At the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Greg Bluestein explains “How Raphael Warnock Defeated Herschel Walker,” and writes:
…Warnock and his allies recognized from the outset that winning reelection against Republican Herschel Walker, even with his troubling personal issues and blunders, would require a new strategy….Doing so would mean veering from a 2020 approach that focused almost exclusively on Democratic priorities — and little about his opponent. Instead, Warnock set out to energize liberal Georgians and swing voters by emphasizing his sharp contrast with Walker.
The Democrat was helped by Walker’s pile of personal issues, bizarre behavior and campaign blunders during the runoff. Warnock’s most effective ads, to many, consisted simply of footage of Walker’s confusing remarks on the campaign trail….Inside the Republican’s campaign, aides lurched from crisis to crisis so often it felt like a “death march,” said one staffer, one of a half-dozen Walker allies who were granted anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the inner workings of the operation.
Bluestein adds that “Warnock, meanwhile, held dozens of events to mobilize voters when they most needed the push. A Democratic majority in the Senate, and the absence of other candidates on the ticket, changed the stakes. And a shrewd scheduling move by the Democrat caused chaos in Walker’s campaign.” Further,
“Herschel was like a plane crash into a train wreck that rolled into a dumpster fire. And an orphanage. Then an animal shelter. You kind of had to watch it squinting through one eye between your fingers,” said Dan McLagan, an adviser to Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, one of Walker’s defeated rivals in the GOP primary.
Bluestein notes, “To overcome the staunch support for his rival, Warnock had to motivate both liberal voters who form the Democratic Party’s base and middle-of-the-road Georgians who harbored concerns about both candidates.” Also,
He steered clear of Biden, saying talk of the president’s future should be left to pundits. He spoke more on the campaign trail about work he had done with Republicans in the U.S. Senate than allying with Biden, often to the shock of supporters. And he cast the race as a referendum on Walker.
….Warnock, meanwhile, laid claim to the political center despite a liberal voting record. Jason Shepherd, the former chair of the Cobb County GOP, marveled at Warnock’s “solid, focused and disciplined campaign” in contrast to Walker’s failure to woo swing voters.
….t was clear that one of Walker’s biggest weaknesses was middle-of-the-road voters who had defected en masse to Warnock, voted for the third-party candidate or just skipped the race altogether. But no campaign reset was underway.
Bluestein shares an inter-active map which clearly shows that Walker fell way short of Georgia’s Republican Governor Brian Kemp’s total votes, not only in metro Atlanta, but also in the heavily-Republican counties north of Atlanta.
At FiveThirtyEight, Geoffrey Skelley notes that “The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade gave Republicans an unusual win for the party outside of power, one that ran against public opinion and clearly motivated the Democratic base. At the same time, Trump remained in the political picture and cast his broadly unpopular shadow over Republican Senate primaries, which helped produce a series of poor candidates in key Senate races.” Also at FiveThirtyEight, Nathaniel Rakich adds, “Republicans nominated poor candidates, with Walker being a prime example. He was a political novice with multiple skeletons in his closet who didn’t even live in Georgia….”
None of this should detract from Sen. Warnock’s impressive accomplishment, nor his campaign’s tireless efforts. But Somewhere Mitch McConnell is grinding his teeth.