Warnock, Walker campaigns make final pitches ahead of Tuesday’s high-stakes Senate runoff

by Chris Lange

Chris Lange, FISM News


Republican influence in the Senate is on the line in tomorrow’s Senate runoff election in Georgia. Polls and analysts have predicted that the race will be close but say that the numbers give Senator Raphael Warnock the edge over GOP challenger Herschel Walker. 

Over 1.85 million Georgians have voted early, breaking two single-day records in a week. That number is expected to reach 1.9 million with the arrival of absentee ballots.

Campaign spending on the battleground state’s senatorial battle has soared to nearly $400 million, making it the most expensive race in the 2022 election cycle, Reuters reported, citing election data.

Herschel’s team pulled out all the stops in a massive door-knocking campaign over the weekend. Early voting has put the former NFL star’s campaign at a sizable disadvantage, however. Strategists from both sides of the aisle have noted that Republican voters historically tend to eschew early voting, preferring to cast their ballots in person on election day.

Longtime Atlanta Democratic strategist Fred Hicks estimated that Warnock holds a lead of around 130,000 votes over his opponent, based on an analysis of voter turnout in the primaries, though he said Walker could conceivably close the gap, depending on Republican voter turnout tomorrow.

Democrats secured effective control of the Senate in the Nov. 8 general elections with a 50-50 split in the upper chamber, where Vice President Kamala Harris holds the tie-breaking vote. A Warnock victory would give the party an outright majority of 51 seats and ensure its power over committee and judicial appointments. A win by Walker would help Republican efforts to thwart the Biden agenda, particularly with the new GOP majority in the House.

“The person that wins this election is the person with the best ground game and the best efforts to turn out their base once again,” Republican strategist Julianne Thompson said. “It is going to be a nailbiter.”

The latest polling shows the two candidates remain locked in a statistical dead heat, while betting markets largely favor Warnock.

Warnock, who pastors Atlanta’s famed Ebenezer Baptist Church once led by civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., won his seat in 2021 in another runoff election.

Former President Barack Obama has been stumping heavily for Warnock, claiming that Walker is unfit for office. Obama spent time this weekend poking fun at remarks Walker made recently about his preference to be a “werewolf” instead of a “vampire,” though Walker said the comments were made in jest and were taken out of context during an appearance on Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo Sunday. 

Meanwhile, Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who handily defeated Democratic challenger Stacy Abrams in last month’s election, joined Walker at a get-out-the-vote rally over the weekend.  The New York Times reported on Sunday that Kemp gifted Walker with his powerful get-out-the-vote campaign infrastructure.

“He will go and fight for those values that we believe in here in our state,” the governor said, according to the Times.

Former President Trump, who backed Walker in the primaries, was noticeably absent from the campaign trail. Republican leaders, who largely blame Trump for blighting the predicted “red wave” in November’s elections, had warned that his presence could turn off moderates. Trump has been hemorrhaging supporters since the midterm elections and recent controversies, including hosting rapper Ye West, whose bizarre anti-Semitic rants have generated massive public censure, and avowed white supremacist Nick Fuentes at Mar-a-Lago Nov. 22. Trump has since claimed that he had no knowledge of Fuentes’s background and that he was brought as a guest of Ye.

Given Trump’s meteoric fall from grace, it remains to be seen if Walker, a close friend of the former president, can generate enough enthusiasm among moderate Republican and independent voters to convince them to head to the polls on his behalf Tuesday.

Walker is also at a clear financial disadvantage to Warnock, whose campaign has been flush with money pouring in from Democratic super PACs and out-of-state supporters.

“They have enough to go beyond just turning out their base,” GOP strategist Brian Robinson said of the Democrats. “They have enough money to try and persuade people.”