End to midterms belies turmoil in both parties: The Note
If Trump stayed away from the trail, would things have turned out differently?
The TAKE with Rick Klein
Georgia brought a tidy end to a chaotic election cycle -- one where upwards of $17 billion in total spending helped result in no senator losing his or her job, Democrats adding a single seat to their Senate control and Republicans flipping a net total of just nine seats in the House.
But the celebratory talk among Democratic leaders about how much easier things will be with 51 senators instead of 50 ignores some difficult realities. Losing the House is inarguably more significant than gaining a Senate seat -- and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin is only the critical vote inasmuch as there's legislation that has a chance of passing both houses of Congress.
Among Republicans, the disappointment surrounding the loss by Senate candidate Herschel Walker in Georgia has prompted new rounds of blame-Trump recriminations. But that doesn't account for the fact that Republican primary voters chose Walker -- and that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell endorsed him more than a year ago.
Democrats' excitement about new battlegrounds and bucking history is tempered by considering counterfactuals. If former President Donald Trump had stayed away from the midterms, or if he fades before 2024, would things have turned out differently?
Trump-driven distractions, via his legal woes and his personal conduct, are keeping him in the mix. The growing chorus calling for him to exit has not gotten nearly loud enough to take away his relevance, though.
Walker didn't have Trump campaign for him in the runoff, but neither did he ever put real distance between himself and his longtime friend and former USFL boss. He did, though, accept the results of his election -- a welcome turn of events for Republicans in Georgia and well beyond who would rather focus on the future than the past.
The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper
One prominent conservative is calling for "fresh blood" to lead the Republican National Committee.
Former New York Rep. Lee Zeldin, who lost his recent gubernatorial bid to Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul, put out a statement in opposition to current RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel's reelection effort, pointing to "disappointing results of every election during her tenure."
"Change is desperately needed, and there are many leaders, myself included, ready and willing to step up to ensure our party retools and transforms as critical elections fast approach, namely the 2024 Presidential and congressional races," Zeldin said in a statement.
His sentiments echo the tune of other prominent Republicans who have called for the party to do some soul-searching not only after 2022 midterm underperformance but also GOP losses in 2020 and 2018. A part of a possible party recalibration, some argue, is healthy distance from the influence of former President Trump. McDaniel has been a staunch ally.
"It's time the GOP elects new leadership!" Zeldin tweeted.
He called for stronger RNC investment in candidate recruitment, campaign management, volunteer engagement and voter registration, but the former congressman said he wouldn't run to challenge McDaniel in the party's leadership elections, claiming that her reelection was "pre-baked."
The TIP with Alisa Wiersema
Two notable Republican governors are newly wading into the debate over the hot-button issue of cybersecurity as it relates to the popular social media app TikTok. The decisions by outgoing Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to target the app come after both saw their potential 2024 profiles grow throughout the 2022 midterm cycle.
Abbott, who was reelected to a third term after facing off with Democratic heavyweight Beto O'Rourke in November, ordered all Texas state agencies to prohibit the use of TikTok on any government-issued devices. He attributed the policy to what he called the "threat of the Chinese Communist Party gaining access to critical U.S. information and infrastructure."
State agencies will also have until Feb. 15 to implement their own policies regarding the use of TikTok on personal devices, although it remains unclear how the organizations would monitor workers' personal app use.
"TikTok harvests vast amounts of data from its users' devices — including when, where, and how they conduct Internet activity — and offers this trove of potentially sensitive information to the Chinese government," Abbott said in a letter sent to state agencies and legislative leaders.
Over the course of the last year, Hogan made headlines for calling on Republicans to abandon Trumpism and election denialism as he traveled to early voting states like New Hampshire. On Tuesday, he sounded the alarm on TikTok by issuing an "emergency cybersecurity directive to prohibit the use of certain Chinese and Russian-influenced products and platforms for the executive branch of state government."
Hogan maintained that entities that fall into this scope of operation "present an unacceptable level of cybersecurity risk to the state and may be involved in activities such as cyber-espionage, surveillance of government entities, and inappropriate collection of sensitive personal information."
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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY
- At 2:10 p.m. ET, President Biden will deliver remarks in the White House's South Court Auditorium on "building a stronger economy for union workers and retirees." Labor Secretary Marty Walsh will attend.
- White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will brief at 12:30 p.m. ET.
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