Obama heads to Ga as Warnock seeks big advantage in early vote

Georgia voters cast more than a million ballots ahead of the Dec. 6 runoff between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker, with Warnock seeking to give Democrats an apparent lead in early voting with a visit Barack Obama’s Thursday.

The former president will campaign with Warnock on the eve of the final day of early voting. The rally, which promises to be the biggest event in Warnock’s four-week runoff blitz, highlights the two parties’ differing approaches to early voting in the 2022 election final.

Democrats have employed direct pressure to rack up as many votes as possible while Republicans, particularly Walker himself, have taken a less aggressive approach that could leave the GOP nominee heavily dependent on a runoff turnout on Election Day. .

“I think the turnout we’re seeing is good and I want to encourage people to stick with it,” Warnock said as he campaigned this week, likening voting to queuing in a restaurant. popular in Atlanta. “The other day I went to Slutty Vegan and the line was going around the block, and people were still waiting and getting their sandwiches,” he said. “I went to vote yesterday, and it was pretty painless.”

Walker, meanwhile, is expected to vote on election day, as he did in November.

Warnock led Walker by around 37,000 out of nearly 4 million votes in the general election, but fell short of the majority required by Georgia law. It sparked a four-week flash, with a shorter early voting window than in the first round.

Statewide early voting data, including some Thanksgiving weekends and weekdays in some counties, shows higher overall turnout in the most heavily Democratic counties and congressional districts. Still, both parties find data to brag about as they jockey for any advantage in the final contest of the 2022 midterm election cycle, and both campaigns generally agree that Warnock will be ahead among early voters, as he did so in the first round, while Walker will have the advantage in Election Day polls, as he did in November. The respective margins will determine the eventual winner.

TargetSmart, a Democratic data company, analyzed the identities of the more than 830,000 voters who had voted by the end of Tuesday and concluded that Democrats increased their advantage by 14 percentage points from what it was. with six days until the Nov. 8 election. That analysis did not include the more than 240,000 additional ballots cast Wednesday.

Scott Paradise, Walker’s campaign manager, pushed back against notions of Democratic dominance. He argued that their advantage only came from the fact that it was the heavily Democratic counties in the metro area that held early voting over the weekend, while more Republican areas waited out the mandatory early voting window at the end of the week. statewide that began Monday. Republicans had sued, unsuccessfully, in state court to try to block Saturday’s early voting for the second round.

Paradise said an analysis of Walker’s campaign found that nine of the 10 counties with the highest turnout on Monday were counties that Walker won in November with a total of 70% of the vote. He added that among the most populous counties in the state — those with more than 100,000 registered voters — two Republican strongholds, Hall and Forsyth, had the highest turnout percentages on Monday. Paradise said these trends reflect great enthusiasm among Republicans.

Still, Republicans have some catching up to do.

According to state voting data compiled by Ryan Anderson, an independent analyst in Atlanta, four of the five Democratic-held congressional districts in the state had already seen early turnout through Tuesday of at least 43% of early voting totals for the November election, when every Georgia county has had at least 17 days of in-person early voting. Only one of Georgia’s nine Republican-held congressional districts had eclipsed that 43 percent mark.

Warnock won the seat for the first time in the Senate’s concurrent second round on Jan. 5, 2021, when he and Sen. Jon Ossoff prevailed over Republican incumbents to give Democrats tight control of the Senate for the start of the term. of President Joe Biden. Warnock won a special election and is now seeking a full six-year term.

This time, control of the Senate is not at stake: the Democrats have already won 50 seats and have the decisive vote of Vice President Kamala Harris. That puts pressure on Warnock and Walker’s campaign to convince Georgia voters it’s worth voting for a runoff, even if the national stakes aren’t quite as high.

Warnock got about 70% of his overall votes in the first round through advance voting; for Walker it was about 58%. This resulted in an advantage of more than 256,000 votes for Warnock. Walker responded with an advantage of more than 200,000 on Election Day.

The senator’s campaign, Democratic Party committees and aligned political action committees have all tailored their voter turnout efforts to early voting. Republicans countered with their own high-profile push, including a Super PAC direct mail push featuring Gov. Brian Kemp, who got 200,000 more votes than Walker to comfortably win a second term.

Still, Republicans are battling some internal party narratives, including from former President Donald Trump, that question some early votes, especially mail-in ballots, pushing some Republicans toward an Election Day ballot. . As recently as Tuesday, Trump said on social media that “YOU CAN NEVER HAVE FAIR AND FREE ELECTIONS WITH MAIL-IN BALLOTS – EVER, EVER, EVER. WILL NOT AND CANNOT HAPPEN!!!”

Walker himself does not mention in-person early voting or mail-in ballots at all, as he urges his supporters to vote.

Democrats, meanwhile, see Obama as a key figure in repeating Warnock’s lead, as the former president remains hugely popular among grassroots Democrats and enjoys a solid reputation among independents.

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