Raphael Warnock vs. Herschel Walker: 5 things to watch

It’s election day again in Georgia.

Soon, residents of this southern battleground state can breathe a sigh of relief that another election season is over — and with it a barrage of negative campaign ads featuring the candidates’ ex-wives and bizarre obtuse speeches delving into the relative merits of vampires and werewolves or the plot of “Talladega.” Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby”.

But first, Georgians must determine the winner of the final US Senate battle of the 2022 election cycle: a runoff between Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker.

Warnock, the senior pastor of Rev. Martin Luther King’s Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, narrowly defeated the then senator. Kelly Loeffler in a Jan. 5, 2021 special election that helped Democrats gain control of the Senate. He is now seeking a full six-year term. Neither Warnock nor Walker, a former University of Georgia football player backed by former President Trump, reached the 50% plus one vote threshold required for an overall victory in last month’s general election.

The runoff will decide whether Democrats maintain their current 50-50 split in the Senate and rely on Vice President Kamala Harris to cast tied votes, or win an outright majority. In a 51-49 Senate, Democrats would no longer have to share power for committee duties and would be less dependent on more conservative Democrats like Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona to advance the party’s legislative agenda.

A Warnock victory would also be a major boon for Georgia progressives, signaling that the narrow Democratic Senate victories of 2020 and 2021 in this decades-long Republican stronghold were more than just a reaction to Trump and the start of a more sustained project to transform the state blue .

As Georgians head to the polling stations to cast their vote, here is an introduction to some of the key questions on Election Day:

How long do voters have to wait in line?

Georgia earned a national reputation for election-day chaos following the 2018 midterm elections. Some voters in many predominantly black neighborhoods waited in line for hours or arrived at polling stations that had defective voting machines or were out of paper ballots. Others did not receive ballots or had their voter registration application denied.

The election malfunction continued in the 2020 primary as Georgia poll workers were overwhelmed by the pandemic and a cascade of failures with the state’s new high-tech voting system. Since then, the 2020 general election and the 2022 midterm elections have gone relatively smoothly, with no long waits at the polling stations.

“Georgia’s voting system is working well,” Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said last week near the end of early voting.

But a sweeping Georgia election law pushed through by Republicans last year made voting by mail more difficult and means this year’s runoff has a condensed schedule with just a week of early voting.

Last week, many Georgians waited more than an hour at some Metro Atlanta polling stations. On Friday, the final day of early voting, lines snaked around libraries and government buildings into the night. By the time the early voting concluded, about 1.8 million people had cast their ballots, compared to 2.5 million in the general election and 3 million in the 2021 Senate runoff.

If Georgia sees longer lines on Tuesday, expect activists to ramp up their criticism of the state’s new law and accuse Republicans of voter suppression.

Former President Obama, left, greets Senator Raphael Warnock.

Former President Obama, left, gathered with Senator Raphael Warnock in Atlanta on Thursday.

(Brynn Anderson/Associated Press)

Will early turnout in Democrat strongholds push Warnock over the line?

Walker being scrutinized plagued with false claims and outlandish comments, and plagued by scandals, has tested Republicans and motivated many Democrats to vote because they believe he is incapacitated.

After a week of early voting, more people in mostly urban and suburban counties supporting Warnock in the general election than in rural and suburban counties supporting Walker had voted, according to state election data.

Black voters, who form the backbone of the state’s Democratic Party, account for 32% of the total early voting count so far, a larger percentage than in last month’s general election.

“The votes, at least when we look at them demographically, are more than likely pro-Warnock, which aligns with what we’re first seeing in Georgia and other states: Democrats have built an early voting lead,” Jessica said Taylor Senate and Governor’s Editor for the bipartisan Cook Political Report. “So I continue to think Republicans risk ignoring the importance of early and mail-in voting.”

Still, Taylor said Democrats need a strong Election Day to ensure Republican turnout doesn’t overtake their lead.

Or will they GOP base packs polls on election day?

Older, white Georgians — the bedrock of the Republican Party — tend to turn out in larger numbers on election day.

But will Republicans in small towns and rural and suburban areas flock to the polls to support Walker? It’s unclear if the GOP will lure them out in large numbers without Gov. Brian Kemp and other more popular candidates on the ballot.

In November, Walker was 38,000 votes behind Warnock in a state where Republicans won every other statewide seat by a comfortable margin, and he received 200,000 fewer votes than Kemp.

Another factor that could dampen voter turnout and potentially put Republicans at a disadvantage: rain is forecast for much of Georgia on election day.

Former President Donald Trump speaks while Georgia Senate nominee Herschel Walker listens.

Former President Trump speaks while Senate candidate Herschel Walker listens during a Save America rally in Perry, Georgia in September 2021.

(Ben Gray / Associated Press)

Will Trump’s influence make a difference one way or the other?

Trump, who endorsed Walker early on and promoted him ahead of the May primary, remains a motivator for some in the Republican base.

But the former president’s lies about voter fraud depressed GOP turnout and eliminated swing voters in Georgia’s 2021 runoff. And his 2020 loss in the state — followed by the midterm election failures of many of his supported candidates — has led a growing number of Republicans to view him as a liability.

When the Democrats went into the runoff, they used Walker’s Trump connection against him. A Warnock TV ad shows Trump gushed about Walker being “a fabulous human being,” only for a message to flash across the screen: “Stop Donald Trump. Stop Herschel Walker.”

Last month, Republicans asked Georgia Trump not to come to the state to hold a rally for Walker, fearing the association could tarnish Walker’s standing with swing voters.

Will swing voters emerge for Warnock?

At the general election, many voters split their ticket and voted for Kemp and Warnock. About 80,000 Georgians supported libertarian candidate Chase Oliver.

After the race went to a runoff, Kemp Walker borrowed his voting apparatus, joined him on the campaign trail, and promised in a TV ad that his fellow struggling Republican “would not be another stamp for Joe Biden. ”

“Almost all of the campaign ads seen by both Walker’s campaign and the PACs that support him don’t feature Walker, they feature Gov. Brian Kemp,” said Amy Steigerwalt, a professor of political science at Georgia State University. “What they are trying to do is bring these voters back and said, “No, it’s fine; I can allay your concerns. You were willing to vote for me. Now you have to vote for him.”

But after appearing at a rally before Thanksgiving, Kemp has not appeared with Walker for the last two weeks of the runoff.

“I would think an incumbent governor could do a lot more,” said Erick Allen, a Democratic Republican congressman. “He could be campaigning with him any day now. It’s not like he’s forbidden. I think he winks and nods, but he does the bare minimum.”

Democrats have also specifically reached out to Kemp supporters with a Warnock TV ad showing a Republican voting for Kemp and Warnock in the general election.

Though Republicans have historically done better in runoff elections, Democrats could have an advantage if Warnock’s campaign convinces these split-ticket voters to come back out, Steigerwalt said.

“They are already a group of voters who, in many ways, have made a very conscious decision to vote based on the policy,” she said.

https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2022-12-06/georgia-senate-race-5-things-to-watch Raphael Warnock vs. Herschel Walker: 5 things to watch

Alley Einstein

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