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As GOP Senate hopes fade, Trump leaves his party worse off than he found it

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: President Trump Holds Campaign Rally For GOP Senate Candidates  Ahead Of Runoff Election
President Donald Trump arrives at a Republican National Committee Victory Rally at Dalton Regional Airport in Dalton, Ga., on Jan. 4, 2021.Alex Wong / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Republicans lost the House in 2018. They lost the White House in November. And they’re on the cusp of losing the Senate after last night’s runoff results in Georgia.

Right before 2:00 a.m. ET, NBC News projected that Democrat Raphael Warnock defeated incumbent appointed GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler (Warnock is ahead by 53,000 votes as of publication time), and Democrat Jon Ossoff currently leads incumbent Sen. David Perdue by more than 16,000 votes.

So with two weeks before Inauguration Day and as a band of congressional Republicans today attempts to challenge Biden’s win on Capitol Hill, it’s almost official: President Trump will be leaving the Republican Party in worse shape than when he first became president.

In 2017, Republicans had 241 House members. They’re now at 211.

Also in 2017, the GOP began with 52 senators. But if Ossoff holds on to his lead — which is now larger than Biden’s winning margin in the state from November — they’ll be at 50, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris breaking the tie and giving Dems the majority.

And you have to attribute last night’s results — either in part or in full — to Trump’s last two months in office.

According to the exit poll last night, 57 percent of Georgia voters said the 2020 election was conducted fairly (and the Democratic candidates won those voters by an overwhelming margin); 68 percent said they were concerned that that they or someone in their family will contract the coronavirus; and 52 percent said combating the coronavirus is more important than rebuilding the economy.

The day after the Nov. 3 election, we wrote that it looked like Trumpism was here to stay.

That still might be true. But with Republicans divided and on the verge of losing the Senate, the GOP’s future — in 2022, 2024 and beyond — looks more uncertain than it did two months ago.

Tweet of the day

How Ossoff (and Warnock) overperformed from November

Yesterday, we said that if Democrats were going to win the Georgia runoffs, they had to do better than Ossoff did in November, when he got 48 percent of the vote to Perdue’s 49.7 percent.

Well, with most of Georgia’s vote in, the story from last night was how Ossoff and Warnock overperformed in Atlanta’s populous counties — especially those with large Black populations like DeKalb and Clayton — either hitting or exceeding Biden’s winning margins from November.

And while Perdue overperformed in Atlanta exurbs like Cherokee and Forsyth, he treaded water in Paulding and Columbia.

The Atlanta Suburbs

  • Fulton (the most vote-rich county in the state): Ossoff 69.8 percent, Perdue 28.1 percent (Last night: Ossoff 71.6 percent, Perdue 28.4 percent)
  • Gwinnett (outside Atlanta’s city limits): Ossoff 56.8 percent, Perdue 40.6 percent (Last night: Ossoff 59.9 percent, Perdue 40.1 percent)
  • Cobb (another Atlanta suburb): Ossoff 54.0 percent, Perdue 43.4 percent (Last night: Ossoff 55.8 percent, Perdue 44.3 percent)
  • DeKalb (contains about 10 percent of Atlanta; majority black): Ossoff 81.2 percent, Perdue 16.8 percent (Last night: 83.3 percent, Perdue 16.7 percent)
  • Henry (Atlanta suburb): Ossoff 58.8 percent. Perdue 39.0 percent (Last night: Ossoff 61.3 percent, Perdue 38.7 percent)
  • Clayton (was represented by the late John Lewis): Ossoff 84.4 percent, Perdue 13.4 percent (Last night: Ossoff 88.4 percent, Perdue 11.6 percent)
  • Douglas (another Atlanta suburb that was reliably GOP until 2008): Ossoff 61.1 percent, Perdue 36.5 percent (Last night: Ossoff 64.7 percent, Perdue 35.3 percent)


  • Chatham (Georgia’s most populous county outside of Metro Atlanta): Ossoff 57.6 percent, Perdue 40.2 percent (Last night: Ossoff 59.1 percent, Perdue 40.9 percent)

The big GOP-leaning counties

  • Cherokee (exurban Atlanta): Perdue 69.2 percent, Ossoff 27.8 percent (Last night: Perdue 70.6 percent, Ossoff 29.4 percent)
  • Forsyth (exurban Atlanta): Perdue 66.8 percent, Ossof 30.6 percent (Last night: Perdue 68.1 percent, Ossoff 31.9 percent)
  • Hall (exurban Atlanta): Perdue 71.1 percent, Ossoff 26.2 percent (Last night: Perdue 72.4 percent, Ossoff 27.6 percent)
  • Paudling (exurban Atlanta): Perdue 63.3 percent, Ossoff 34.0 percent (Last night: Perdue 63.4 percent, Ossoff 36.6 percent)
  • Columbia (outside of Augusta): Perdue 62.9 percent, Ossoff 34.7 percent (Last night: Perdue 63.3 percent, Ossoff 36.7 percent)

Other odds and ends after last night

  • With his victory, Warnock will become Georgia’s first Black U.S. senator. And Ossoff — if he wins — will be the youngest senator since Joe Biden.
  • Against Warnock, Republicans employed a race-based campaign against him, and it didn’t work. That represents a sea change in Black politics in the South.
  • Does Georgia become the next Virginia? How Republicans in that state respond to their defeats in 2020 will be important to follow. Do they nominate Ken Cuccinellis, Ken Bucks and Kelli Wards? Or do they go with Bob McDonnells, Cory Gardners and Doug Duceys?
  • And speaking of 2022 and 2024, watch Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott. Do they join the Republicans challenging Biden’s win? Or do they oppose it?

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

21,196,312: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 229,623 more than yesterday.)

357,958: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 3,645 more than yesterday.)

258.59 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

131,195: The number of people currently hospitalized with coronavirus

16,370: Jon Ossoff’s margin over David Perdue at publication time.

53,430: Raphael Warnock’s margin over Kelly Loeffler at publication time

12,670: Joe Biden’s final 2020 margin in Georgia over Trump

40 percent: The share of voters in the Georgia runoff elections who said that the 2020 presidential election in the state was NOT conducted fairly, according to exit polls.

92 percent: The share of Black voters in the runoffs who broke for the Democratic candidates, compared with 88 percent who broke for Joe Biden in November.

At least six: The number of arrests made by DC police as pro-Trump backers started flowing into the city last night in advance of today’s rally.

14: The number of days until Inauguration Day.

How Team Biden engaged in Georgia

Per NBC News’ Mike Memoli, Marianna Sotomayor and Amanda Golden, here’s how Biden’s campaign team said they engaged in the Georgia races:

  • Directed $6 million in funds from the DNC and Biden for President into the state
  • Raised an additional $12 million directly for Ossoff and Warnock
  • Biden for President paid for 50 staff to help in Georgia with organizing, constituency outreach, voter contact; and another dozen data and analytics staffers
  • Biden cut radio & TV ads; he and Harris have done robocalls and doing local media
  • Biden and Harris each made two in-person visits

The Lid

Losing my religion: Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we explored one underrepresented group in Congress when it comes to religious affiliation.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Republicans thought Loeffler would bring the right profile for victory in the state. It turned out to be a bad bet.

The New York Times looks at how Stacey Abrams’ project to flip Georgia evolved over a decade.

Pence told Trump he can’t change the Electoral College results, according to a NYT report.

POLITICO writes that Trump has privately admitted his loss but wants to stay in the spotlight.

The military is hoping to stay far clear of this week’s clashes over the vote certification.

Republicans’ plans to challenge the presidential race may be dramatic, but they’re poised to go nowhere.

Dozens of pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong have been arrested.