Both Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and Herschel Walker (R) have been barnstorming Georgia in advance of today's runoff. Warnock had the busier schedule over the weekend. He held six events, in different cities, and delivered the sermon at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he is the senior pastor. He noted that record-breaking early turnout is a good sign, but switching to his opponent's turf, he also said "don't spike the football before you get to the end zone." Walker appeared at only two events. He showed up at a tailgate before a University of Georgia football game on Saturday, but interestingly did not speak, despite it being at an event where he could have reminded people of his past exploits on the football field. He also held a rally in Loganville, a heavily Black town of 14,000 people in Gwinnett County, about 35 miles east of Atlanta. That was it. He will stump in Northern Georgia today.
Maybe it's not surprising that Walker doesn't talk to too many people. For one thing, he has made one gaffe after another. In an interview with Politico, Walker said: "They're not [less motivated] because they know right now that the House will be even so they don't want to understand what is happening right now. You get the House, you get the committees. You get all the committees even, they just stall things within there. So if we keep a check on Joe Biden, we just going to keep a check on him." Why did he talk about the House, which the Republicans have clinched and where he is not a candidate? Doesn't he realize he is running for the Senate? Also, read that again. It's kind of jumbled and not the kind of thing you say to a reporter when you are virtually certain that it will be published verbatim.
Politico has also been talking with both Democratic and Republican operatives in Georgia, and the consensus seems to be that Warnock has the momentum now and is the slight favorite to win a full term. For one thing, Warnock has dominated in fundraising and has consequently dominated the airwaves. For another, the recent polls show Warnock slightly ahead. And Warnock has been campaigning harder than Walker. In addition, Warnock has a bigger staff on the ground, with 900 paid workers knocking on doors and urging voters to go vote, to Walker's 400. Finally, as we noted yesterday, rain is expected in much of Georgia today, which will dampen turnout. Election Day turnout is more important for Republicans than Democrats because 1.8 million Georgians have already voted and Democrats tend to vote early whereas Republicans prefer voting on Election Day. Those votes already banked aren't going to be affected by downpours anywhere today.
The former chair of the Cobb County GOP, Jason Shepherd, said: "I think a lot of Republicans are hoping we'll be pleasantly surprised, but there aren't a lot of indications out there to base that on. Just a lot of hope and faith in things unseen. It's the Christmas season, after all." The Georgia Republican Party seems to see where this is heading. It sent out an e-mail talking about an "Election Night party" tonight rather than a "Victory celebration party."
The Washington Post also has reporters in Georgia. One of them talked to a Republican voter who complained about inflation, criticized the Democrats on the culture-war issues, and voted for Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA)... but is going to vote for Warnock. He said the Republicans "can't expect us to vote for garbage candidates." Painful. He's probably not the only one who is thinking like this. The Post article also cited Walker's remark to Politico where he didn't seem to realize which chamber of Congress he is running for.
For what it's worth, Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball changed its rating of the race yesterday from toss-up to leans Democratic. Part of their argument is that in the general election, every Republican running statewide won—except Walker. Sounds like that old "candidate quality" problem again, and the quality of the candidate hasn't improved since Nov. 8. If anything, it has gotten worse. Also, the early vote was extremely heavy, and again, the early vote is almost always strongly Democratic. (V)