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GOP pollster: Dem strength in Georgia runoffs sends warning to Republicans about their behavior

GOP pollster and strategist Frank Luntz told CNBC on Wednesday that the Democratic Party’s strong showing in the Georgia Senate runoffs deliver a clear warning to Republicans.

“Georgia has not had two Democratic senators in decades, but they look like they’ve chosen it because of their frustration with what’s going on in Washington. This is a lesson for the Republican Party of what’s likely to come if they continue to behave this way,” Luntz said on “Squawk Box.”

Raphael Warnock defeated Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler in Tuesday’s runoff election, according to NBC News projections. The other race is too close to call, according to NBC News, as Democrat Jon Ossoff narrowly leads David Perdue with 98% of the vote in. Perdue’s Senate term expired Sunday.

If both Democrats win, the party would control the U.S. Senate with a 50-50 split because Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would serve as the tie-breaking vote. Democrats already have a majority in the House and soon will occupy the White House after President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in Jan. 20.

Luntz, who predicted Democratic victories in Georgia, complimented former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and the Democratic Party for its “very impressive” organization in the state. In addition, Luntz said President Donald Trump, who has refused to concede to Biden after losing in November, deserved blame for the GOP performance in the Senate runoffs.

“You have to hold Donald Trump accountable. Look, he showed up at that final rally and spent half the time talking about his own race from two months ago,” Luntz said, referencing Trump’s Monday evening rally in Georgia, during which the outgoing president vowed to continue challenging the presidential election results and repeated false claims of widespread voter fraud.

“At some point, you have to look the American people straight in the eye and acknowledge reality,” Luntz said. The pollster contended that having done so ahead of the Georgia Senate runoffs would have helped the GOP. Instead, it led to fracturing among the party, with some members of Congress backing Trump’s election fight and others trying to distance themselves from it.

The division among Republicans is likely to be on full display Wednesday when Congress meets to certify the Electoral College results, which show a Biden victory. Numerous Republicans plan to raise objections to electoral votes in key states, even as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY., has strongly urged against it.

“As a pollster, as a researcher and as a communications specialist, I know how much damage today is going to do to the Republican Party brand,” Luntz said. “I think tomorrow, the GOP will be in a much worse position nationwide than they are today.”

More generally, Luntz said elected officials in Washington should take from the November election results — and the strong Democratic showing in Georgia — that voters want less partisan rancor and more legislative action. For example, he noted that despite Trump’s loss to Biden, Republicans actually gained seats in the House.

“The public has spoken: work together. Get things done. Stop being so political and start putting people ahead of politics,” Luntz said. “The American people do not want the Electoral College thrown out. The American people believe that Joe Biden won the election. The American people want to move on. The American people are struggling. They are nervous about Covid-19 … They want progress to be done now,” he added.

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