GOP confronts a lame duck beyond its control

**Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.** 

On the roster: GOP confronts a lame duck beyond its control – Georgia to recount – The race is on to succeed Harris in the Senate – Biden’s cabinet starting to shape up – Fresh Florida strawberry

While we are still waiting for North Carolina to send in its last returns by carrier pigeon, President Trump looks like a good bet to hold on in the Tar Heel State.

And while Georgia is heading to a statewide recount, it seems unlikely that President-elect Joe Biden’s lead there could be undone. Biden’s current margin in Georgia is more than 16 times bigger than the largest-ever shift produced by a recount (1,247 in Florida 2000).

We know of only three reversals ever through recount: 2008 Minnesota Senate, 2004 Washington governor and a Vermont auditor’s race in 2006. In each case, the initial margin was fewer than 500 votes.

None of the four other states that Biden has flipped from red to blue have margins that could be reversed by normal recounts.

Assuming Georgia and North Carolina find their way to the expected outcomes, that would leave the final score as Biden 306, Trump 232 – a perfect reversal of Trump’s 2016 victory margin over Hillary Clinton. Plus, Biden put a stinger on it with a national popular victory of now more than 5 million votes and rising.

There are no signs of large-scale election fraud or abuse – and not even evidence of substantial small-scale abuses. In fact, it seems like things went quite well given the challenges of a pandemic-year election.

The Trump campaign is filing lawsuits in bulk and having them rejected in similar volume. While there are some specific allegations about the mishandling of ballots in one Pennsylvania county, most of the suits relate to procedural claims about how close observers were allowed to stand etc. In no case is there evidence of the kind of systemic corruption to support Trump’s claim of theft.

Federal judges are bound to not interfere with state-run elections unless there is the threat of a stolen or errant election winner. The Constitution makes clear that elections are state matters. Courts do not determine margins of victory but can intervene when the ultimate result may have obtained by misfeasance or malfeasance. With tens of thousands of votes separating Biden and Trump in the three contested Upper Midwest states and Georgia, the courts are quite unlikely to give the election to Trump.

And even if Trump could somehow convince the federal courts to reverse the results of a state’s certified election, that wouldn’t be enough. Trump would need to strip Biden of a minimum of 37 expected electoral votes to cling to power. That would mean reversing the results in at least three states.

If Trump were somehow declared the winner in Pennsylvania, at 20 votes the largest of the contested prizes won by Biden, the president would still need either Michigan or Georgia (16 electoral votes each) plus one additional state to be the winner.

Imagine how Supreme Court justices would feel about jumping into one state’s results knowing that doing so still wouldn’t produce a change in the outcome of the election.

So what’s really going on?
As we discussed before, the ultimate aim seems to be delegitimizing Biden’s presidency. We also assume Trump would like some bragging rights or to somehow have evidence to support his claim that he was robbed. His movement, born of grievance, seeks a sustaining one to take into the wilderness. The Romans marched behind S-P-Q-R. Trump may want his legions to follow PA-GA-MI-AZ. 

Republicans in Washington to this point have mostly been indulgent of Trump’s efforts. Their thinking seems to be that if they confront him, it will only make matters worse. Experience has taught them well.

Surely their fear is that Trump will maintain his base in defeat and then come for vengeance in 2022 primaries and beyond. If Trump can claim that he was betrayed by his own party, it will only enhance his grip on his followers and make any GOP rebuilding efforts that much more difficult.

But the Republicans lives are getting increasingly complicated.

As foreign adversaries are testing U.S. limits, Trump is shaking up the Pentagon and installing loyalists in key spots. He is forbidding his administration to cooperate with the incoming one, meaning that a real transition might have to wait until all the results are certified – well into December – or until Congress certifies the results after the New Year.

This sounds far-fetched, even for Trump. But the political damage is racking up after just a week.

Mainstream Republicans have little to no power over a defeated Trump and his pitchfork brigades. In office, he might be enticed with another judgeship or the promise of another tax cut. Or, he might be threatened with the potential revolt of right-of center voters like the one that cost him re-election.

But in defeat, what do Republicans have to offer him?

They had better figure out for their own sakes what that is – and fast.

“The public business must, in some way or other, go forward.” – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 22

WaPo: “The Special Forces team was in Cambodia on a mission that didn’t officially exist when a grim reality set in: With soldiers dying one by one, the remaining men would soon be overrun by waves of guerrillas. Nine miles east, across the border in South Vietnam, the scorching midday sun awoke Staff Sgt. Roy Benavidez after his evening duty. The Green Beret compound pulsated with activity as gunships covered with bullet holes limped back from the fight. Benavidez pulled the body of a soldier from one aircraft and surveyed the damage. Another helicopter’s blades whirred, preparing to take off for a last-ditch effort to rescue the team. The crew needed a bellyman — a soldier who protects the crew and scoops up soldiers from hot landing zones. Benavidez, a stout pack of dynamite who earned the call sign Tango Mike Mike — That Mean Mexican — had only a knife as a weapon and a bottle of Tabasco. He produced a medical bag. ‘I’m in,’ Benavidez said…”

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

We’ve brought “From the Bleachers” to video on demand thanks to Fox Nation. Each Wednesday and Friday, Producer Brianna McClelland will put Politics Editor Chris Stirewalt to the test with your questions on everything about politics, government and American history – plus whatever else is on your mind. Sign up for the Fox Nation streaming service here and send your best questions to HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM.

WTOC: “In Georgia, election workers will now hand-count all of the votes from the presidential election in what’s being called a ‘risk-limiting audit.’ Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger made the announcement Wednesday morning during a press briefing. ‘It’s an audit, recanvas and a recount – all in one,’ Raffensperger said. It will all happen between now and the Nov. 20th state certification deadline. He said the hand count is necessary because it ‘makes sense’ when you look at how close the presidential race is. As of Wednesday morning, 14,101 votes separate Biden’s lead over Trump in Georgia. In Georgia, the new voting system prints a paper receipt of each vote cast. Those along with absentee ballots will be hand-counted. Raffensperger acknowledged that this will mean a lot of overtime for election workers. Also, the statewide runoff election for the Public Utility Commission seats will now happen on the same date as the two U.S. Senate race runoffs – Jan. 5th.”

Trump sues in Michigan – Fox News: “The Trump campaign has filed a lawsuit against Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Wayne County officials in which they allege that credentialed election challengers were blocked from having sufficient view of the vote-counting process, challenges against certain ballots were ignored, and as a result, ineligible ballots were tallied. The complaint, filed Wednesday in the Western District of Michigan, cited dozens of sworn affidavits from Republican challengers who claimed that in Wayne County they were treated unfavorably compared to Democrats and, in some cases, intimidated. ‘Wayne County excluded certified challengers from meaningfully observing the conduct of the election. This allowed a substantial number of ineligible ballots to be counted,’ the complaint says.”

Bipartisan agreement: A smooth election – AP: “The 2020 election unfolded smoothly across the country and without any widespread irregularities, according to state officials and election experts… Election experts said the large increase in advance voting — 107 million people voting early in person and by mail — helped take pressure off Election Day operations. There were also no incidents of violence at the polls or voter intimidation. ‘The 2020 general election was one of the smoothest and most well-run elections that we have ever seen, and that is remarkable considering all the challenges,’ said Ben Hovland, a Democrat appointed by Trump to serve on the Election Assistance Commission, which works closely with officials on election administration. … In Wisconsin, a battleground state where Biden narrowly edged Trump, top election official Meagan Wolfe said there were no problems with the election reported to her office and no complaints filed alleging any irregularities. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, said the same was true in her state, which Biden also won.”

Fox News: “The race is on to succeed Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in the Senate. Fox News has been told for months that California Secretary of State Alex Padilla is the odds-on favorite to step into Harris’ seat. But Fox News is also told to watch California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Rep. Karen Bass, Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia. California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom picks Harris’ Senate successor. And Fox News has been told that it’s not out of the question for Newsom to appoint himself. That said, there is intense pressure in California to tap a Latino or Latina for Harris’s seat. … There are also geographic considerations. Southern California has more people. But someone from Southern California hasn’t represented the Golden State in the Senate since former Sen. Pete Wilson, R-Calif., in the early 1990s – and he was from San Diego. … Moreover, there are concerns that Padilla, in particular, may not be progressive enough to satisfy liberal groups.”

Sullivan wins re-election – Fox News: “Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan on Wednesday won reelection over Democratic challenger Al Gross, putting Republicans at 50 seats in the U.S. Senate compared to Democrats’ 48, according to a projection from the Associated Press. The results came eight days after Election Day. Sullivan was ahead of Gross by about 20 points Wednesday, according to results. ‘I want to congratulate my fellow Marine, Senator Dan Sullivan on his victory,’ National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) Chairman Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., said in a Wednesday statement. ‘Alaskans know Dan as a man who always puts service before self and who has championed the unique needs of his state in Washington. The state will be well served with another six years of his representation.’”

Tillis clinches – AP: “Democrat Cal Cunningham conceded to incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis in North Carolina on Tuesday, saying ‘the voters have spoken’ and it was clear Tillis had won. With Cunningham’s concession, all eyes turned to Georgia, where two U.S. Senate runoff races in January are likely to determine the balance of the upper chamber. … If the Senate ended up tied 50-50, Democratic Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would wield the tiebreaking vote. Georgia is closely divided, with Democrats making gains on Republicans, fueled by a surge of new voters. But no Democrat has been elected U.S. senator in 20 years.”

Rubio campaigns in Georgia – AJC: “The first Republican rally for control of the U.S. Senate kicked off Wednesday in Cobb County with a visit from U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who appealed to suburban conservatives to turn out in January for Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. The Florida Republican didn’t once mention President Donald Trump in his remarks, instead issuing a broader argument for conservatives to return to the polls for the Jan. 5 races against Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock to prevent the nation from hurtling in a ‘radical’ direction. ‘Normal people that want to own a home and raise their family in a safe community and retire with dignity and have a country that’s safe and stable and give their children a chance at a better life, they’re going to vote against people that are crazy and want to undermine all of that,’ he said.”

Rick Scott to be next chairman of Republican Senate campaign arm – Roll Call: “Florida Sen. Rick Scott will be the next chairman of Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, with his colleagues formally selecting him for the job Tuesday morning.  Scott was unopposed for the National Republican Senatorial Committee chairmanship, after announcing he would run for the post late last week. The current NRSC chairman, Indiana’s Todd Young, is up for reelection in 2022. Scott is often listed among potential presidential hopefuls in 2024, and his stint as head of the NRSC would expand his political résumé. It’s not yet clear whether Scott will be tasked with defending a GOP majority or with winning back control of the Senate.”

Fox News: “With Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, President-elect Joe Biden has just over two months to chose a team that will help him steer the country and deal with the worst pandemic in a century and an economy deflated by the coronavirus. … But with the Republicans the odds-on favorites to keep a slim majority in the Senate – the chamber of Congress that approves presidential nominations – Biden faces a tough task. But he said that his party’s inability – as of now – to regain the Senate majority won’t change his selection of nominees. … Democratic Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama … doesn’t add diversity to the Cabinet, the longtime Biden friend brings a strong civil rights record. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota … is also mentioned as a potential candidate for attorney general. … Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez may also be in the running. … California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is another possible candidate, as is Sally Yates, a former deputy attorney general in the Obama administration.”

Immigration shifts expected early on – AP: “Joe Biden will likely use executive orders to reverse some of President Donald Trump’s most controversial actions, rolling back moves that were a central feature of his administration and important to his base. … Biden has said he will move quickly to undo some of Trump’s signature immigration initiatives. The border wall? The roughly 400 miles (644 kilometers) built so far won’t come down but the new administration won’t keep building it or taking money from the Pentagon to fund it over the objections of Congress. The incoming administration plans to reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which currently shields from deportation about 650,000 people who came to the country when they were young. He plans to overturn the travel ban on people visiting the United States from 13 countries, many of them Muslim-majority.”

Trump participates in Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery – Fox News

Biden marks Veterans Day at Korean War Memorial in Philadelphia – AP

“Zero. Nada. Niente. Zilch. How many words — what else do you need me to say?” – Gov. Andrew Cuomo answer when asked by Howard Stern about having an interest in joining Joe Biden’s cabinet.

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

Treasure Coast [Fla.] Palm: “A dancer at the adult venue Body Talk Sports Bar got locked up after allegations of fighting other dancers and swinging a broom, according to an affidavit. St. Lucie County sheriff’s deputies encountered the dancer, a 29-year-old woman whose ‘dancer name’ is Strawberry, around 2:30 a.m. Nov. 6 at Body Talk in the 8200 block of South U.S. 1. Strawberry was being held down by security officers, and was quoted as saying, ‘They’re trying to kill me!’ A security officer reported Strawberry lost her purse, and when it was turned in it had just a few dollars in it. Strawberry ‘went into the dressing room and began fighting all the other dancers accusing them of stealing her money,’ the affidavit states. … The owner of Body Talk reported he fired Strawberry and told her to leave at least a half dozen times. Strawberry, of Fort Pierce, was jailed on a trespassing charge.”

“Not all chess players are crazy. I’m willing to venture that. But not much more.”  Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing about the tyranny of chess in the Washington Post on Oct. 16, 1998.

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. 

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C.