UVA's Top Political Pundit Confers with Colleagues on Georgia and Chaos at the Capitol

Jan 11, 2021

The dramatic events of January 6th put an early end to analysis of the Democrats’ electoral victory in Georgia, but people who follow politics are talking about it now. 

Sandy Hausman reports on what it signals to the Republican Party and where the GOP might go from here.

The Director of UVA's Center for Politics invited other pundits to compare notes on Georgia's flip from red to blue.
Credit UVA

At the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, Larry Sabato has built a global reputation for analyzing and explaining this country’s political trends.  He thinks Democrats have done Joe Biden a great favor by winning two seats in the U.S. Senate.

“Democrats have all three pieces of at least the elected branches that one needs to get things done," he explained at a recent forum on the web. "Now whether they have sufficient margin for defections is another question entirely, probably not in many cases.”

As part of his new online talk show, Democracy Dialogues, Sabato invited several big names from political circles to join him in exploring the significance of Georgia’s vote.  Tara Setmayer is a leader of the Lincoln Project, a group of  Republicans who campaigned aggressively to stop Donald Trump and his supporters at the polls.

“To see Georgia go blue not once but twice is a political earthquake for the Republican Party.  If this is not a wakeup call that the party is on the ropes, I don’t know what is,” she said. 

Democratic strategist Paul Begala agreed, noting the flip from red to blue has much to do with the changing demographics of Georgia – a state where nearly a third of voters are black.

“It’s almost the reverse of the great migration.  All those African-Americans who couldn’t stand segregation anymore after the Second World War moved to the North, their grandchildren are moving back, and they’re moving back with Master’s degrees and law degreesm" he told Sabato. "It’s really impressive how that state has changed.”

Republican and former speaker House Speaker Paul Ryan also weighed in, suggesting Donald Trump had alienated many white voters in the suburbs.

“If you tell your base that it’s rigged and you incite a civil war in the Republican party a month out, and you’re not talking about jobs or the economy, packing the court and – instead – you’re talking about a civil war and how the election is rigged, you’re going to turn off suburbanites, and I worry about the policy fallout that’s going to come from this.”

But like Sabato, he’s not sure having 51 votes in the Senate will mean a sharp turn to the left in this country. 

“We’re still a center-right country. + All you have to do is take a look at the House races and the fact that we picked up seats in the House and the fact that we picked up seats in the House, so I do believe that the country does not want to go off the left cliff or far off to the right.” 

Paul Ryan predicts President-elect Biden will steer a course through the political center in an effort to rebuild alliances in Congress and to get things done.

“He knows how to do deals, and I mean this in the best way.  He’s a transactional man in nature.  He likes to see government work.”

And Tara Setmayer hopes liberals in Congress will work with Biden and be willing to compromise on their own agenda.

“I would hope that the progressives would take lessons from the mistakes the Tea Party made and not overstep and try to work within the system to accomplish things where they can find common ground.  Do not fight your own right now, because this is not the time for that.”

Most of Sabato’s interviews were recorded before chaos engulfed the Capitol, but he hosted the program live at 6 p.m. and offered his own early assessment of what the extremist attack might mean for the political future of the country.

“What happened today severely damaged the Trump brand, even with some people voted for him twice. That makes it much more difficult for him to run for another term or for one of his children to run in his place in 2024.”

And in an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon, he urged all reporters to stop covering every statement Donald Trump makes unless he’s calling for something illegal.