Georgia’s Senate runoff has tightened, with more than 60 percent of the vote passing in a race that will determine the balance of power in the Democratic-controlled Senate next year.
Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker were tied, with both hovering around 50% of the vote as of 9 p.m. ET.
The race caps off a tough midterm cycle for Republicans — who won a majority in the House of Representatives but saw their hopes of dominance on Capitol Hill dashed by some troublesome candidates for Senate candidates backed by Donald Trump.
With Trump urging Walker to run, the runoff is also the final midterm test of the former president’s influence as he begins his third White House run. After President Joe Biden narrowly won the state in 2020, and with two Senate runoff victories giving him a Democratic Senate seat in 2021, Tuesday’s runoff could have a bearing on whether Georgia is now final. Being a purple state helps a lot.
Democratic control of the Senate next year has already been settled in tight contests in states such as Nevada, with Democratic senators. Despite economic headwinds, Katherine Cortez-Masto held on to her seat, and in Pennsylvania, Democrat John Fetterman secured a Republican-controlled seat.
But Tuesday’s election will determine whether Democrats can gain critical leverage on Capitol Hill. The Senate was split 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the deciding vote. That brings disproportionate power to moderate figures like Democratic senators. Joe Manchin in West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema in Arizona have often single-handedly curbed the ambitions of their parties. If Warnock wins a full six-year term, Democrats would win by a 51-49 majority, which would allow them to dispense with the current power-sharing deal with Republicans while making it easier to advance Biden’s nomination Candidates.
Although Warnock received more votes than Walker in last month’s general election, he did not have the majority needed to win outright. The ensuing runoff drew more than $80 million in ad spending, with Democrats spending roughly double that of Republicans, according to ad tracking firm AdImpact.
Warnock narrowly leads Walker in a CNN poll released last week. Walker’s approval ratings were negative as voters questioned his honesty following a string of scandals. He has denied reports that he pressured women or encouraged them to have abortions, despite previously campaigning for a ban on abortion without exception. CNN’s KFile reports that he received a primary residence-only tax break this year for his Dallas, Texas-area home — while running for the Georgia seat.
The state broke a single-day early voting record last week, but the early voting period is significantly compressed starting in 2021. The total number of voters has dropped from about 3.1 million last year to about 1.87 million in 2022. Democrats are optimistic, in part because of black voters, who strongly support Warnock in the CNN poll. They accounted for nearly 32 percent of early voters, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.
However, Walker is counting on strong turnout among Republican voters, who tend to vote in larger numbers on Election Day.
“It’s about turnout,” Walker said Monday, urging voters to “swarm to the polls.”
“Now, we have to play. We can’t stand by anymore.”
But Trump — who, like Biden, avoided the Peach states in the runoff — has complicated the fortunes of the national Republican Party this year as voters rejected many candidates in swing states who declined to vote.
Some of the first signs came two years ago in Georgia, when his efforts to challenge mail-in ballots and counting were blamed in part on Republican losses in two 2021 runoff elections, leaving Democrats Control of the Senate.
This year, the ex-president’s efforts to retaliate against the Republican governor. Brian Kemp, who rejected Trump’s demand to overturn the 2020 election, was resolutely rejected by voters in the primary. Kemp went on to handily defeat Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams last month, garnering 200,000 more votes than Walker.
While Kemp and Walker spoke several times during the campaign, the two largely kept their distance on the track. That all changed in the final. Kemp attended a rally with Walker and appeared in his commercials. He held private fundraisers and lent Mitch McConnell-aligned super PACs a voting mechanism he spent months building, all of which could prove crucial to Walker.
But Lt. Georgia. Gov. Jeff Duncan, who has also balked at Trump’s outlandish demands after the 2020 election, told CNN on Monday that Trump’s support in the primary was the only reason Walker was the Republican nominee. , but now the former president “is probably the biggest headwind Herschel-Walker has ever encountered.”
Duncan said Tuesday’s election will serve as a final reckoning for Trump — which could lead Republicans to take a firmer stand against his meddling in future elections, even as the former president seeks to re-establish himself as the party leader. The standard-bearer position he recently announced to retake the White House.
“As Republicans, we’re trying to break this cycle of addiction to Donald Trump,” Duncan said on CNN’s “AC360.”
“We just got beat on what should have been one of the biggest, easiest layups we’ve made in decades. Unfortunately, we’ve been misplaced candidates all over the country.”
After witnessing losses in key states such as Arizona and Pennsylvania, top Republicans are planning more aggressive moves to support candidates in primaries they see as more electrifying. Incoming Senator from Montana, chair of the National Republican Senate Committee. Steve Daines told CNN: “Obviously you want to see candidates who can win the election, and we’re going to keep going.”
Still, Trump spoke on Walker’s behalf during a Monday call, telling supporters that if his candidate wins, “Republicans can make life much harder for[Senate Majority Leader]Chuck Schumer.” , we can put the brakes on left-wing judges at every extreme.”
“To vote for Raphael Warnock is to give Chuck Schumer and the deranged far-left Democrats total control of the US Senate. We cannot let that happen,” he added.
This story has been updated with additional developments.