Will Sen. Raphael Warnock’s (D-GA) time in Congress be short-lived?
Warnock, of course, won his seat in a special election runoff in January 2021 defeating incumbent Kelly Loeffler who was serving the remainder of Johnny Isakson’s term after the latter announced he was ceding his seat due to illness.
Just a year and a half removed from winning a seat in the U.S. Senate, he will again be hitting the campaign trail hard. And he won’t only be fighting a cloud of anti-Democrat sentiment, he’ll be facing a celebrity former football star and state legend in Hershel Walker.
Can Warnock hang on in Georgia?
What’s your prediction?
Most experts believe Warnock is one of the more vulnerable incumbents in the 2022 midterms and we agree.
Warnock vs Walker is what many of us in boxing call a bad-style match-up for the incumbent.
2022 Georgia Senate race prediction: Walker +1.5
1. Incumbent vulnerability
Over the past 30 years, the party out of presidential power has usually made substantial gains in midterm elections during a president’s first term. Given that, President Biden’s low approval rating and Democrats’ overall lack of favorability in the current political climate, Warnock, although the incumbent this time, is a more vulnerable candidate than he was in 2020 when Democrats had the momentum.
2. Georgia is still (somewhat) red
Although then-candidate Joe Biden edged former President Donald Trump in Georgia and Warnock and fellow Democrat Jon Ossoff subsequently won their Senate runoffs 2 months later, Georgia isn’t blue yet and any Democrat would be vulnerable in a statewide race in the Peach State.
No, Georgia isn’t as red as it used to be but it still leans Republican. Advantage: Walker.
3. Mainstream name recognition can pay big dividends in elections, ask George W. Bush, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura, and Donald Trump:
A celebrity and native Georgian, Herschel played for the University of Georgia Bulldogs and won the Heisman Trophy, college football’s supreme accolade, while there in 1982.
Widely considered the greatest college football player of all time, Walker began his professional football career with the New Jersey Generals of the United States Football League (USFL) before joining the Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League (NFL). He also played for the Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles, and New York Giants and had a solid career. Advantage: Walker
3. The Black vote
Blacks account for 32 percent of Georgians and Warnock will win a lopsided portion of the vote in that demographic – But can he count on the support from the usual 90-92 percent of Black voters, a level Democratic candidates typically attain?
Walker, like Warnock, is Black. As a result, Herschel, more easily than a White Republican candidate, could connect with Black voters who aren’t thrilled with Sen. Warnock but would otherwise be hesitant to vote Republican.
Given Trump garnered 12 percent of the Black male vote in 2020, don’t be surprised if Walker cuts into that demographic and wins between 15 and 20 percent of Black Georgian males in November as it’s likely that many will love the idea of having an icon like Walker as their Senator. Even if Hershel wins just 20 percent of the Black male vote, it’ll be a death blow to Warnock’s campaign. Advantage: Walker.
4. New Election Laws
After the 2020 Elections, Georgia tweaked its election laws which appear to aim to create voting obstacles for low-income inner-city residents, a demographic Warnock undoubtedly needs to participate in high numbers if he’s going to win.
There was never any proof of election fraud in Georgia or any other state in the 2020 election so there was no justification for change.
The real objective of such policies is to create voting obstacles for poor Blacks. Perhaps it’ll backfire? But until it does, advantage Walker.
5. Voter participation
Warnock rode to victory in his 2021 run-off race because 1) control of the U.S. Senate was up for grabs and Democrats were motivated to take the chamber and 2) a clear majority of voters in Georgia, and overall, were anti-Trump and the results were largely seen as a referendum on the former president.
Trump isn’t on the ballot this year and the momentum, thus far, is on the side of Republicans. Even now, a week after Democrats were angered by the announcement of the eventual repeal of the controversial Roe vs Wade ruling, polls suggest Republicans will likely vote in higher numbers than Democrats.
Although polling suggests Herschel’s lead is far from insurmountable, Warnock still faces an uphill battle for the afforementioned reasons.
|RCP Average||3/7 – 4/27||47.3||46.8||Walker +0.5|
|WXIA-TV/SurveyUSA||4/22 – 4/27||45||50||Warnock +5|
|The Hill/Emerson||4/1 – 4/3||49||45||Walker +4|
|Quinnipiac||1/19 – 1/24||49||48||Walker +1|
|Atlanta Journal-Constitution||1/13 – 1/24||47||44||Walker +3|
|PPP (D)||8/4 – 8/5||46||48||Warnock +2|
|Trafalgar/InsiderAdvantage||3/7 – 3/9||48||46||Walker +2|
As of May 12, Walker has won 4 of the 6 surveys from solid pollsters. And he’s winning among more reputable pollsters.
Still a live dog
Although Sen. Warnock has some elements that aren’t working in his favor, he can certainly win if inflation numbers and gas prices drop by November. And if Biden’s approval rating, currently 41.4 percent based on an aggregate of top pollsters, surges to at least 49 percent by November, Warnock may very well be the favorite heading into Election Night.
Second, Walker hasn’t appeared politically astute or issue-acclimated when making statements. Moreover, his low-key demeanor probably wouldn’t serve him well in a debate against Warnock, the charismatic reverend who, despite lacking political experience upon his entry into politics, had been an engaged activist and was well adept at speaking in front of large crowds, in and out of church settings. Advantage: Warnock
Also, Walker’s previous residence in Texas would be a solid talking point for Warnock who could insist Herschel sold out to the Lonestar State and is not in touch with today’s Georgians. (Nevertheless, Hillary Clinton, an Arkansas native, moved to New York and won a U.S. Senate seat soon thereafter so Walker’s current residence isn’t something that can’t be overcome). Small advantage: Warnock
Lastly, after Joe Biden won the 2020 election and Trump refused to concede while making claims of fraud, Walker supported the defeated president’s failed efforts to overturn the election results. It wasn’t a good look for the football star and may come back to haunt him. Advantage: Warnock
Warnock vs Walker will likely be decided by fewer than 3 percentage points. And with less than six months until Election Day, the onus is on Warnock – and Democratic leaders in general – to get as many left leaners to the polls as possible
and work to regain at least some of the Democrats’ lost public luster.
What’s your 2022 Georgia Senate race prediction?