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Georgia Is Still Mostly A Red State-- But Most Voters There Have Grown To Hate Trump

No Republicans want the Georgia runoff to be about Trump and all his problems

All the most recent public polling in Georgia shows Warnock narrowly ahead— up between 7 and 2 points. The latest CNN poll shows the difference that base turnout makes. Among all registered Georgia voters, Warnock is up 7 points but among likely voters, he's only up by 4 points. Early voting has been great for Warnock, with huge turnout in Democratic areas, but they’re going to have to turn out their base on Tuesday to bring this thing home.

Yesterday, both the Washington Post and the New York Times ran pieces about the national implications for the two parties and how they are working the runoff. Reporting for The Post, Sabrina Rodriguez, Hannah Knowles and Dylan Wells wrote that “Republicans have grown increasingly nervous about the final U.S. Senate election of the midterms, a runoff in Georgia that reflects larger concerns over candidate quality, infighting and ties to Donald Trump that loom over the party’s future,” worried that voting will continue a trend— rejecting inexperienced Republican nominees tied to Trump.

Seth Weathers, a Georgia director for Trump’s 2016 campaign, previously expressed confidence that Walker would win in a runoff. Now, he said, looking at early voting turnout, “I have more concern,” and he is unsure who will prevail.
“Herschel Walker doesn’t have the capacity to land a closing message,” said Ben Burnett, a Republican podcast host in Georgia and former city councilman in Alpharetta, an Atlanta suburb. “And the affiliation and support that he got from Donald Trump … is still a boat anchor around him with the 5 percent of voters that he couldn’t afford to lose.”
…Democrats are still facing a challenging political environment and struggled in Georgia on Nov. 8, losing every statewide race aside from the Senate contest, even as they overperformed expectations across the country. “At this point, it’s not even really a question of whose base is more excited,” argued one Republican strategist working on the runoff, who like others interviewed for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity to be more candid. “It’s more a question of whose base is less depressed.”
Walker and his allies also have highlighted issues that galvanize the Republican base, with one ad featuring the candidate alongside a former female college athlete who says a transgender woman shouldn’t have been able to compete with her in the NCAA swimming championships. At campaign stops where voters sport University of Georgia Bulldogs gear, Walker gets reliable applause criticizing “gender ideology” in schools and “wokeness” in the military.
Democrats have long outspent Republicans on ads in the race, as Walker— one of the GOP’s better fundraisers in key Senate races— struggles to match Warnock’s record-breaking hauls. But the gap has widened in the runoff period as Walker gets less help from outside groups. Democrats are spending about twice as much on ads in this final phase, according to the tracking firm AdImpact, and this week said they are pouring an additional $11 million into get-out-the-vote efforts for Warnock.
Trump talks regularly with Walker and might hold a tele-rally for him but does not plan to campaign for him in person, according to Trump advisers, who said teams for Trump and Walker agreed it wouldn’t be productive. Walker has not mentioned Trump at recent rallies.
Democratic victories in midterm battlegrounds against Trump-aligned candidates have spurred more efforts to highlight the influence of the 45th president, who recently announced he is running for the White House again in 2024. Democratic strategists have said they believe swing voters are turned off by some of the extreme positions and combative rhetoric the former president and his allies espouse. Warnock’s campaign debuted an ad during the runoff centered on Trump’s praise for Walker.
In Georgia and beyond, GOP infighting has intensified over the past couple of weeks, complicating efforts to present a unified front and message in the runoff. There have been numerous rounds of finger-pointing over what many in the party see as disappointing midterm results. Some have openly blamed Trump for the outcomes.
Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, a Republican, declared himself unable to vote for either Walker or Warnock.
“When there’s division in the locker room, there’s finger-pointing. It’s usually kind of the hallmark sign of a losing season,” said Duncan, who has been highly critical of Walker. He drew derision from other Republicans this week after he said he stood in line to vote but left without casting a ballot.
“We’ve been asked to be team players as Republicans for too long,” added Duncan, who also has criticized Trump’s grip on the party. “We’re done being team players. If we want to win, we need team leaders.”
Allies and advisers to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Rick Scott (FL), head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee— long at odds over midterm strategy— have fought openly during the runoff, trading barbs about the source of Republicans’ shortfalls and each party’s investments in the final stretch. Scott unsuccessfully challenged McConnell for Senate GOP leadership after the election. The Florida Republican recently aired more public complaints about the party’s direction.
Early voting in the runoff has smashed daily records, with more than 300,000 people casting ballots Tuesday, according to Gabriel Sterling, an official with the secretary of state’s office. Democrats are encouraged by a relatively high share of African American voters, who tend to support them.
Republicans said the data shows strong Election Day turnout can push them to victory— but some lamented that Democratic strongholds got a jump-start by opening earlier for voting and said they have grown worried about their base’s growing preference for casting ballots on the last day possible.
…Michael Thurmond, chief executive of DeKalb County and a Democrat, said he’s encouraged by early turnout numbers but noted there was also strong early voting in some GOP-dominated counties— something Walker’s campaign has highlighted. Thurmond said he thinks many of Walker’ controversies have energized his supporters and even helped drive up their enthusiasm.
“It’s going to be a very close and tight race, and I don’t think anyone should take anything for granted,” Thurmond said.
Both sides are pouring millions of dollars into voter persuasion efforts, focusing on the roughly 200,000 people who voted for Gov. Brian Kemp (R) but not Walker in the general election. A Warnock ad features one such voter; a Kemp ad for Walker says he is voting for someone who won’t be “another rubber stamp for Joe Biden.”
Kemp kept his distance from Walker on the campaign trail in the run-up to Nov. 8, but has played a more direct role since securing his own reelection. Early in the runoff, the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with McConnell, announced a $2 million investment to repurpose Kemp’s turnout operation for the runoff, with more than 100 paid canvassers.
Democrats have seized on Walker’s strict stance on abortion amid anger over the end of Roe v. Wade and its federal protections for abortion. They believe such efforts helped propel them to victory in competitive races across the country.
Georgia’s ban on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy was reinstated last week after a court battle. Walker has endorsed that law and suggested early on that he opposes exceptions to such bans, though he later backtracked.
Martha Zoller, a conservative talk show host in Georgia, said the race should hinge on opposition to Biden and argued that controversies like the latest scrutiny of Walker’s residency will have little sway on the race. Zoller stressed the importance of denying Democrats a 51st seat in the Senate, but added that it’s a more complicated message than fighting to retake the majority.
“There’s the old saying, if you’re explaining, you’re losing,” she said.

The Times’ coverage stressed how big-name Republicans are staying away from Georgia. There are two reasons that could explain this: their presence will do more harm that good or they don’t want the onus and blame when Walker loses, as is likely. Michael Bender explained that during the general, “Walker was joined on the campaign trail by top Republican senators, party leaders and conservative activists eager to help the former football star’s Senate bid in Georgia. Now, with certain exceptions, he’s often been the only draw at his events. The shift reflects fresh doubts at the top of the Republican Party, where disappointing midterm election results last month have triggered an identity crisis among conservatives reeling from losses in a third consecutive campaign cycle. The uncertainty has affected Walker’s campaign, where his team has avoided appearances with Trump, who had endorsed him and whose divisiveness has been particularly acute among Georgia voters.”

Republican polling shows that just 36% of Georgia voters have a favorable view of Trump. 59% have an unfavorable view of him. Trump has threatened that if DeSantis goes into Georgia to campaign for Walker— who he considers his own creation— he will go in as well… despite GOP efforts to keep him away. No one wants these final few days of the runoff to be about Trump and all of his problems. Bender explained that fears about Trump’s “penchant for prioritizing his own grievances— as he did during a disastrous runoff for Republicans in the state just two years ago— convinced some Walker advisers not to seek help from some of Trump’s potential White House rivals in 2024. The benefit of campaigning with rising stars in the party, like Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida or Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia, wasn’t worth the risk of provoking the former president, these advisers said.” That’s fine with DeSantis (and Glenn Youngkin) who don’t want the stink of a Walker loss attached to them anyway. Instead, he’s campaigning with Ronna Romney McDaniel on Monday, who few people have ever heard of.


1 Comment

Dec 03, 2022

if herschel wins, it will signal that GA's democraps attention span on Dobbs has been exceeded. there may be other possibilities... like GA is a NAZI state rather than just 'red'.

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