(Bloomberg) — Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker are scrambling to get their supporters to the polls once again and to find all of Georgia’s voters who have just over a week to go before the state’s December 6 in the U.S to be convinced are runoff elections in the Senate.
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Democratic and Republican officials and their allies spend millions bombarding radio and television with commercials while politicians and activists flood the state. Newly re-elected Republican Gov. Brian Kemp is putting his political muscles behind Walker and former President Barack Obama will be campaigning for Warnock, the incumbent in the running.
But unlike the frenzy that surrounded the runoff 23 months ago that brought Warnock into the Senate, both campaigns are functioning without a key motivator for their voters. Your competition will not determine control of the US Senate. That was decided on Election Day when the Democrats secured 50 seats.
At lower stakes, “there’s a definite possibility that some voters just won’t come back,” said veteran Democrat adviser Rick Dent.
That’s a big problem for both Warnock and Walker, so the parties are pouring money and spares.
Even before the Nov. 8 election, the Warnock-Walker contest was the most expensive race of the year, topping $245 million in advertising spend, according to AdImpact, which tracks political media spending.
Warnock and allied groups are spending $37.5 million on advertising in the runoff, compared to $20.9 million from Walker and the GOP super PACs that support him, according to AdImpact. Totals, current through Thursday, include spend on ads that have already run and those that will be booked in the coming weeks.
Warnock’s campaign is the largest contributor at $17.6 million, followed by Georgia Honor, a super PAC funded by the Senate-majority PAC, at $14.7 million. The Senate Leadership Fund, which has ties to Sen. Mitch McConnell, spends $16 million on the runoff, followed by Walker’s $6.6 million campaign.
Warnock defeated Walker by just under a percentage point in the November 8 general election, but he missed 50% of the vote, triggering the runoff.
Getting voters excited about the runoff is a challenge for both candidates, but it might be more of a challenge for Walker. He trailed Kemp by more than 200,000 votes in the November election, an indicator that many Republicans were put off by Walker.
Kemp didn’t fight with Walker in the general election, but he’s stepped in now. GOP senators from other states including Ted Cruz of Texas, John Kennedy of Louisiana and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee have also voted for Walker.
Dent and former Georgia GOP representative Jack Kingston said the governor is a key asset for the Walker campaign.
“Not only does Kemp have a good image and message, he has good ground play,” Kingston said. “He wants a Republican senator to go to. And it would be a huge win if Brian Kemp was part of retaking the seat. So he has enough motivation.”
On the other side of the ledger, Obama is scheduled to hold a pro-Warnock rally in Atlanta on December 1st. He also ran for Senator on October 28, days before the general election.
“He still has a lot of magic in terms of Democratic voters,” Kingston said of Obama.
Walker’s most famous supporter, former President Donald Trump, has lent his name to a number of Walker fundraisers, but no plans for campaigning in the state have yet been announced. In the midterm elections, Trump’s attacks on mail-in voting and his unpopularity with independent voters handicapped some candidates.
Warnock has avoided questions about whether President Joe Biden, who suffers from low approval ratings, would be asked to campaign for him in Georgia. Biden said he would do “whatever he wants me to do for him.”
“I think Warnock would be over the moon if Trump showed up. And Herschel Walker would be over the moon if Biden showed up,” said Dent, who served as an aide to the late Zell Miller as Georgia governor.
Georgia’s runoff elections have traditionally favored Republicans. Republicans have won eight of 11 Georgia runoffs since 1992. Its voters have long been considered more re-elected than Democrats.
The only independent poll released since the Nov. 8 general election, conducted by AARP, shows Warnock Walker leading among the likely voters by four points, 51% to 47%, a result within error.
In the runoff campaign, Warnock emphasized his experience and contrasted it with Walker. Last week in Wrightsville, the former football star’s hometown, he met with Walker’s high school coach, who said his former player was not “ready” to serve in the Senate. Warnock also mentions his opponent’s controversies, including allegations of domestic violence and that he paid for abortions for two women, despite opposing abortion rights.
As with the general election, Walker continues to tie Warnock to Biden, bringing home his conservative views on the family, opposition to transgender athletes competing in women’s sports and criticism of how race is taught in schools.
“What’s happening in Georgia is exactly what’s happening across the country,” Dent said. “We have split into two tribes. We have Democrats and Republicans and we just want our team to win and no matter how bad our candidate may be, they are better than the other party’s candidate.”
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