The Georgia Senate runoff is Raphael Warnock’s to lose
Polls and conversations with top strategists in both parties suggest Tuesday’s Georgia Senate runoff will be close — but that Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) holds a small but resilient advantage over Herschel Walker.
Why it matters: Runoffs are typically about turning out your base a second time. But in Georgia, both are targeting a critical mass of swing voters — independent-minded suburbanites just outside Atlanta.
What’s happening: Walker’s ties to former President Trump — and struggles communicating his positions on the campaign trail — have made him uniquely ill-suited to win over swing voters, who have made the difference in recent closely contested Georgia elections.
- A closing ad from the Warnock campaign features footage of Walker speaking about vampire movies, pregnant cows and how “our good air decided to float over to China’s bad air.”
- The ad shows voters with stunned facial reactions, side by side with Walker’s comments.
By the numbers: On Election Day, Walker underperformed the rest of the Georgia Republican ticket, running 7 points behind Gov. Brian Kemp in Cobb County, an affluent and fast-diversifying county in the Atlanta suburbs.
- Among white college-educated voters, Kemp tallied 63%, according to the Edison Research exit poll — a 5-point edge over Walker with that traditionally Republican voting bloc.
Between the lines: The Republican strategy for the runoff is to use Kemp as Walker’s leading surrogate on the airwaves, appealing to Republican voters to stick to their partisan instincts.
- In November, about 203,000 voters backed Kemp for governor but not Walker for senator.
That big-tent strategy was undermined by Trump’s dinner with antisemitic rapper Kanye West (who changed his named to Ye) and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes.
- Kemp got ahead of other leading Republicans in issuing a full-throated denunciation of the dinner: “Racism, antisemitism and denial of the Holocaust have no place in the Republican Party.”
- At the same time, the Walker campaign was declining to comment — and has remained silent ever since, even as leading GOP figures including Mike Pence and Kevin McCarthy have made public statements denouncing antisemitism, Holocaust denial and white supremacy.