee was “devastating.”
The day before the impromptu ice cream stop, Biden, who is notorious for his sweet tooth, walked into an event for the Oregon Democrats holding a box of donuts from Sesame Donuts. Before making calls with volunteers to voters, he grabbed a chocolate-covered Long John donut from the box and ate it. After an extended amount of time on a call, he took a second donut, this one glazed.
VP meets with students on reproductive rights: Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday met with 75 student leaders from colleges and universities across 33 states to discuss reproductive rights.
The leaders discussed reproductive health care access on campus, how students are mobilizing against restrictive abortion laws, the intersection of attacks on abortion access and attacks on voting rights and LGBTQ rights.
A spokesperson for the vice president did not respond to a request for comment on how the schools were selected.
WH launches beta student loan relief app: The Biden administration released an early version of the application for eligible borrowers to get up to $20,000 in federal student loans canceled under a plan President Biden released in August. The White House previewed the application last week and borrowers took to Twitter to praise how simple the app was to complete. Once you submit the application, you’ll receive a confirmation email with next steps and a warning to avoid scams. Here’s the application if you need it.
DOJ awards more than $340M for substance use treatment and to combat the opioid epidemic: Republicans love to attack the Biden administration for doing too little to fight opioid overdoses but most GOP lawmakers have voted against laws that would make investments in reducing the impact of the crisis on families, communities and the economy.
FLOTUS promotes great cause, cheers for the wrong team: As part of the Biden administration’s Cancer Moonshot, Dr. Jill Biden on Sunday night joined cancer patients, survivors and their families at the Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles game, which was dedicated to featuring the National Football League and the American Cancer Society’s Crucial Catch efforts to fight cancer through early detection and risk reduction.
The first lady, a loyal Eagles fan, also held a breast cancer awareness event in Florida over the weekend.
Oh, and that sound you hear? It’s just me licking my wounds from a brutal defeat for my ‘Boys.
Related: WH honors BCAM: The north façade of the White House last night was illuminated in pink in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
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TODAY IN POLITICS
President Biden this afternoon will return to the White House from Wilmington, Delaware.
Biden’s week ahead:
Tuesday: The president will speak at a political event at the Howard Theatre in Washington, DC.
Wednesday: Biden will speak about the infrastructure law in the South Court Auditorium.
Thursday: The president will travel to Pittsburgh to speak about infrastructure before visiting Philadelphia to campaign with Lieutenant Gov. John Fetterman.
Friday: Biden will travel to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware for the weekend.
Vice President Harris this afternoon is in Los Angeles and will join Democratic Rep. Karen Bass of California and Celinda Vázquez, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, for a moderated conversation about reproductive rights. This evening she will speak at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser. Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff will attend.
The House and Senate are out.
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