The big question the Georgia Senate race will answer


As the second most expensive Senate race in American history nears its climax on Tuesday, we’re about to learn the answer to a question the two sides in Georgia have spent more than $400 million on. try to answer: can a former football star learn just enough about politics to oust one of Congress’s most adept communicators?

Or was Senator Raphael Warnock nimble enough to navigate a difficult political climate for Democrats to avoid his ouster?

In other words, who was right? The Republicans who warned this spring that Herschel Walker was too inexperienced and laden with personal baggage to win, or former President Donald Trump, who bet sports stardom and national political headwinds would be decisive?

There is ample evidence for either proposition; Georgia is truly a purple state. Their first fight ended with Warnock just before the majority, forcing Tuesday’s runoff election. Less than 40,000 votes separated the two men on polling day.

Since then, Warnock has outpaced his Republican opponent Walker by more than two to one — running 19 unique ads to Walker’s just six.

The campaign has become sharply negative and increasingly personal in its final weeks, with an increasing focus on Walker’s rambling speeches and his treatment of women. This weekend, NBC News aired an interview with Cheryl Parsa, a former romantic partner of Walker who accused him of threatening her with physical violence.

Walker denies being violent, and he’s been remarkably resilient in light of all the information Democrats have gathered against him. Polls show no sign that his support has collapsed.

To sort through these and other themes, I spoke with Maya King, an Atlanta-based political reporter for The New York Times:

It’s pretty clear that many Republicans have come to resent having Herschel Walker as their candidate. What are some of the ways they tried to compensate for his shortcomings as a candidate?

The biggest thing Republicans have done is call on national figures to serve as “validators” of sorts for Walker. It seems that the Georgia Republicans’ biggest problem with their candidate is his inability to clearly articulate the policies he might be advocating for or deliver a campaign message deviating from the red meat cultural issues that only appeal to his hyper-conservative basis. That’s why you see him flanked by other Republican senators like Lindsey Graham or Ted Cruz in some of his TV interviews.

They also campaigned a lot alongside him. At a rally on Sunday, Senators John Kennedy of Louisiana and Tim Scott of South Carolina made remarks. And although neither Donald Trump nor Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida came to Georgia to campaign with Walker, they did attach their names to fundraising emails for him.

Finally, I wouldn’t underestimate the importance of Governor Brian Kemp to Walker’s campaign. Because he performed so well in November with the moderate conservatives Walker needs to win on Tuesday, Walker’s allies see the governor as a vital messenger for that slice of the electorate.

The main theme of the Walker v. Warnock campaign case is that he often votes with President Biden. It’s obviously quite powerful. How does Warnock talk about Biden, or what are some of the ways he tried to deflect this attack?

During part of the general election campaign, I frequently asked Warnock if he would at any time accept a visit from President Biden or Vice President Kamala Harris. Warnock’s refrain has remained the same each time: that he is “focused on the Georgian people”.

But in his stump speeches, he goes a little deeper. He talks about his work with Republican senators like Cruz and Tommy Tuberville on politics. He’s also not shy about telling his followers how he pushed Biden to do more on things like voting rights and student loan debt.

It’s a delicate dance. But he clearly recognized the president’s less than ideal position in Georgia and sought to craft a message around it.

There has been a long-running debate among analysts about the extent to which the shift to Democrats was driven by the political organizing of black voters by figures like Stacey Abrams, and how much of the party’s gains can be attributed to the growth of other groups such as Asians. Americans. How does the Warnock campaign feel about it?

Georgia’s demographics have changed rapidly and only continue to get younger and more racially diverse, especially around Atlanta.

Warnock’s calculus has always centered on supporting black people as much as possible, not just around Atlanta, but also in more rural parts of the state that tend to be more conservative.

But Asian American and Latino voters are two groups the Warnock team knows can make a difference in a very close race. So Warnock’s campaign certainly borrowed from the playbook of Abrams and other voter mobilization groups for where to find those voters and how to get them to the polls.

Governor Kemp’s popularity appears to have a lot to do with his economic record and the perception that during the pandemic he took a gamble on reopening the state at a time when many other governors were more cautious. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Walker didn’t say much about the pandemic, did he?

If he did, that post wasn’t particularly helpful to him – I’ll get back to the stories of him promoting Covid spray and refusing to divulge his vaccination status.

This is, again, part of the reason Kemp has proven to be such an important surrogate for Walker: because he knows how to quickly and clearly deliver a political message without alienating or confusing voters.

Walker uses a lot of religious language on the stump. He calls himself a “warrior for God”, for example. Did it hurt him with the center of the Georgian electorate, or does it play well across the board?

I don’t think it hurt him much. Georgia is a strongly Christian state. We also know that white evangelicals overwhelmingly support his candidacy. I haven’t heard a lot of grumbling from the middle about this.

And, of course, we should note that his opponent heads one of the most iconic pulpits in Georgia, if not the country, as senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. presided. So religion is a big theme in this whole race.

  • Conservative Supreme Court majority appears set to rule Colorado graphic designer has First Amendment right to refuse to create websites celebrating same-sex marriages based on her Christian faith despite state law which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. Adam Liptak has more.

  • Katie Glueck writes about how Harlem, where Raphael Warnock was trained as a seminary student and pastor, shaped her faith and politics.

  • Arizona certified its midterm election results on Monday, after some Republican candidates tried to cast doubt on the outcome. The race for attorney general, however, remains too close to announce and is headed for a recount.

Thank you for reading On Politics and for subscribing to The New York Times. — Blake

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