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The Georgia Senate runoff is Raphael Warnock’s to lose

Thought Leader: Josh Kraushaar
December 5, 2022
Source: Axios
Written by: Josh Kraushaar

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.

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