ATLANTA — Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock finished his “one more” tour Tuesday with a win in the runoff , defeating Republican rival Herschel Wade to secure six-year terms.
He said, “Against unspeakable odds we stand together.”
These are the four main takeaways from Georgia.
Warnock’s star rises
He is the “senator reverend”, as he likes to be called, and he keeps winning.
In a span of roughly two years, Warnock was on the ballot five more times — one Democratic primary and two general elections. He also won two runoffs. He has defeated three Republican candidates (previously, he faced ex-Sen. Kelly Loeffler in the Democratic primary and former Rep. Doug Collins during a special election in 2020).
It is a remarkable feat to be a newcomer in politics and to be elected as a senator from Georgia, which was once an important bastion of Confederacy.
Warnock spent his last few years in campaign mode. His fate was long uncertain in this purple state in a difficult landscape for Democrats. This had slowed any speculation about Warnock’s future prospects. This electoral success will elevate him to the top of the presidential and vice-presidential ranks.
Quentin Fulks, Warnock’s campaign manager, said to NBC News Tuesday that he doesn’t know if Warnock will be a future White House candidate. I believe Senator Warnock is tired, and I think he has been campaigning for a while. While I cannot wait to see his actions, I also know that he is eager to see the results of his full six-year term as a representative for the Georgian people.
Democrats increase Senate power
The victory of Warnock gives Democrats 51th seat, an absolute majority that eliminates their dependence on Kamala Harris, Vice President for tie-breaking votes.
This means that executive nominees and judges will be more easily selected, and Republicans won’t have the power to force deadlocked votes in committees or make the Senate go through additional procedural hurdles. This gives Democrats more power to issue subpoenas, without the need for Republican approval. This contrasts with the GOP-controlled House’s plan to aggressively investigate Biden’s administration. It also means that not one member, such as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), can decide the party’s future.
Senator Majority Leader Chuck Schumer stated in a statement that “Reverend Warnock’s well-earned victory is not only a win for Georgia but also for democracy — and as the last brick against extremist MAGA Republican policy threats to the very essence of democracy.”
Democrats are able to take advantage of ticket-splitters and suburbs
Georgia’s 2022 results show that suburban voters who voted for the Republican Party in the wake of Donald Trump’s rise are not in a hurry to go back.
Warnock again won in the bustling and vote-rich Atlanta metropolitan region, expanding or matching his margins from last year’s general election. Walker saw some improvement in his margins in rural counties, especially in northern Georgia. But it wasn’t enough.
Top advisors to Warnock stated that they concentrated heavily on swing voters , and their strategy paid off.
In an interview, Warnock deputy campaign manager Rachel Petri stated that creating a permission structure for soft Republicans and swing voters was crucial to our strategy. She also explained why she highlighted such things as working with Ted Cruz and standing up for peanut growers. This was not about Democrat versus Republican. It was trying to make it a decision between two candidates.
Fulks stated that the GOP misreads the landscape. “Republicans quite honestly thought that the national climate would suffice to win in all these states, and put forward candidates who had no solutions to any of these problems facing these states or the voters who live there.” That was a mistake that I believe voters realized.”
Josh Holmes, a long-time adviser to Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday evening that Republicans needed an honest evaluation of their party’s problems in a lengthy tweet thread. Do not take points that are loud.
Trumpism (still), alienates some swing voters
Evidence shows that Donald Trump’s 2024 presidential candidate is still alienating a significant portion of swing voters, especially in the Atlanta suburbs. These areas have seen a shift from red to blue. Walker was a long-time friend of Trump who received an early Senate endorsement by the former president. This allowed the newcomer to win the GOP primary field.
NBC News exit polls last month showed that one in four Georgian voters voted against Trump and that 94% voted for Warnock instead of Walker.
Walker was second in Election Day’s results and was defeated in Tuesday’s runoff. Governor and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who are two of the most prominent Republicans in Georgia, were second and third, respectively. Brian Kemp and Secretary Brad Raffensperger won their races on Election Day. They topped 50% and avoided a runoff. The most significant deficits in Walker’s vote share relative to Kemp were in the populous Atlanta-area counties of Cobb and Fulton. Walker was able to hold his own in rural areas of the state, where the “MAGA” brand is very popular, but not enough.
One difference was that Kemp, Raffensperger and others were not associated to Trump in the minds voters — both rejected Trump’s fabricated claims of a stolen 2020 electoral election.