President Joe Biden is keeping his distance from Sen. Raphael Warnock’s (D-GA) Georgia Senate runoff as Democrats seek to expand their majority in the chamber.
But Biden’s distance underscores a contradiction between his words and actions, as he attributes his performance and agenda as president in part to Democrats clinging to the Senate and limiting Republican gains in the House.
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After the Democrats distanced themselves from Biden in competitive midterm elections in the face of poor approval ratings and a stuttering economy, the president remains a proverbial albatross around Warnock’s neck, according to Charles Bullock, a professor of politics at the University of Georgia.
“Republicans blame Biden for inflation, runaway immigration, rampant crime and high taxes that will crush Georgia’s middle class,” Bullock said Washington Examiner. “Since Warnock votes with Biden 96% of the time, according to GOP ads, the senator is an accomplice. The last thing Warnock wants is to be seen next to Biden, which would reinforce the GOP ads claiming Biden and Warnock are working in unison.”
Instead, Warnock, who has a 4 percentage point lead over former NFL player Herschel Walker in at least one post-general election poll, is investing in ads portraying him as a potential partner for Governor Brian Kemp (R-GA). Kemp sent off Stacey Abrams (D-GA) at 53% in a 2018 rematch 46% or by nearly 300,000 votes.
Warnock’s strategy comes in response to the roughly 200,000 voters who voted for Kemp and the senator in the general election, putting Walker at a disadvantage. Warnock achieved a 38,000 vote lead, but with 49% support to Walker’s 48%, he fell short of the 50% threshold needed to avoid a Dec. 6 runoff. Kemp, in turn, is now trying to help Walker after splitting from him after claiming he was paying women to have abortions.
“Warnock is distancing himself from Biden to the extent that he presents himself as a moderate working with Senate Republicans,” Bullock added. “He pointed out laws that he worked on [Sens.] Ted Cruz (R-TX), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Tommy Tuberville (R-AL). The only national Democrat Warnock will welcome is Barack Obama.”
In place of Biden, former President Barack Obama announced this week that he will return to Georgia for Warnock on December 1 after hosting a rally for him in Atlanta last month. During that event, Obama claimed that being a retired soccer player wouldn’t have automatically disbarred Walker from the senatorship if he had “done the job.”
“But in the case of Rev Warnock’s opponent there is very little evidence that he showed any interest, bothered to learn about it, or showed any inclination towards public service or volunteering, or helped people in any way ‘ he said at the time. “Seems to me he’s a celebrity who wants to be a politician and we’ve seen how that’s done.”
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has repeatedly sought to downplay speculation that Biden will travel to Georgia ahead of Warnock’s runoff, citing the Hatch Act. Though Warnock’s race will no longer decide the Senate’s balance of power, it could affect the influence of Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) in the chamber, a factor Republicans are amplifying.
“The President wants to be as helpful as possible to Senator Warnock, and I will leave it at that,” Jean-Pierre said during an Air Force One gaggle en route to Bali, Indonesia. “[I] I have nothing to announce regarding a trip or travel plans to Georgia.”
Back in the United States, Jean-Pierre did not brief reporters about a possible trip to Georgia, preferring instead to emphasize the “significant” spending by the Democratic National Committee on Warnock’s campaign.
“I don’t actually have — I’ve never heard of a request,” she said this week. “I just have nothing to say about that.”
Vice President Kamala Harris was also asked if she would travel to Georgia, but she told reporters in the Philippines she “hasn’t made a decision yet.”
“I’m basically still trying to figure out what I’m doing tomorrow in terms of plans,” she said this week, laughing.
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The National Republican Senatorial Committee released a memo with the Republican National Committee and the Republican Party of Georgia this week, noting the 400 staffers and more than 85,000 volunteers they have in the state to mobilize voters, funded in part by Walker , which raised $7 million in two days.
The Democratic Senators’ campaign committee earlier circulated a memo focusing on Warnock’s outflow experience and his outperforming Biden in urban and suburban counties after his team met more than 3.4 million people at their doors or on the phone . The DSCC had previously announced a $7 million field organization program.