The Georgia Senate Runoff was always going to be a close race. Why? Because both the Rev. Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker were driven across their respective finish lines by fear and loathing of the other side rather than by a universal belief in either candidate’s competency or a love of the candidates themselves.
My colleague Becca Lower asked this legitimate question about Walker:
Can anyone tell me what Herschel Walker would do in the Senate, if he had been elected? I'm sure he's a great man, dedicated to conservative principles. But there's a built-in problem when our candidates are "personalities." #GArunoff
— Becca "Karizona" Lower (@BeccaJLower) December 7, 2022
Can anyone tell me what Herschel Walker would do in the Senate, if he had been elected? I’m sure he’s a great man, dedicated to conservative principles. But there’s a built-in problem when our candidates are “personalities.”
Lower didn’t get many answers, and none of them got to the heart of the question. Bottom line, Walker was a lesser-of-the-two-evils, rather than an aspirational, inspirational, and confident choice. While Walker improved as he campaigned and won some people over, no one was going to walk over hot coals to vote for him. There was no focused fire to ensure Walker made it across the finish line. Not to mention, the lackluster and last-minute Hail Mary campaigning by Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Lindsey Graham, and Governor Brian Kemp reflected desperation rather than solidarity. Georgia Republicans and conservatives made it clear they had greater concerns. The Senate mounting an amnesty bill right before the runoff elections probably didn’t help matters either.
However, Democrats and others are making the mistake that Warnock’s win was this great feat. It wasn’t. His defeat of Walker is no testament to Warnock’s competency or his popularity. Walker failed to move the needle in his direction. Part of that was the negative attacks, not helped by Walker’s own child calling him out as a fraud. But if that had been the full extent of it, then Warnock would have won by a wider margin.
I am old enough to remember the Willie Horton ads which pretty much sealed the grave of Governor Michael Dukakis’ presidential run against then-Vice President George H.W. Bush. Both parties use negative ads to drive their message because sadly, they are effective. But in the case of the Georgia Senate runoff, not so much.
Walker has sins, yes, but so does Warnock, and people recognized this. While the reveal of Walker’s less-than-stellar past may have turned some voters off, it wasn’t because Warnock was a better candidate or even a better human; he was simply the Devil they knew.
Not sure why @TheDemocrats are celebrating Warnock’s slim victory over a first time politician who had never run in an election. All things considered, @SenatorWarnock should have easily won. The @GOP needs to check itself and start game planning a bit better.
— Florida Grand (@florida_grand) December 7, 2022
What I am seeing is that this narrow win has shaken up the Democrats. How do I know? Their mouthpieces are saying so. Sherrilyn Ifill, the daughter of the late-PBS host Gwen Ifill weighed in.
The closeness of this race is the among the most depressing and ominous things I’ve seen in American politics in my lifetime.
I say this because Walker was the worst candidate I’ve ever seen. That he could pull this close signals that Rep voters have extended the unconditional support that Trump claimed when he said he could shoot someone on 5th Ave & not lose a vote to all gen[era]l election Rep. candidates.
Had to get Trump in there, of course, because to them, he is the root of all evil.
Ifill’s take is dead wrong, of course. If Trump was a factor, then Georgia Governor Brian Kemp would not be enjoying a second term. Both sides delight in painting the opposite side’s voters as idiots, so this take continues to buy into this narrative, as does much of the social media commentary. They refuse to see that both sides were voting against something, rather than for someone. They threw out their best money ($126 million of campaign funds) and their best president (Barack Obama) against the wall, and they could barely squeak past a two percent margin of victory. Yeah, they should be afraid. Had Herschel Walker been a candidate that Georgians not lockstep with their party could vote for, he would have run away with it.
— Jack Lombardi II (@JackLombardi) December 8, 2022
So where does our focus need to lie? Ensuring election integrity, of course. Building quality candidates, definitely. Getting rid of the consultant class who are more interested in raking in money than winning, for sure. The only way to achieve these goals is to ensure the grassroots take back and maintain the reins of power. Too many state chapters are microcosms of D.C. My state of California is sadly representative of this. The focus on promoting and building candidates to serve the people they seek to represent and listen to their needs gets lost in the shuffle of playing second fiddle and trying to convince voters that we don’t suck as bad as the other guy. People want to vote for someone and for conservative values, and not just against the alternative. The counties in California (it’s all about the counties) that focused on the needs of the constituents as opposed to the celebrity status or street cred of the candidate were the counties that not only ran quality races, but gave us quality candidates. This model should be employed across the board in every county across the nation, and not just in districts here and there. When you have a quality pool to pull from, you minimize the lesser-of-two-evils syndrome.
And ultimately, you win.