Walker’s chances could depend on his ability to win over a significant block of GOP voters who voted for Kemp
Analysis by Stephen Collinson
America is heading for a year-end political collision that will set the stage for showdowns between the new Republican-led House and the Democrats who still wield power in the Senate and White House. The Georgia Senate runoff is one of the key end-of-year political showdowns.
Former President Barack Obama, who was the most effective Democratic messenger in the midterms, is due to campaign for Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in Atlanta tonight at a 6:15 p.m. ET rally.
Republican challenger Herschel Walker’s chances could depend on whether he is able to win over a significant block of Republican voters who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for him despite backing Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. Walker’s problem is that he’s a protégé of former President Donald Trump, from whom Kemp kept a good distance.
After Trump announced his 2024 campaign days after the midterms, Warnock and his supporters started framing the runoff as the first chance for Democrats to stop Trump’s bid to return to the White House. Their argument recalled complaints by many Republicans that Trump’s intervention in two 2020 Senate runoffs in Georgia cost the GOP the chance to control the Senate.
This might all be about one seat. But holding the Senate 51-49 rather than 50-50 would be huge for Democrats because it would insulate them from the incapacitation of one of their members and could diminish the power of West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who has been a stubborn brake on President Joe Biden’s aspirations for two years.
Read about the other end-of-year political showdowns here.
Why the Georgia runoff is key for Democrats — even though they already won control of the Senate
From CNN’s Gregory Krieg
With just days to go before Georgia’s Senate runoff between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker, heavy hitters and big dollars from both national parties are pouring into the state for a race that will determine the balance of power in the Democratic-controlled Senate next year.
If the Republican prevails, the parties will again split the Senate 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris providing a tie-breaking vote and Democrats the slightest possible advantage.
Democrats will control the chamber after the party’s incumbents held their ground and Pennsylvania’s John Fetterman picked up a seat held by retiring GOP Sen. Pat Toomey.
But this is still a race full of consequences.
In the short term, a Warnock victory would deliver more power to Democrats as they seek a firmer grip on the procedural life of the Senate, which could help them confirm more Biden nominees in a more expeditious manner. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin would also lose some of his leverage, if Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had a vote to spare, which could hold added significance given Manchin is facing reelection in 2024.
Senate Minority Whip John Thune, a South Dakota Republican, spelled out the stakes on Monday.
“Having an evenly divided Senate means that you get equal representation on committees,” Thune said. “We’ve been successfully able to bottle up some bad nominees at the committee level. So (the Georgia race has) got real consequences.”
Thune also conceded that his party could use a morale boost after underperforming expectations in the midterms, despite narrowly gaining control of the House.
“It’d be nice to get a win on the books, and especially in a state like Georgia, where, frankly, we think we should be winning,” Thune said.
Beyond that, looking ahead to the next election in 2024, Republicans – already with a more favorable map than this year – would be better positioned to win back a majority, perhaps a significant one, if Walker can pad their numbers now.
Walker described himself as living in Texas during 2022 campaign speech, CNN KFile review finds
From CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski and Olivia Alafriz
Georgia Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker, facing renewed and growing questions about his residency in the final week of the runoff campaign, described himself during a campaign speech in January as living in Texas and said he decided to run for Georgia’s Senate seat while at his Texas “home,” according to a CNN KFile review of his campaign speeches.
Georgia Democrats have called for an investigation by state officials into Walker’s residency after CNN’s KFile reported last week that Walker was getting a tax break in Texas intended for a primary residence, possibly running afoul of Texas tax law and some rules for establishing Georgia residency for voting and running for office.
“I live in Texas,” Walker said in January of this year, when speaking to University of Georgia College Republicans. Walker was criticizing Democrats for not visiting the border when he made the comments. “I went down to the border off and on sometimes,” he said.
Earlier in the speech, Walker said he decided to run for Georgia’s Senate seat while at his Texas home after seeing the country divided.
“Everyone asks me, why did I decide to run for a Senate seat? Because to be honest with you, this is never something I ever, ever, ever thought in my life I’d ever do,” said Walker. “And that’s the honest truth. As I was sitting in my home in Texas, I was sitting in my home in Texas, and I was seeing what was going on in this country. I was seeing what was going on in this country with how they were trying to divide people.”
The Georgia Republican is heading into a runoff election against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock on December 6. Walker and his campaign have so far not commented to CNN or others on the reporting of the tax break or questions about his residency.
Last month, The Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported that Georgia authorities have been urged in a complaint to investigate Walker’s residency. Georgia Democrats in a statement called for an immediate investigation of Walker’s residency, and Congresswoman Nikema Williams, the chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Georgia, also asked authorities to see if Walker lied about living in Georgia.
“The Georgia Bureau of Investigations and the Georgia Attorney General’s office must immediately investigate whether Herschel Walker lied about being a Georgia resident,” Williams said.
Read more here.
Pompeo won’t appear with Walker today, citing family emergency
From CNN’s Wesley Bruer and Dianne Gallagher
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will not be appearing alongside Republican Senate nominee Herschel Walker in Georgia on Thursday due to a family emergency, according to Walker campaign representative Will Hampson.
Pompeo was expected to attend campaign events during Walker’s bus tour.
CNN reported earlier this week that former President Donald Trump will not appear in Georgia to campaign for Walker ahead to the state’s Dec. 6 runoff, according to a person close to the Republican Senate candidate, opting instead to phone in for a remote rally with supporters some day before the election.
CNN’s Mike Warren and Kristen Holmes contributed reporting to this post.
Negative attack ads dominate airwaves in Georgia in final stretch of runoff
From CNN’s David Wright
Waves of bitter attack ads are dominating Georgia’s airwaves as the runoff between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker enters its final stretch.
Even with control of the Senate already secured, the stakes are high as Democrats seek to secure a majority outright instead of the power-sharing agreement currently in place. That has led to candidates and allied outside groups waging a fierce battle for the final seat, spending millions of dollars, launching personal attacks and leaning into divisive debates as the December 6 runoff approaches.
“Is it just me or does it feel like we’ve been here before? The whole country’s finished voting, and only us left,” Warnock observes in a new ad, featuring a familiar beagle — a commentary on the last runoff in Georgia, from which he emerged victorious. He goes on to say that Walker “repeats the same lies, trying to distract from what we all know is true about him.”
Walker, meanwhile, launched a new spot over Thanksgiving week that features a college athlete criticizing participation policies for transgender athletes.
“Warnock’s afraid to stand up for female athletes,” Walker says in the ad.
Outside groups have also ratcheted up the intensity of the attacks. Georgia Honor, a Democratic super PAC, launched an ad highlighting domestic abuse allegations against Walker and reporting that Walker paid for a woman’s abortion.
Georgia Honor also went up with an ad focused on abortion, a winning issue for Democrats in the midterms.
Meanwhile, Senate Leadership Fund, a top Republican super PAC, has fired back at Warnock, launching an ad that claims “a low income apartment building tied to Senator Raphael Warnock is filing eviction notices against residents.” The ad also criticizes Warnock and President Joe Biden for “reckless spending” that “keeps driving up inflation.”
How the numbers break down: Senate Leadership Fund announced plans to spend over $14 million on the runoff, helping Walker mitigate an otherwise significant advertising gap with Warnock and his Democratic allies. So far, the group has spent about $11.5 million.
Overall, candidates and groups from both parties have combined to spend $57.7 million on the runoff, including future reservations through December 6, according to AdImpact data. Democrats are outspending Republicans by about $37.4 million to $20.2 million so far.
Warnock is the top advertiser, at about $18.1 million, while Herschel Walker has spent about $6.4 million.
Why the Georgia Senate race went to a runoff
From CNN’s Paul LeBlanc
Democrats clinched 50 seats in the Senate, but the stakes remain high for Georgia’s Dec. 6 runoff between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker.
Neither candidate surpassed the 50% threshold needed to win the race outright in the November general election, forcing a runoff.
A runoff is an additional election used to determine the winner of a certain race when neither candidate earns the required threshold for victory – in this case, 50%.
In Georgia, runoffs are more straightforward than general elections, as the candidate with the most votes wins.
Democrats double GOP ad spending in Georgia runoff race
From CNN’s David Wright
Here’s an updated look at ad spending totals in the Georgia U.S. Senate runoff — including spending since Nov. 9, the day after the midterms, and future reservations through Dec. 6, the day of the runoff:
Total ad spending is up to more than $77 million, and Democrats have spent more than twice as much as Republicans, $52.9 million to $24.2 million.
Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock, at $24.8 million, has spent more on advertising alone than all GOP advertisers combined, while Georgia Honor, funded by a top Democratic super PAC, has spent an additional $21.2 million on his behalf.
The top GOP advertiser is the McConnell-aligned super PAC, Senate Leadership Fund, which has spent about $11.6 million so far (the group had announced plans to spend $14 million total on the race). Republican candidate Herschel Walker, meanwhile, has spent about $9.7 million on advertising so far.
Warnock, who enjoyed a fundraising surge of over $50 million in the most recent FEC reporting period, has continued to pump out new advertisements, with 8 new spots so far this week. Yesterday, his campaign released a 60-second ad featuring former President Obama — who is set to campaign with Warnock in Georgia today — stumping for the incumbent Democrat. “You can trust leaders who are driven by something bigger than politics. That’s why you need to re-elect my friend and your senator, Reverend Raphael Warnock,” Obama says in the spot.
And in another new ad released by Warnock’s campaign Thursday morning, the Georgia senator reminisces about his father’s work ethic, saying, “The last few years have exhausted us all. But we’re moving forward in ways big and small.”
Walker and his GOP allies, meanwhile, have launched comparatively few new ads this week — one from Walker and one from Senate Leadership Fund. Walker’s campaign aired a new TV spot Tuesday morning that features clips from a police interview with Sen. Raphael Warnock’s ex-wife, who accused him of running over her foot with his car in March of 2020, though no charges were filed. “Find out who Reverend Warnock really is,” the ad’s narrator says.
Meanwhile SLF’s new spot features Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who ran ahead of Walker in the general election, winning reelection comfortably. Kemp touts Walker’s candidacy, saying, “families are struggling because of Biden’s inflation in Washington won’t change unless we make them.” He continues, “That’s why I’m backing Herschel.”
More than 1.1 million votes cast in Georgia runoff so far
From CNN’s Ethan Cohen
More than 1.1 million votes have been cast in Georgia ahead of next week’s Senate runoff election, according to data from the Georgia secretary of state’s office.
Early in-person voting in the state crossed the 1 million mark with more than 280,000 voters going to the polls on Wednesday.
Georgia has had several days this week with historically high early voting numbers, but overall, with only two more days of early in-person voting, the state is on pace to have far fewer pre-election voters than in the 2021 runoff, when more than 3.1 million Georgians voted by mail or in person before Election Day.
This runoff, with its compressed timeframe, has had far fewer days of early voting than either the 2021 runoff or last month’s general election.
Woman alleges to Daily Beast that Herschel Walker was violent with her in 2005
From CNN’s Kyle Blaine
An ex-girlfriend of Herschel Walker, the Republican Senate nominee in Georgia, has come forward in The Daily Beast to allege that the former football star was violent and threatening toward her during an incident that took place in 2005.
Cheryl Parsa, a Dallas resident, told the news outlet she had a five-year relationship with Walker from 2004 to 2009. She alleges that in 2005, after she found Walker with another woman, he got angry, and, according to her account, placed his hands on her chest and neck and also swung his fist at her. She told The Daily Beast that she thought he was “going to beat me” and that she fled.
CNN has reached out to Parsa and Walker’s campaign for comment.
Parsa’s account, which she is making for the first time on the record, is just the latest in a string of past allegations made against Walker of violent and threatening behavior that have now resurfaced during his Senate campaign. Some of the allegations have been the basis for attack ads against Walker by Democrats.
CNN reported last year that a Texas woman had told police in 2002 that Walker had threatened and stalked her. Walker has also been accused by his ex-wife and another ex-girlfriend of making threats, and they told authorities that Walker had threatened to shoot them in the head. Walker’s ex-wife, Cindy Grossman, told CNN in a 2008 interview that Walker had held a razor to her throat, and at one point, “he held [a] gun to my temple and said he was going to blow my brains out.”
When faced with past allegations of violence, Walker’s campaign, and Walker himself, have often pointed to his public struggle with mental health. Walker has publicly discussed his diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder, which was previously known as multiple personality disorder.
The Daily Beast said it spoke to a person close to Parsa who said Parsa told the person about the incident at the time.
The Daily Beast said Parsa also provided a book-length manuscript detailing her relationship with Walker based on her contemporaneous notes and journal entries, along with cards, business plans, gifts and photos of her and Walker together to corroborate their romantic relationship. The outlet also said it spoke to four people close to Parsa who corroborated the relationship, one of whom the publication described as “one of Walker’s former romantic partners.”
Walker is facing Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in the Georgia Senate runoff on Tuesday. The race advanced to the runoff after neither candidate got more than 50% of the vote in the November general election.