This year’s most expensive US Senate race in the country – over $380 million spent through the end of November – is finally over. Georgia’s incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, pastor at Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, won the December 6 runoff against his Republican challenger, former University of Georgia football star Herschel Walker.
Two years ago, Warnock captured his Senate seat in a special runoff election, due in no small part to former President Donald Trump’s unproven claims of a rigged election system in the state that resulted in reducing Republican base turnout in the runoff. This year, Warnock was widely viewed as one of the most vulnerable Democratic senators seeking re-election. Trump urged his long-time friend Walker to run and strongly backed him with Mar-a-Lago fundraising and in-state campaign rallies last spring. With that support, Walker trounced his Republican opponents in a May primary with 68% of the vote.
Four major factors helped Warnock bucked the Republican trend in Georgia this year:
1. Warnock tapped into his background as pastor to appeal to swing voters by presenting himself as a senator who could reach across the aisle to get things done.
2. Walker, like some other GOP senate candidates around the nation this year, was widely perceived by voters as deeply flawed.
3. Walker’s campaign sought to counter this by tying Warnock to Biden, who is deeply unpopular in Georgia with only a 38% approval rating.
4. For campaigns, runoff elections are less about persuasion and more about driving turnout of your supporters. Republicans seem to have been hampered in their efforts over the last two election cycles by Trump’s denigration of early in person voting and absentee mail in voting.