Raphael Warnock vs. Herschel Walker: 5 issues to observe

It’s election day, as soon as once more, in Georgia.

Quickly residents of this Southern battleground state can breathe a sigh of aid that one other election season is over — and with it a bombardment of unfavorable marketing campaign adverts that includes candidates’ ex-wives and weird stump speeches delving into the relative deserves of vampires and werewolves or the plotline of “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.”

However first Georgians should decide the victor of the final U.S. Senate battle of the 2022 election cycle: a runoff between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker.

Warnock, the senior pastor of the Rev. Martin Luther King’s Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, narrowly defeated then-Sen. Kelly Loeffler in a Jan. 5, 2021, particular election that helped Democrats declare management of the Senate. Now he’s looking for a full six-year time period. Neither Warnock nor Walker, a former College of Georgia soccer participant who’s backed by former President Trump, reached the 50%-plus-one-vote threshold wanted to win outright in final month’s normal election.

The runoff will determine whether or not Democrats preserve their present 50-50 break up within the Senate, counting on Vice President Kamala Harris to forged tiebreaking votes, or whether or not they win an absolute majority. In a 51-49 Senate, Democrats would now not need to share energy for committee assignments and can be much less reliant on extra conservative Democrats, resembling Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, as they push the get together’s legislative agenda.

A Warnock victory would even be a serious boon for Georgia progressives, signaling that Democrats’ slender 2020 and 2021 Senate victories on this decades-long Republican stronghold had been greater than only a response to Trump and the start of a extra enduring mission to flip the state blue.

As Georgians head to polling stations to forged their ballots, right here’s a primer on a number of the key questions on election day:

How lengthy will voters have to attend in line?

Georgia developed a nationwide popularity for election day chaos after the 2018 midterm election. Some voters in lots of predominantly Black city neighborhoods waited in line for hours or arrived at polling stations that had defective voting machines or had run out of paper ballots. Others didn’t obtain ballots or had their voter registration software rejected.

Electoral dysfunction continued within the 2020 primaries, when Georgia election employees had been overwhelmed by the pandemic and a cascade of failures with the state’s new high-tech voting system. Since then, the 2020 normal election and 2022 midterms ran comparatively easily, with out main waits at polling stations.

“Georgia’s voting system is working well,” Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger mentioned final week towards the top of early voting.

However a sweeping Georgia voting legislation pushed via by Republicans final yr made it more durable to vote by absentee poll and means this yr’s runoff has a compressed schedule, with only one week of early voting.

Final week, many Georgians waited greater than an hour at some metro Atlanta polling stations. Traces snaked round libraries and authorities buildings into the evening on Friday, the final day of early voting. After early voting wrapped up, about 1.8 million individuals had forged ballots, in contrast with 2.5 million within the normal election and three million within the 2021 Senate runoffs.

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

Former President Obama, left, rallied with Sen. Raphael Warnock in Atlanta on Thursday.

(Brynn Anderson / Related Press)

Will early turnout in Democratic strongholds push Warnock over the road?

Walker, who has been scrutinized over false claims and outlandish feedback and beset by scandal, has examined Republicans and motivated many Democrats to vote as a result of they take into account him unfit for workplace.

After every week of early voting, in response to state election knowledge, extra individuals had voted in predominantly city and suburban counties that supported Warnock within the normal election than within the rural and exurban counties that backed Walker.

Black voters, who type the spine of the state’s Democratic Celebration, signify 32% of the general early voting tally up to now, a higher proportion than in early voting in final month’s normal election.

“The votes, at least when we look at them demographically, more than likely favor Warnock, which fits with what we saw in Georgia the first time around and other states: Democrats built up a lead in early voting,” mentioned Jessica Taylor, the Senate and governors editor for the nonpartisan Prepare dinner Political Report. “That is why I continue to think that Republicans ignore at the peril how important early and absentee voting is.”

Nonetheless, Taylor mentioned, Democrats want a powerful election day displaying to guarantee that the Republican turnout doesn’t overtake their head begin.

Or will the GOP base pack the polls on election day?

Older, white Georgians — the bedrock of the Republican Celebration — usually present up in greater numbers on election day.

However will Republicans in small cities and rural and exurban areas flock to the polls in assist of Walker? It’s unclear if the GOP will lure them out in enormous numbers with out Gov. Brian Kemp and different extra common candidates on the poll.

In November, Walker lagged behind Warnock by 38,000 votes in a state the place Republicans gained each different statewide seat by snug margins, and he acquired 200,000 fewer votes than Kemp.

One other issue that would put a damper on turnout, probably placing the Republicans at a drawback: Rain is forecast all through a lot of Georgia on election day.

Former President Donald Trump speaks as Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker listens.

Former President Trump speaks as Senate candidate Herschel Walker listens throughout a Save America rally in Perry, Ga., in September 2021.

(Ben Grey / Related Press)

Will Trump’s affect make a distinction both method?

Trump, who endorsed Walker early on and boosted him forward of the Could major, stays a motivator for some within the Republican base.

However the former president’s lies about election fraud depressed GOP turnout and turned off swing voters in Georgia’s 2021 runoff. And his 2020 loss within the state — adopted by the failure of a lot of his endorsed candidates within the midterms — have precipitated a rising variety of Republicans to view him as a legal responsibility.

Going into the runoffs, Democrats used Walker’s Trump connection in opposition to him. A Warnock TV advert exhibits Trump gushing that Walker is “a fabulous human being,” just for a message to flash throughout the display: “Stop Donald Trump. Stop Herschel Walker.”

Over the past month, Georgia Republicans pleaded with Trump to not come to the state to carry a rally for Walker, fearing the affiliation might harm Walker’s standing with swing voters.

Will swing voters present up for Warnock?

Within the normal election, many citizens break up their ticket, voting for Kemp and Warnock. About 80,000 Georgians supported libertarian candidate Chase Oliver.

After the race went to a runoff, Kemp loaned his get-out-the-vote equipment to Walker, joined him on the marketing campaign path and promised in a TV advert that his struggling fellow Republican would “not be another rubber stamp for Joe Biden.”

“Almost all of the campaign ads that are being seen from both Walker’s campaign and the PACs supporting him are not featuring Walker, they’re featuring Gov. Brian Kemp,” mentioned Amy Steigerwalt, a political science professor at Georgia State College. “What they’re trying to do is bring those voters back, saying, “Nope, it’s OK; I can assuage your concerns. You were willing to vote for me. Now I need you to vote for him.”

However after showing at one rally earlier than Thanksgiving, Kemp has not appeared with Walker within the remaining two weeks of the runoff.

“I would think that a sitting governor could do a lot more,” mentioned Erick Allen, a Democratic state consultant. “He could be on the campaign trail with him every day right now. It’s not like he’s prohibited. I think he’s giving a wink and a nod, but he’s doing the bare minimum.”

Democrats have additionally made an express pitch to Kemp supporters, with a Warnock TV advert showcasing a Republican who voted within the normal election for Kemp and Warnock.

Although Republicans traditionally do higher on turnout throughout runoff elections, Democrats might have a bonus if Warnock’s marketing campaign convinces these break up ticket voters to come back out once more, Steigerwalt mentioned.

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