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In today’s Principals, we look at Sen. Raphael Warnock’s victory and what it means for each party. ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
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December 7, 2022


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Steve Clemons
Steve Clemons

Goodbye, Herschel Walker. It only took five elections in two years, but Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock has a six-year term ahead of him and Democrats have a 51-49 majority — capping off a historically rare midterms in which the party in power didn’t lose a single incumbent senator. Warnock’s victory now gives Democrats a little breathing room so that contrarianism in the party will take Joe Manchin plus one other defector.

Speaking of Sen. Manchin, for those of you who are members or friends of the New York Economic Club, I’ll be interviewing him tomorrow evening and will ask if Warnock’s win helps or hurts his agenda.

Republicans are tired of losing lately, and that’s leading some to argue they need to ramp up early voting efforts after a certain somebody made those tactics taboo with the base. Kadia Goba and Jordan Weissmann have the details. Meanwhile in the Senate, Joseph Zeballos-Roig has the latest on Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s crypto regulation efforts.

PLUS: One Good Text with Republican lobbyist Liam Donovan on the fate of permitting reform.

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White House: Second gentleman Doug Emhoff will head up a roundtable on antisemitism today with administration officials and Jewish leaders, which takes on added significance following former President Trump’s dinner with Ye and Nick Fuentes.

Chuck Schumer: The New York Democrat will have a shot at experiencing a real Senate majority. The biggest benefit for Schumer will be swifter confirmation of executive branch and judicial nominees with Republicans losing the power to gum up the process in evenly-divided committees.

Mitch McConnell: For the second time in a week, McConnell condemned comments from Trump and suggested they would make it more difficult for him to regain the presidency: “Anyone seeking the presidency who thinks that the Constitution could somehow be suspended or not followed, it seems to me would have a very hard time being sworn in as President of the United States.”

Nancy Pelosi: The Speaker honored the U.S. Capitol Police and the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police who responded to the Jan. 6 riot in a Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony on Tuesday.

Kevin McCarthy: The Republican leader has an Andy Biggs problem: he won’t go away. The Arizona representative announced, in an op-ed with the Daily Caller, he’ll challenge Kevin McCarthy for speaker on the House floor next year. Biggs lost the nomination to McCarthy 188-31 last month during a closed-door member election.

Need To Know

A Manhattan jury convicted two subsidiaries of the Trump Organization on counts of tax fraud and falsifying business records. “Despite the quick and the accurate determination by the jury convicting the Trump Organization on all counts, once again the man behind all the decisions and actions at the company escapes culpability,” Michael Cohen, Trump’s onetime lawyer turned critic, told Semafor. Trump, meanwhile, vowed to appeal the conviction, though it’s unclear how significant the practical consequences will be for his company.

Permitting reform is out and a rollback of the military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate is in, at least according to the NDAA text that dropped late last night. Manchin is disappointed and House Republicans are elated.

The America First Policy Institute (AFPI), a think tank organized by Trump veterans, has been working on a lengthy policy book for “America First” lawmakers that could be released as soon as this week, according to a person familiar with its development. Created with input from 50 former senior Trump administration officials, it will include hundreds of policy recommendations on topics ranging from border security to healthcare and spending. The MAGA agenda remains somewhat of a mystery, with the former president more focused on the 2020 election, so it could offer some hints at where Trump and allied Republicans go next.

What do Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa have in common? They’re among six honorary co-chairs of a commission on how to counter China’s “techno-authoritarianism” called the Global Tech Security Commission, per an announcement we viewed early — a reminder that anti-Beijing sentiment is the great bipartisan uniter in Washington.

Beltway Newsletters

Punchbowl News: House minority whip Steve Scalise, R-La. is supporting Kevin McCarthy for speaker, but he’s not shutting down speculation he could be an alternative if McCarthy can’t get to 218 votes.

Playbook: A group of Senate Republicans who rebelled against Mitch McConnell by opposing him as leader is “growing more organized.”

Axios AM: With Warnock’s win, this is the first midterm since 1934 where the president’s party didn’t lose a single incumbent Senate seat.


Lessons from Raphael Warnock’s big win in Georgia

A victory party for Sen. Raphael Warnock.
REUTERS/Carlos Barria


ATLANTA, Ga. — “After a hard-fought campaign — or should I say campaigns — it is my honor to utter the four most powerful words ever spoken in a democracy: The people have spoken,” Raphael Warnock said during his victory speech.

Warnock won reelection by overwhelming Republican nominee Herschel Walker in metro Atlanta and limiting his losses in rural counties — another victory for the party’s new urban-suburban coalition.

Black Voters Matter co-founder LaTosha Brown told Semafor the outcome showed that “what happened in Georgia in 2021 was not a fluke,” when Warnock and Jon Ossoff each won runoffs.

Walker needed heavy turnout on Election Day to erase Warnock’s advantage among the 1.9 million early voters — and got it, with the help of a multi-million dollar GOP effort to turn out their base. But while Walker improved on his November margins in dozens of small rural counties, Warnock ran better in Democratic-leaning areas than he had in the first round. By 9:30 pm it was clear to both sides Warnock would win decisively.

In his concession speech, Walker said, “There’s no excuses in life. I’m not going to make any excuses now because we put up one heck of a fight.”


Walker was one of the worst Republican recruits of the cycle, popular with the Republican base and repellant everywhere else.

How bad did things get this campaign? One of the candidate’s children, 23-year old conservative influencer Christian Walker, tweeted the following political epitaph last night: “Don’t beat women, hold guns to peoples heads, fund abortions then pretend your pro-life, stalk cheerleaders, leave your multiple minor children alone to chase more fame, lie, lie, lie, say stupid crap, and make a fool of your family. And then maybe you can win a senate seat.”

He nearly won anyway, demonstrating just how fragile the Democrats’ new electorate is — better at turning out in special and midterm elections than it used to be, but still searching for its bottom with white non-college voters. There’s a functional Republican coalition in Georgia that went for GOP candidates up and down the ticket last month, but Walker was just too much for them to bear.

But that also gives Democrats hope moving forward, suggesting that even in an age of extreme polarization, independents and Republicans can still be won over with a superior campaign and message.

“There’s a group of people that are willing to change votes based upon what you tell them,” Jason Carter, a former Democratic gubernatorial candidate and grandson of the former president, told Semafor. “That puts Georgia in play in a different way than it has before.”


Recriminations started as soon as the checkmark hit Warnock’s name. On Fox News, the call came during Laura Ingraham’s 10 pm show, and the host and her guests — including 2016 Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway — said little about Trump’s Walker endorsement and more about how the party let Democrats out-spend them and build an early vote lead.

“To me, it never felt like the Senate Republicans wanted this guy in office,” Ingraham told viewers. “This was winnable.”

— JD Capelouto and David Weigel

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Just A Bill

Elizabeth Warren’s tough-on-crypto bill is taking shape

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. talks to reporters.
REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is working on a sweeping cryptocurrency bill that would hand most regulatory authority of the crypto market to the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to two people familiar with her efforts.

While discussions are still early and details could change, Warren’s office is looking at a range of crypto-related issues, including regulations, taxation, climate, and national security. The senator has recently stepped up her criticism for the industry and demanded “comprehensive” new rules to govern it following the massive collapse of the crypto exchange FTX. (FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried is an investor in Semafor.)

Ideas on the table in Warren’s talks also include ensuring broker-dealers and crypto exchanges comply with certain regulatory obligations like providing audited financial statements, and imposing bank-like capital requirements so they’re able to withstand financial shocks, the people said. Another is barring the commingling of customer assets so a company can’t use customer deposits to finance other investments, and securing them so customers are first in line to get their money back in the event of bankruptcy. It could also further expand tax reporting requirements beyond new rules lawmakers enacted last year

In a recent op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, the senator called on the SEC and other federal regulators to tackle crypto fraud more aggressively, arguing that “Congress should back up these law-enforcement agencies and financial regulators with more funding” and “plug the remaining holes in our regulatory structure.”

“As Senator Warren has already said publicly, she’s working on crypto legislation and believes that financial regulators, including the SEC, have broad existing authority to crack down on crypto fraud and illegal money laundering,” Alex Sarabia, a Warren spokesperson, said in a statement to Semafor.

As a leading crypto skeptic, a Warren bill could set a new baseline for advocates trying to rein in the industry. Warren, who played an influential role outside Congress crafting Wall Street regulations after the 2008 crash, has been one of a number of lawmakers urging additional scrutiny of crypto in the wake of the collapse of FTX.

“Finally, there are more people blowing the bullshit whistle,” she told Semafor last week.

More lawmakers have expressed skepticism towards crypto lately, even if there’s still no consensus response. Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga. told Semafor he it was a “complex question” and “too soon to tell what the full range of applications” for crypto technology might be.

Still, he added, “some of it is bullshit.”

— Joseph Zeballos-Roig

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More Republicans admit it was a bad idea to trash early voting

An early voting location in Georgia
REUTERS/Megan Varner

On Monday, Harmeet Dhillon, a Republican lawyer and state party official from California, announced that she would challenge Republican National Committee Ronna McDaniel for her leadership post. An occasional Fox News commentator and legal advisor to Donald Trump, she’s in recent years often been involved in conservative efforts to limit voting methods loved by Democrats and hated by Trump.

She helped take aim at mail-in voting in Pennsylvania, for instance, and led a scuffle over so-called “ballot harvesting”—where volunteers collect batches of ballots—in her home state.

But now that she’s running for GOP chief, Dhillon argues that her party needs to start voting, well, more like the Democrats. “I want to prioritize using modern means in states where it’s legal to use ballot harvesting, and other types of methods and mail voting to get our ballots in as early as possible,” she told Semafor, when asked what she’d do differently than McDaniel. In other words: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. It’s a tactic she helped pioneer in California last election.

Dhillon is part of a growing GOP crowd making that case. Donald Trump almost single-handedly turned off much of the party’s base to early voting by relentlessly attacking mail and absentee ballots as a hotbed for fraud, while urging his supporters to show up on election day. As a result, Democrats have been able to build a massive cushion of early votes in race-after-race this year, while Republicans have been left struggling to pump up last-minute turnout. That dynamic once again played out in Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoff, where huge early Democratic turnout helped lift Sen. Raphael Warnock to a win.

Now, potential GOP operatives, as well as presidential contenders like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, are all-but-begging their party to once again embrace early voting strategies to match the Democrats’ edge.

For that matter, so is McDaniel, who is seeking her fourth term atop the RNC. “What we do need is our voters need to vote early,” she said on Fox News Monday. “I have said this over and over again. There were many in 2020 saying, ‘Don’t vote by mail, don’t vote early.’ And we have to stop that.”

The RNC later insisted that McDaniel’s comments weren’t a swipe at Trump. “We were not talking about the former president, who has encouraged his base to vote early and has himself voted by mail,” a spokesman later said. The walkback was a reminder that GOP brass still have to walk a fine line with the former president. But the point is clear enough: Top Republicans aren’t sure whether they’re done with the former president. But they’re definitely done with his dubious turnout strategy.

Kadia Goba and Jordan Weissmann


One good text ... with Liam Donovan


WHAT THE LEFT ISN’T READING: Biden told reporters that he wasn’t visiting the border during a trip to Arizona because “there are more important things going on,” like new investments in chip manufacturing he was going there to tout.

WHAT THE RIGHT ISN’T READING: The House Ethics Committee ordered outgoing Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C. to pay over $15,000 in fines after finding evidence he improperly promoted a cryptocurrency.

with our partners at Ground News

Staff Picks

As Democrats look to demote Iowa and New Hampshire on their primary calendars, Jeff Greenfield argues in Politico that their contests were always a bit overrated when it comes to their power to pick presidents. Since Iowa launched Jimmy Carter’s underdog win, “only two candidates have gained significant power from Iowa” he notes. Room for disagreement: Well yeah, but one of those was Barack Obama.

While you were sleeping, German authorities were busy arresting 25 people people believed to be part of a terrorist cell “that planned to overthrow the government and form its own state,” the New York Times reports. Influenced by online conspiracy theories like QAnon, the plotters apparently believe that “Germany is currently ruled by members of a so-called deep state.”

Sorry U.S. flyers: European air travelers should soon be able to use 5G cell services while on their planes, after a recent ruling by EU regulators. But for a whole host of reasons American airlines are unlikely to follow suit, the Washington Post explains.

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— Steve Clemons