Warnock Wins and Walker Concedes
Democrats increase their Senate margin.
AJC (“Warnock defeats Walker, giving Democrats 51-49 majority in Senate“):
U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock fended off a challenge from Republican Herschel Walker to win a full six-year term that broadens the Democratic majority in the chamber after a turbulent runoff campaign that sharpened partisan divides in one of the nation’s most politically competitive states.
Warnock’s victory Tuesday was a rare bright spot for Democrats in Georgia after a midterm that ended in triumph for every other statewide Republican candidate, and his win prevented an outright reversal just two years after Democrats swept the U.S. Senate runoffs and helped Joe Biden win the White House.
The $401 million race was the nation’s most expensive. The victory gives Democrats 51 seats in the Senate, meaning they can claim a majority on committees and exert more influence without having to depend exclusively on Vice President Kamala Harris’ tiebreaking vote.
In a subdued concession speech Tuesday night, Walker made no mention of Warnock but urged his supporters to “believe in our elected officials.”
“There’s no excuses in life, and I am not going to make any excuses now because we put up one heck of a fight,” Walker said.
Warnock prevailed with a strategy that mobilized both reliably liberal Democrats and middle-of-the-road voters, including many in the latter bloc who split their ticket in the first round by also voting for Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.
Throughout the campaign, he stressed his efforts to reach across the aisle, and he did it again in his victory speech, saying he would continue to work on issues such criminal justice and lowering the costs of prescription drugs.
“I want all of Georgia to know, whether you voted for me or not, I am going to keep working for you,” Warnock said.
The senator staved off Walker’s attempts to turn the race into a referendum on Biden, whose low approval ratings complicated his campaign.
Instead, Warnock framed the race as contrast of competence and character. Walker’s history of violence, personal baggage and patterns of lies and exaggerations that frustrated even steadfast Republican allies made him unfit for the Senate, Warnock said.
The Democrat was helped in the final stretch by inexplicable blunders from his rival. The Republican disappeared from the campaign trail for five days as early voting started over the Thanksgiving holiday, and he drifted into attacks on his former football coach and off-script discussions about horror movie villains.
The gaffe-prone Republican refused to talk to reporters covering his campaign for the last two months of the race, and his staff regularly ignored queries about his policy stances. In the final days, his aides put a buffer at his stops so he could avoid questions shouted by the media.
A GOP push to ban Saturday early voting backfired, triggering a surge to the polls that helped Warnock build an edge before election day. And Democrats maintained a huge fundraising advantage, outspending Republicans by a more than 2-to-1 clip in the four-week runoff.
AP (“Democratic Sen. Warnock wins Georgia runoff against Walker“):
Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock defeated Republican challenger Herschel Walker in a Georgia runoff election Tuesday, ensuring Democrats an outright majority in the Senate for the rest of President Joe Biden’s current term and capping an underwhelming midterm cycle for the GOP in the last major vote of the year.
With Warnock’s second runoff victory in as many years, Democrats will have a 51-49 Senate majority, gaining a seat from the current 50-50 split with John Fetterman’s victory in Pennsylvania. There will be divided government, however, with Republicans having narrowly flipped House control.
“After a hard-fought campaign — or, should I say, campaigns — it is my honor to utter the four most powerful words ever spoken in a democracy: The people have spoken,” Warnock, 53, told jubilant supporters who packed a downtown Atlanta hotel ballroom.
“I often say that a vote is a kind of prayer for the world we desire for ourselves and for our children,” declared Warnock, a Baptist pastor and his state’s first Black senator. “Georgia, you have been praying with your lips and your legs, your hands and your feet, your heads and your hearts. You have put in the hard work, and here we are standing together.”
In last month’s election, Warnock led Walker by 37,000 votes out of almost 4 million cast, but fell short of the 50% threshold needed to avoid a runoff. The senator appeared to be headed for a wider final margin in Tuesday’s runoff, with Walker, a football legend at the University of Georgia and in the NFL, unable to overcome a bevy of damaging allegations, including claims that he paid for two former girlfriends’ abortions despite supporting a national ban on the procedure.
“The numbers look like they’re not going to add up,” Walker, an ally and friend of former President Donald Trump, told supporters late Tuesday at the College Football Hall of Fame in downtown Atlanta. “There’s no excuses in life, and I’m not going to make any excuses now because we put up one heck of a fight.”
Even aside from Walker’s half-hearted runoff campaign, there was every reason to think Warnock was going to win. He’d done better in the first round and, with Democrats already having won back the Senate, Republican enthusiasm was sure to be low.
I will say, as unfit for high office as Walker demonstrated himself to be, I was pleasantly surprised that he give something of a traditional concession speech—especially given the bitterness of the campaign and attacks on his character and competence, fair as they were. Yes, it’s a low bar and something that we long took for granted. But it’s in stark contrast to his endorser-in-chief, Donald Trump.