The Senate race in Georgia appears to be the race Republicans are dead-set on winning. With Sen. Raphael Warnock averaging just over 4 points ahead of challenger Herschel Walker, there is an opening in the state that perhaps may not be available in some of the other swing states.
Over the weekend, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell held a fundraiser for Walker in Louisville. While speaking at an event in Georgia, meanwhile, Ted Cruz also spoke out against Warnock and in favor of Walker.
McConnell wasn’t the only national Republican reinforcing his support for Walker over the weekend. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a potential 2024 candidate, trekked to Georgia on Saturday to mobilize conservatives behind Walker.
Cruz told dozens of activists at his Truth and Courage PAC’s summit that the nation has paid the political price after Georgia voters “tragically” elected Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in 2021.
The Texas Republican called Warnock a “perfectly nice fellow whose views are radical and extreme and wildly out of step with the people of Georgia.” Walker, meanwhile, is “truly an amazing man.”
It’s one of the key races Republicans really need to win if they want to take back the Senate for the second half of President Joe Biden’s term. Other swing state races are offering mixed results as Republicans cast a worrying eye over recent polls showing a Democratic surge.
But things aren’t exactly ideal for Democrats, either. Continued economic struggles have made voters very wary of the party in power, and mixed messages coming out of the Biden administration don’t actually inspire confidence.
One of the biggest signs that Democrats are in more trouble than they’d like to admit is the fact that they don’t seem to want to talk about, or campaign with, Biden, especially in swing states. Warnock is one example of this.
“I work with anybody to get something good done for the people of Georgia,” he told the same crowd, highlighting a trio of Republican senators with whom he has made legislative deals. Warnock mentioned President Joe Biden’s name just once and referred several other times only to “the president of the United States,” trying to distinguish himself from Biden — and the rising inflation that has marked his term.
Running for his first full Senate term, Warnock is pitching himself as a senator willing to do whatever it takes to help his state. That’s a shift from his approach in what were nationally elevated twin runoff campaigns won by Warnock and fellow Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff in January 2021, giving their party Senate control two months after Biden was elected president.
Now, with inflation up and Biden’s popularity down, Warnock requires a more nuanced argument, and he’s selling his work in Washington, especially on the economy, as something distinct from the White House and the Senate’s Democratic leadership.
Here’s the reason that Warnock has to play the bipartisan warrior: In early 2021, Warnock was able to take advantage of tens of thousands of Republican voters staying home and heavy Democrat enthusiasm to win in the runoff against Kelly Loeffler. However, in 2022, the Republican Party is highly energized. Walker is rebounding a bit with a new campaign team and better public appearances.
And while Georgia voters are more likely to crossover vote than in other states, an extremely popular governor like Brian Kemp can help carry Walker to a win.
When McConnell spoke recently about the quality of candidates, he irritated a good many conservatives. But it’s clear that he and other Republicans are set on getting some of the candidates who were struggling across the finish line. Walker is one of the most likely candidates to flip a seat, and it would certainly be a big score for Republicans to reclaim a Senate seat in a southern state.