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A week out, Walker and Warnock seek to get out the vote

Contest is effectively the first Senate battle for 2024

Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., faces a runoff election next week as he seeks a full term against Republican Herschel Walker.
Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., faces a runoff election next week as he seeks a full term against Republican Herschel Walker. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Voters are voting again in Georgia as Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker seek to rally their supporters to get to the polls one more time for the Dec. 6 runoff.

Depending on how you look at it, the Georgia contest is either the last Senate battle of 2022 or the first of 2024.

More than 156,000 in-person early ballots were cast over the Thanksgiving weekend, following legal proceedings that allowed weekend voting to take place on Saturday and Sunday in many counties across the state, including in metro Atlanta. All told, more than 500,000 Georgians had voted as of Tuesday morning, including more than 25,000 of the youngest category of voters (18- to 24-year-olds) that could be an important bloc for a Warnock victory.

Warnock came into the runoff with a sizable fundraising advantage, holding almost $30 million in his campaign account on Nov. 16, compared with less than $10 million for Walker, according to pre-runoff reports filed with the Federal Election Commission on Thanksgiving Day.

Picking up a seat in Pennsylvania means Democrats have already secured at least 50 Senate seats, meaning they’ll have a functioning majority with Vice President Kamala Harris available to break ties. But that arrangement comes with limitations on power because committees must have equal membership. If Warnock wins reelection, Democrats will have an actual majority in the Senate, and also on the chamber’s committees, making it easier to advance legislation and nominations.

The race is also, in effect, the first battle for control of the Senate in the 2024 elections, with Democrats facing a challenging map to try to hold control with key contests in places like Arizona, Montana, Nevada and Ohio.

“Winning the Senate in 2024 becomes a steeper challenge for Republicans. If I win in Georgia, Republicans will have 50 Senate seats and will be one seat closer to the majority,” Walker said in a Monday fundraising message. “If Senator Warnock wins, Democrats will not only maintain their majority — they’ll pick up a seat this election cycle!”

Republicans on both sides of the internal divide between the National Republican Senatorial Committee, led by Florida Sen. Rick Scott, and the Senate Leadership Fund super PAC, aligned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have been active on the airwaves and on the ground in Georgia. SLF is spending $2 million to deploy a data and ground game operation that has worked for Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who was easily reelected outside the margin for a runoff.

SLF also released an ad ahead of Thanksgiving featuring Kemp that is running as part of a previously announced ad buy commitment.

Senate candidate Herschel Walker speaks during a rally in Newnan, Ga., on Nov. 4, as he challenges Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

“Herschel Walker will vote for Georgia, not be another rubber stamp for Joe Biden,” Kemp says in the ad.

Scott, meanwhile, has been among the recurring visitors to Georgia. The NRSC and the Republican National Committee are also active in support of the challenger.

Results from Nov. 8 showed Warnock got nearly 38,000 more votes than Walker, but Libertarian Party candidate Chase Oliver’s 81,000 votes kept either candidate from going over the 50 percent threshold, forcing a Warnock-Walker runoff.

In the governor’s race, Kemp got more than 203,000 more votes than Walker, but Republicans are concerned some of the voters who showed up for him earlier this month will stay home next week, possibly because of concerns about the former University of Georgia and NFL running back’s personal history and qualifications. In January 2021, when Warnock ousted GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler in a runoff for an unexpired two-year term, turnout was 430,000 votes lower than it had been the previous November.

Seeking to attract Kemp voters to turn out, the Walker campaign released an ad Monday highlighting a campaign event that the governor did as part of the Senate candidate’s runoff election bus tour.

A Warnock ad circulated Nov. 17 highlighted the strategy of appealing to Kemp voters, with one campaign spot featuring a woman named Lynn Whittenburg, who identified as a GOP voter and a Kemp supporter, who said, “I just can’t get past Herschel Walker’s lack of character.”

The Warnock campaign has had a giant field operation underway, with over 900 paid staffers working throughout the state to try to maximize turnout both for early voting and on Election Day itself.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Walker’s campaign did not respond to requests for answers to a series of policy questions and that he has generally taken questions from more favorable, conservative outlets.

That would be a continuation of the dynamics of the two candidates’ respective bus tours in the general election, when it was hard to avoid finding Warnock taking questions behind his bus from local reporters in Atlanta and elsewhere after campaign rallies.

Both campaigns have been deploying surrogates, with a number of GOP senators having traveled to Georgia for Walker. Former President Barack Obama is heading back to Georgia on Thursday to campaign for Warnock as the early voting period reaches its final days.

Musician Dave Matthews appeared at a Warnock campaign rally on Monday evening.

On Monday, the White House declined to say whether the current president would be visiting Georgia ahead of next Tuesday. The New York Times reported that former President Donald Trump did not plan to hold an in-person event for Walker in Georgia ahead of the runoff.

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Photos of the week ending April 19, 2024