Former President Barack Obama and Senator Raphael Warnock on Thursday urged Democratic voters to maintain an apparent lead in early voting in the Georgia Senate runoff against Republican Herschel Walker ahead of the final day of early in-person voting on Friday and Election Day on to advance further on Tuesday.
If they don’t get tired, you can’t get tired, Obama told a crowd gathered at a cavernous former railroad repair shop east of downtown Atlanta.
Voters have already cast more than 1.4 million ballots, while Democrats are pushing with all hands to collect as many votes as possible, while Republicans, especially Walker, have taken a less aggressive approach that left the GOP candidate strong could make voter turnout on election day dependent on the runoff.
We’ve got to keep emerging, Warnock told the crowd at his biggest event, the four-week runoff blitz. We have to keep voting. We can’t let go of a moment. We have to step on the gas until we win.
Both Obama and Warnock criticized Walker, part of the Democratic attack, for being unqualified and untrue.
“I firmly believe Georgia knows Georgia is better than Herschel Walker,” Warnock said.
Obama shared a story about how Walker once claimed he let Obama beat him at basketball but later admitted he never met the Democrat.
If you keep telling outright lies, that says something about the kind of person you are and the kind of leader you would be if you were elected to the United States Senate, Obama said.
Georgia voters cast more than 1.4 million ballots.
Warnock voted Sunday after a religiously-tinged rally calling on the civil rights traditions of the Southern Black Church, including the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Warnock is expected to occupy the pulpit once held by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Walker, meanwhile will vote on Election Day of the runoff, as he did for the midterms in November.
Warnock led Walker by about 37,000 votes out of nearly 4 million votes cast in the general election, but missed the majority required by Georgian law.
Nationwide early voting data, including some weekend and Thanksgiving weekdays in certain counties, show higher overall turnout in the most Democratic counties and congressional districts.
Still, both parties find data to tout as they battle for an advantage in the final contest of the 2022 midterm election cycle, and both campaigns generally agree that Warnock will lead among early voters, as in the first round, while Walker will do will have an advantage in the elections on Election Day, as he did in November. The respective margins determine the ultimate winner.
TargetSmart, a Democratic data company, analyzed the identities of the more than 830,000 voters who cast their ballots by the end of Tuesday and concluded that Democrats extended their lead six days before the 18th election. That analysis did not include the over 240,000 additional ballots cast Wednesday.
Walker’s campaign manager, Scott Paradise, pushed back on notions of Democratic dominance. He argued their advantage materializes only because it was heavily Democratic metro areas that held early voting over the weekend, while more Republican areas waited for the nationwide mandatory early voting window that began Monday. Republicans had unsuccessfully sued a state court to block Saturday’s early voting for the runoff.
According to Paradise, an analysis of Walker’s campaign found that nine of the top 10 counties with the highest turnout Monday were counties Walker won in November with a combined 70% of the vote. He added that of the state’s most populous counties — those with more than 100,000 registered voters — two Republican strongholds, Hall and Forsyth, recorded the highest turnout rates Monday. Paradise said these trends reflect Republicans’ high level of enthusiasm.
Still, the Republicans have some catching up to do.
Four of the state’s five Democratic-held congressional districts had already recorded early turnout of at least 43% of the total early votes for November’s election as of Tuesday, according to state voting data compiled by Ryan Anderson, an independent analyst in Georgia County had at least 17 days early in-person voting. Only one of Georgia’s nine Republican-held congressional districts had surpassed that 43 percent mark.
Warnock first won the seat during the Jan. 5, 2021 simultaneous Senate runoff, when he and Jon Ossoff prevailed over the Republican incumbents to give the Democrats tight control of the Senate early in President Joe Biden’s term.
This happened because of you, Georgia, and now we need you to do it again,” Obama said.
Warnock is now seeking a full six-year term. Senate control is not at stake this time: Democrats have already secured 50 seats and Vice President Kamala Harris’ undecided vote. That puts pressure on Warnock and Walker’s campaigns to convince Georgia voters that it’s worth casting a second ballot, even if the national stakes aren’t that high.
However, Obama argued on behalf of Warnock himself, saying 51 is better than 50 because it means Sen. Warnock will continue to represent you in Washington.
Warnock received about 70% of his total votes in the first round by pre-voting; for Walker it was about 58%. This resulted in an advantage of more than 256,000 votes for Warnock. Walker responded with an Election Day advantage of more than 200,000.
The senator’s campaign, Democratic Party committees, and like-minded political action committees have tailored their turnout efforts toward early voting.
Republicans have countered with their own wide-ranging push, including a direct-mail push by a super-political action committee with Governor Brian Kemp receiving 200,000 votes more than Walker to comfortably win a second term.
Still, Republicans are fighting some internal party narratives, including former President Donald Trump, that are questioning some pre-voting, particularly mail-in ballots, and are urging some Republicans to vote on Election Day. As recently as Tuesday, Trump took to social media to declare that YOU CAN NEVER HAVE FAIR AND FREE ELECTIONS WITH MAIL-IN VOTES – EVER, EVER, EVER. WILL NOT AND CANNOT HAPPEN!!!
Walker himself makes no mention of early in-person voting or absentee ballots at all when asking his supporters to vote.
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