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Georgia is again key to controlling the U.S. Senate, as incumbent Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker head to a runoff Dec. 6.
With more than 3.9 million votes reported and more to count, none of the candidates was above the 50% threshold needed to win under Georgia law. It sets up a post-Thanksgiving showdown in what is already the nation’s most expensive Senate race.
Speaking to supporters just before 2am on Wednesday, Warnock sounded optimistic about his chances of winning in the coming weeks.
“Here’s where we are: we don’t know if this journey is over tonight or if there’s still a bit of work to do,” he said. “But here’s what we do know: We know that when they finish counting the votes for today’s election, we will have received more votes than my opponent.”
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Late Tuesday night, Walker also expressed confidence in the end result, comparing himself to comedy lead character Will Ferrell Talladega Nights.
“I tell you right now, I’m like Ricky Bobby,” he said. “I don’t come to lose.”
Georgia’s Senate race is the only bright spot for Democrats, after Governor Brian Kemp, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and the rest of the Republican slate scored decisive victories over Democratic challengers in a state that has recently experienced narrow margins.
Early feedback shows Walker struggled with Republican support. He got about 200,000 votes less than Kemp, behind the governor’s margin by nearly double digits in some GOP strongholds and nearly five points overall.
In the tightly divided battleground state, more voters backed Warnock, but he failed to clear the 50% needed to win outright.
Warnock, pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, won a special election runoff in 2021 to fill the final two years of the late Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson’s term after his retirement in 2019.
His speech to voters was fraught with accomplishments during his brief tenure, touting legislation that lowered health care costs for the elderly and portraying himself as a champion of bipartisan problem-solving in a stalled Congress. During the campaign trail, he frequently invoked partnerships with Republicans like Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville.
“I’ll work with anyone if it helps me do something good for Georgia,” Warnock said at the Georgia Democratic Party’s state convention in September.
Warnock found success mobilizing a coalition of voters in an electorate that has grown rapidly and diverse in recent years, but also thanks to a significant number of Republicans who said they would not support Walker’s controversial campaign. .
In pre-election interviews and public polls, as many as one in 10 GOP voters in Georgia said they would vote for Warnock, vote in protest for libertarian Chase Oliver, or leave the race blank instead of voting for Walker , a former standout university. Georgian soccer player backed by Trump whose campaign has been marred by controversy from the start.
A competitive race despite Walker’s campaign struggles
From the start, Walker’s candidacy was plagued with scandals, controversies and doubts about the ability of the first candidate to compete in Georgia against Warnock, even in a favorable domestic environment.
Even before he officially entered the race, local and national media reports revealed a slew of lies about Walker’s personal and professional accomplishments and questions about his temper in a high-stakes race.
In the primary, Walker skipped the debates, largely avoided media interviews from unfriendly media outlets and picked up an easy victory before pivoting to face Warnock.
Throughout the year, other news stories rocked the campaign by uncovering several children previously unknown to the public and alleging that Walker had paid for several abortions with ex-girlfriends, despite his vocal opposition to abortion and his support for the prohibition of the procedure without exception.
Walker also had several political blunders throughout the campaign, such as a frequently used stump speech line that said spending money to fight air pollution was a waste because “bad air” from China would float in our “good air” and viral answers to questions about school shootings. and gun control.
Even so, Walker’s campaign message centered on blaming Warnock and the Washington Democrats for rising gas prices, inflation and other economic problems while addressing the evangelical base. vastly older white woman in the party on social issues such as LGBTQ rights, abortion and race.
“I’m here to tell you they’ll raise your taxes, give you higher inflation, they’ll even put men in women’s sports,” Walker said in the only election debate he participated in last month.
The campaign’s home stretch saw many Republican senators come to Georgia and rally for Walker’s campaign with the message of making him the deciding seat to win back a Senate majority.
“I know Herschel Walker is going to help build a Republican majority in the United States Senate,” Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton said at a rally in suburban Atlanta in mid-October. “Herschel will be a leader in the Senate, just as he was a leader in sports and business.”
In a midterm year where Biden’s approval ratings are underwater and Democrats are blamed for the state of the national economy, Walker highlighted Warnock’s support for the president and argued that control Republican Congress would make things different.
Once again, all eyes will be on Georgia as another runoff decides who will represent the battleground state for the next six years and where the parties stand heading into the second half of Biden’s term. Under a new electoral law enacted last year, the second round of elections will take place on December 6 with an abbreviated early voting period and after election officials have audited a ladder race. state in the coming weeks.