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.

FILED UNDER: 2022 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Kathy says:

    I got home later than I hoped, and the count stood at 50-50, which was insane. So, I streamed an ep of Disenchantment.

    When that was over, to my relief the race had been called for Warnock.


  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Aaron Rupar

    Warnock: “Just because people endured long lines … the rain and the cold and all kind of tricks in order to vote, it doesn’t mean that voter suppression doesn’t exist. It simply means that you the people have decided your voices will not be silenced.”

    Sherrilyn Ifill

    And thank you @staceyabrams
    for your tireless work for Georgia voters.

    Stacey Abrams

    Congratulations to my friend @ReverendWarnock on his re-election to the U.S. Senate, and a special thank you to Georgia voters and organizers who worked tirelessly to make this victory possible.

    John Nichols

    Not since Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1934 has a Democratic president in his first midterm election seen every sitting Democratic senator re-elected. Raphael Warnock’s win in Georgia tonight is historic for Senator Warnock — and for President Biden.

  3. Kylopod says:

    Warnock is now the first black Democrat elected to a full Senate term in a former Confederate state. He will next be up for reelection just as Biden is finishing up his second term.

    With 51 seats, Dems now will get something they have not had since 2014, which is complete control of the Senate committees. Among other things, it means they have the ability to transfer the Jan. 6 investigation to the Senate should they wish to continue it after this year.

  4. Scott says:


    Among other things, it means they have the ability to transfer the Jan. 6 investigation to the Senate should they wish to continue it after this year.

    I’ve been wondering why this idea has not been talked about. I’ve also been wondering how all the evidence gathered will be preserved. Or will Republicans attempt to delete it.

  5. Kylopod says:

    The following is from an article from 2016:

    The Female Politician Trying to Turn Georgia Blue

    …Among the states to watch most closely is Georgia. The last time it voted Democrat was for Bill Clinton in 1992, but state Democrats have been working hard for years in the hopes that a young and ever more racially diverse electorate has the potential to move the state left once again. Leading the charge to turn Georgia blue is Democrat Stacey Abrams, the state’s House Minority Leader. I spoke with her about the numbers and the organized efforts behind the scenes in the Southern red state that keeps turning pinker on the 538 map. [The reporter goes on to interview Abrams.]

  6. James Joyner says:

    @Kylopod: I think Abrams gets far too much credit. I’d say that, to the extent Georgia has turned blue, it’s as much to Donald Trump’s fault as to her credit.

    Yes, Georgia has two Democratic Senators. That’s extraordinary. But that’s almost entirely because of Trump’s attempt to steal the 2020 election and the backlash it caused in the runoff. Trump doubled down by helping Walker become the 2022 candidate.

    But Georgia just re-elected a Republican governor, emphatically, over Abrams. The state legislature is still Republican. As is the US House delegation.

  7. Kathy says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’ll gladly share the credit with Benito for his great success in empowering Democrats in Red, now Purple, Georgia

  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kylopod: It appears the House is going to make some criminal referrals. If that does come about, I suspect Schumer and co. will leave it to the DOJ.

  9. Stormy Dragon says:

    It’s pretty weird Warnick had to win 6 elections over a two year period to get a full senate term.

  10. James Joyner says:

    @Stormy Dragon: The only unusual thing is the two runoffs. Senate seats are staggered and Warnock ran in a special election to fill the remainder of Johnny Isakson’s term, after the latter resigned for health reasons. So, whoever won that seat was going to have to run again in 2022.

    I presume the other two elections were Democratic primaries? I’m surprised he was opposed for the re-election bid.

  11. CSK says:

    Marjorie Taylor Greene is very indignant. She told Steve Bannon that the reason Walker lost was that he didn’t use her in his campaign. Furthermore, Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham were mean to her.

  12. Kylopod says:

    @CSK: Without having yet looked at the data, I’d make the wild guesstimate that Walker did very well in MTG’s district and may well have outperformed his November percentage, as was the case in many of the redder parts of Georgia. The problem for him is that ain’t the entire state. I was watching the totals as they came in, and Walker was doing very well in most of the red counties—it’s just that they couldn’t overcome the massive support for Warnock in the Atlanta area, which is quickly becoming GA’s version of Chicago.

  13. CSK says:

    Indeed. Most of Georgia is geographically red, but the urban areas–and Athens, where the main campus of the University is–are blue.

  14. EddieInCA says:

    @James Joyner:

    I think you’re wrong. There have been several GOP Campaign consultants who have, on the record, said about Abrams, “She has created a fucking machine for voter turnout, focusing on early in person and mail in voting”.

    So much so, that Newt Gingrich of all people went on the record to tell the GOP that they need to embrace early voting and mail in voting.


    Abrams has just begun. I see Georgia in 2022 similarly to Virginia in 2008, once solidly red, now purple, on it’s way to blue.

  15. Rick DeMent says:


    I’m sort of on James’ side here. I lived in GA for a number of years and even though my old stomping grounds of Gwinnett Co. seems to have gone pretty solidly blue, if you take Trump out of the equation and sub in some garden variety Republican who was only a bit more conservative then the mean in the party, we would be looking at a different story in GA right now on the senate side. I’m not even sure if GA will be reliably purple going forward.

    I have no faith that permanent inroads into to GA state government have been made by Democrats. In addition to the fact that the state congressional delegation in Republican, they still have a unified republican state government. Contrast that to my current state of MI where we flipped the state house and senate, have 2 Democratic senators a once seat majority in the house delegation. This is from total unified Republican control that ended in 2018 (with the exceptions of our two senators who were both in place since 2010 and 2016 respectively).

    Give it a few more years, especially with that generous film production tax credit that are bringing in more liberals every year and the Democrats might get there in a few years, but they ain’t there yet. In MI the republicans shut down their version of the tax credit because they were gobsmacked at how many people were coming into the state for projects for the burgeoning film industry that was starting to get off the ground. All liberal. They tanked a policy that was actually pretty successful in bringing people into the state because the industry was too liberal (think about that). I have close friends that moved to GA to follow the jobs that were moving there, but that will take another decade or so (and, of course, growth in other industries as well).

  16. Kathy says:


    She told Steve Bannon that the reason Walker lost was that he didn’t use her in his campaign.

    Such an easy edit:

    She told Steve Bannon that the reason Walker lost, by a small margin, was that he didn’t use her in his campaign. Otherwise he’d have lost in a blowout

  17. Kathy says:

    @Rick DeMent:

    I’m sort of on James’ side here. I lived in GA for a number of years

    My entire acquaintance with Georgia consists of two connections at the Atlanta airport flying Delta from MEX to Orlando in 1990. So, I concede you almost certainly probably maybe know more about it 😉

    Maybe it’s not purple, but Benito did succeed in empowering Democrats in Georgia, namely warnock and Ossoff.

  18. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner: I give Abrams a lot of credit. Back in her first run and then following after, she spent massive amounts of time and resources bringing Georgia Democrats together. Before that they were splintered and spent a lot of time fighting each other and protecting their own turf. My understanding is that they were much like the Florida Dems are today. I don’t think we give enough credit to the leaders who bring people together and give too much to those who are individually inspiring but leave nothing lasting in their wake.

  19. gVOR08 says:


    and Walker was doing very well in most of the red counties—it’s just that they couldn’t overcome the massive support for Warnock in the Atlanta area, which is quickly becoming GA’s version of Chicago.

    This sort of thing ought to be done on a map scaled by population rather than acreage. Here’s one for the 2020 prez election. Instead of a map of small blue islands in a red sea you see large blue islands separated by narrow red canals. Georgia is Atlanta with red borders, as is Illinois/Chicago. Even TX is Dallas and Houston separated by a red canal.

    Such maps should be required for redistricting. It would eliminate this whole thing about Dems being forced into a few districts because they’re densely packed. I wish the press would use this sort of thing, but area scaled maps are so universal I expect it would be hard to get the concept across with the public. Or the average innumerate journalist.

  20. Kylopod says:

    @gVOR08: Part of the problem is the mainstream media’s innumeracy, but another is that it’s been directly weaponized by the right for years to make themselves seem more popular than they are and to foster seeds of doubt about elections due to the red-mirage effect. Last night Laura Ingraham was talking to Fox’s election-map analyst, and I’ve attempted to transcribe the exchange (which wasn’t easy because she was kind of rambling), because it’s just so telling:

    INGRAHAM: Why is it that the heavily Democratic counties are always the last ones to report? I mean, presumably they count…they’re more people obviously, but it seems like it kind of–this is, I hate to say this is just a familiar refrain, but it’s a very familiar refrain….

    REPORTER: I’m going to say that that’s where you find the people, that’s where they live.

    Notice how Ingraham poses the question, then immediately answers it herself. She’s trying to have it both ways, since she knows she’s addressing an audience who have been programmed to reject anything that seems counter-intuitive to them. So she can give the mundane explanation to cover her ass, while at the same time hinting something strange is going on without providing any evidence.

    They’ve also increasingly gravitated toward a worldview in which there should be some kind of parity between rural and urban areas, so that even when they understand that a county of 1,000 is less determinative of election results than a county of 1 million, they think that constitutes some kind of disenfranchisement of “real Americans.” This message is rarely stated outright, but it’s pervasively implied in conservative media.