Georgia runoff remains tight in early days of early voting

(NewsNation) – Early voting is underway in Georgia’s Senate runoff in what is likely to be another close race, according to recent polls.

The latest FiveThirtyEight poll averages place Republican candidate Herschel Walker one percentage point ahead of Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock. However, AARP released a poll last week showing Warnock leading by four percentage points. Walker was the preferred candidate among voters over 50, NewsNation affiliate The Hill reported.

Although Republicans have done well in the early in-person vote in the past, Sam Brodey, congressional reporter for The Daily Beast, told NewsNation the votes so far could be in Warnock’s favor.

“I saw some statistics this morning that suggest that in-person early voting so far — a majority of those votes have been black voters who are heavily Democratic-biased, so that would be good news for Senator Warnock so far,” Brodey said.

Decision Desk HQ’s model predicts Warnock has a two-in-three chance of winning the race, but with a one-in-three chance of winning for Republican challenger Herschel Walker, it’s bound to be close, said Kiel Williams, senior Data Scientist with Decision Desk HQ.

The Senate race between Warnock and Walker was too close to announce after the midterm elections earlier this month. Neither candidate had secured the majority of votes required in Georgia’s electoral system, and the race resumed for a runoff election to be held on December 6. Early voting opened on Saturday.

Warnock and Walker finished by a slender margin of less than a percentage point in Warnock’s favour, Results from Decision Desk HQ show.

“Georgia is a very divided state,” Williams said. “I think we would all be very surprised if either candidate won by more than, say, three or four points.”

Voters, including those outside of Georgia, had their eyes on the race amid predictions that Senate control would be at stake. Though that’s no longer the case, the Georgia Senate race is still worth watching, Williams said.

The results could point to interesting partisan trends in areas like Gwinnett County. The once-historically Red county voted overwhelmingly for Warnock earlier this month, the county’s election records show.

“(I’m going to) look at places like Gwinnett County to see if it continues to march a little to the left or if it continues to replicate the margins that Joe Biden made in 2020 and Warnock made in the first round of voting this year?” said Williams, “How is this margin evolving over time?

Nationwide, the race remained neck and neck from Monday. The most recent FiveThirtyEight polls put Walker ahead by just one percentage point, making it clear there isn’t much to be gained by speculating based on an early vote, Williams said.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty in the race … Georgia is a very divided state and if someone tells you they know for a fact that Herschel Walker is going to win or that Raphael Warnock is going to win, I wouldn’t necessarily believe that,” Williams said .

More than 180,700 – or 2.6% of registered Georgian voters – turned up for Monday morning’s polls, according to data available on the state’s website.

On Sunday alone, Georgia residents cast more ballots in the 2022, 2020, and 2018 general elections than on any single Sunday Warnock campaign manager.

Runoff elections are no stranger to the Democratic candidate. Warnock, an Ebenezer Baptist Church pastor led by the church’s Atlanta civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., won his seat in a 2021 runoff.

His election campaign was also expensive. According to Open Secrets, Warnock has spent nearly $76 million on his re-election campaign, compared to Walker’s $48 million.

“We live in a highly polarized national political environment,” Williams said. “Everything you do will have a small effect size. If you run a million ads, the effect size will not be zero, but it will be small.”