Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker has Kemp’s backing and, in the final stages, side-by-side television commercials and a live performance. However, Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock has been busy telling Georgia voters they don’t have to choose between him and Kemp. The incumbent, who is running for a full six-year term, has run ads and hosted an event with “crossover voters” – or people who cast a ballot for governor and said they would do the same for Warnock on December 6 .
The candidates’ appeals to Kemp supporters underscore not only the governor’s popularity in Georgia, but also the power of moderate swing voters who are expected to decide whether Warnock wins a full term or Walker unseats him. Republicans won the race for Georgia state seats earlier this month. Walker, meanwhile, was surpassed by Kemp by more than 200,000 votes – suggesting either he has room to increase his stake or he’s already been written off by otherwise Republican-leaning voters.
Kemp tries to help Walker push back or lure out voters who either rejected the candidate on Election Day or made it through the Senate race.
Having previously loaned his campaign machinery to national Republicans, he has now edited two ads for Walker, including a new one this week. The 30-second spot includes video of Kemp on the trail with Walker and the governor saying, “It’s time to retire Raphael Warnock and send Herschel Walker to the United States Senate.”
Kemp also appears in a mailer from a pro-Walker Super PAC telling voters, “They stopped Stacey (Abrams). Now reject Warnock.”
Kemp defeated Abrams in a re-run of their 2018 contest by nearly 300,000 votes.
Senate Minority Whip John Thune, a Republican from South Dakota, laid out the stakes Monday.
“An evenly divided Senate means you have equal representation on committees,” Thune said. “We were able to successfully intercept some bad nominees at committee level. So (the Georgia race) has real consequences.”
Thune also acknowledged his party could use a morale boost after falling short of expectations at half-time despite narrowly gaining control of the house.
“It would be nice to have a win on the books, and especially in a state like Georgia where we honestly believe we should win,” Thune said.
Additionally, with the next election in 2024 — already with a cheaper map than this year — Republicans would be better positioned to regain a majority, perhaps a significant one, if Walker can pad their numbers now.
Pre-voting increases as outside support increases
Top officials, donors and voters hardly need convincing.
Even if the votes come in, both candidates still run until Election Day. For Warnock, that means another visit from former President Barack Obama, who will be in Atlanta on Thursday. The senator was joined by New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker on the stump over the weekend and welcomed musician Dave Matthews to a rally Monday night.
On Tuesday, Walker will greet Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel and Oklahoma Senator-elect Markwayne Mullin. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham were also on duty for Walker, who finally shared a stage with Kemp 10 days ago.
The stakes are so high that even the most powerful figures in the parties are making difficult decisions to help their side gain an advantage — or, in the case of President Joe Biden and former President Trump — to avoid harm to prepare.
Both Trump and Biden have stayed away from Georgia during the campaign, where neither is popular with these crucial swing voters. Trump, who recruited Walker for the candidacy and has been a consistent supporter, will not appear in the state before the Dec. 6 election, a person close to Walker confirmed to CNN.
Many Republicans also blame Trump’s false claims about the 2020 Georgia election for their loss in the January 2021 runoff, when then-GOP Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler lost to Democrats Jon Ossoff and Warnock respectively.
One possible reason: Other GOP employees in Georgia told CNN they had raised the point that a DeSantis visit could effectively provoke Trump to hold a rally on Republican concerns in Georgia and across the country.
Biden is also clearly steering, although there has been less excitement about his decision.
Republicans have spent much of the race hammering Warnock for his record of consistently voting in favor of the president’s legislative agenda. Warnock, in turn, has sought to highlight his bipartisan work in the Senate and has steadfastly shunned any potentially divisive figures in his party.
However, his party has not shied away from spending money on Warnock.
Though the Democratic Senate’s official campaign arm only spent about $40,000 before the runoff, the Democrats as a whole — led by Georgia Honor, which is funded by the Democratic Senate Majority PAC — have already invested $14.4 million.
It’s a roughly similar story on the Republican side, where the National Republican Senatorial Committee has spent just over $500,000, considerably less than the GOP’s Senate Leadership Fund, a super-PAC closely associated with minority leader Mitch McConnell is and has spent about $11.5 million to date.
That number could increase in the coming days if SLF sticks to its previously announced plans to spend more than $14 million on the race.