Here we go again. For the second time in as many years, Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock is headed to a runoff.
Neither he nor his Republican opponent Herschel Walker has secured 50 percent of the vote in Georgia, the state office confirmed Wednesday afternoon. The pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church and the Heisman Trophy-winning running back will face off again for the US Senate seat on Tuesday December 6.
As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Jolt newsletter made clear on Wednesday morning, “split-ticket voters” were the key to pushing the Senate race to a runoff. Many Georgian swing voters seemed satisfied with the work of Governor Brian Kemp and secretary of state Brad Raffensperger, but had qualms about Walker, due to what Mitch McConnell would euphemistically refer to as “candidate quality” problems. That could be more tangibly phrased as “his lack of experience, domestic violence allegations, personality disorder, the abortions he paid for and his storied history of dumb and delusional comments.”
“Warnock’s Biden-free, more moderate campaign… helped make him a viable alternative to… potential swing voters,” the AJC’s political team write. A more than $70 million cash advantage over Walker helped, too. Warnock finished ahead of Abrams by about three percentage points — the difference between a runoff and an outright defeat.”
A lot can change at the national level between now and December 6 that could affect the outcome of the Georgia race. First, the Republicans could win control of the House, serving as a check on the Biden administration’s power. Then of course there’s the matter of Donald Trump’s “special announcement” at Mar-a-Lago on November 15, which could prove helpful for Warnock.
Tuesday night began optimistically at the twin GOP victory parties that sandwiched the Braves stadium, where the 2019 MLB All-Star Game would have been played were it not for the gripes of Stacey Abrams, Delta and Coca-Cola. As polls projected, Brian Kemp won convincingly (a campaign insider let this slip to The Spectator a good ninety minutes before a major network called the race.) Given Kemp’s decisive victory and strong response to Covid, there was online speculation about whether the Georgia governor might make a dark-horse contender for the GOP nomination in 2024. But Peach State Republicans that The Spectator spoke to over the course of the evening pooh-poohed the idea, saying that Kemp was “too southern to win nationally as a Republican.” Besides, as one local vice-chair said confidently, “DeSantis is definitely running. Regardless of what Trump does.” We shall see.
The mood waned as the hours passed, the politicos grew tired and it became apparent that the red wave was more of a red droplet. Kemp took to the stage for his victory speech at around 11:30 p.m. “How ’bout them Dawgs?” he began. Then, borrowing from Mark Twain, “It looks like the reports of my political death have been greatly exaggerated.”
The atmosphere was even more strained over at the Herschel Walker victory party in the early hours of this morning. The Trump-endorsed football star had hoped to coast on the coattails of Republican gains elsewhere — gains that never fully materialized. Instead, he will have to keep running in a runoff no one really wants, in a Senate race that so far has cost over $271 million. A fine use of money in Georgia, instead of spending it on, let’s say, hospitals.
Spare a thought, if you can manage it, for Chase Oliver, the Libertarian Senate candidate who pulled in 2 percent of the vote, guaranteeing that neither Warnock or Walker could break 50 percent and earned good-natured plaudits from supporters of both major parties.
“Chase Oliver is a perfect reason to universally loathe Libertarians,” wrote conservative radio host Jason Rantz. “They serve no purpose other than to hurt Republicans — while being insufferably self righteous about issues they don’t even fully understand.”
“why is there so little vitriol directed at the libertarian asshole, Chase Oliver, who ran in GA?,” tweeted Noah Berlatsky. “fucking vanity spoiler anti government spending dipshit whose main accomplishment is to cost the state millions to run another election. what a shithead. why don’t we hate him more?”
Libertarians, of course, disagree. “No candidate is entitled to votes from Libertarians,” Reason senior editor Robby Soave told The Spectator.
“If the dominant parties want to avoid attracting Libertarian challengers, they should run better candidates. It’s also worth pointing out that many Libertarian voters would have simply stayed home without a Libertarian in the race — it’s not true that our votes automatically would go to one of major party candidates.”
So what are the 80,000 or so Oliver voters likely to do in the runoff? “Some Libertarian voters will stay home, some will vote for the Republican and others will vote for the Democrat,” Soave said. “History tells us that neither of the major parties will earned a dominant share of the Libertarian vote.”
The onus will be on Walker and Warnock, therefore, to turn out more undecideds in four weeks’ time. The race is on.