Five takeaways from the Georgia Senate run-off

Sen. Raphael Warnock’s victory over Republican Herschel Walker in the Georgian Senate runoff on Tuesday night capped the 2022 midterm election season and set the stage for the 2024 presidential election.

The Democrat’s win also gives his party more clout with his Senate majority and means yet another midterm loss for a candidate backed by former President Trump.

Here are five takeaways from the Georgian Senate’s second round.

Democrats have time to breathe in the Senate

While Warnock’s victory won’t dramatically shift the balance of power in the upper house, it does give Democrats much-needed leverage with a 51-seat majority.

Currently, Democrats and Republicans are tied 50-50 in the Senate. Vice President Kamala Harris serves as a breakout vote for Democrats, but there is a power-sharing deal that also divides committees. With a majority of 51 seats, the Democrats will be in the majority in these commissions. Importantly, this momentum will allow the party to quickly confirm nominees for President Biden’s judicial and executive branches over the next two years.

Democrats will also be able to more easily conduct oversight investigations that Republicans disagree with. That could prove useful for Senate Democrats as House Republicans prepare to launch a slew of oversight investigations into the lower house.

And a Warnock vote could help offset the impact of more centrist Democratic sensemakers Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Arizona), who have at times strayed against key legislative priorities.

Trump landed another blow

The loss of Walker marks another blow for Trump as he faces another campaign for the White House.

The former president has seen many of his top endorsed candidates lose this midterm cycle, putting a dent in his once formidable reputation among Republicans. Walker’s loss will be particularly deadly for Trump, who pushed the former NFL star into the race and appeared with him on the campaign trail as Election Day approached.

Trump has been noticeably absent from the campaign trail over the past month, a sign of his damaged brand following the loss of other endorsed Senate candidates like Blake Masters and Mehmet Oz.

Meanwhile, Trump’s impact on the two 2021 Senate ballots in Georgia, which gave Democrats a majority in the upper house, continued to haunt Peach State Republicans. The former president was widely blamed for losses from his baseless claims that the 2020 election was rigged, which likely lowered GOP turnout. Warnock took advantage of Walker’s endorsement by Trump, rolling out a campaign ad linking the two to each other.

Walker’s loss is just the latest bad news for Trump in the past week. He also faced backlash when he met white nationalist Nick Fuentes and rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, at Mar-a-Lago last month. Trump has also come under fire for saying he would like to terminate parts of the Constitution following revelations about Twitter’s handling of a controversial Hunter Biden story.

Warnock lived up to expectations

While full results were still coming in when multiple networks called the race for Warnock, the Democratic senator appeared to live up to expectations with his victory.

Polls showed a close race in the days leading up to the second round, but still favored the Democrat.

A Emerson College/The Hill A poll released last week showed Walker leading Warnock 49% to 47%. Democrats in their party were widely expressing optimism in the final days of the runoff campaign, citing Walker’s weakness as a candidate. The party also highlighted Warnock’s past successes, including his 2020 runoff victory in which he received more votes than Walker on Election Day.

Tuesday night largely validated their optimism. While the race remained tight all night, Warnock still performed well in the areas he needed to win, and even appeared to topple a county, Baldwin, who opted for Walker in November. His Republican opponent, meanwhile, underperformed slightly in many counties he carried last month.

Attendance remained high

Turnout was high across the board, with both candidates getting voters out early and on Election Day.

According to the office of the Georgian secretary of state, more than one million ballots had been cast by mid-afternoon on Tuesday, bringing the total number of ballots cast in the second round to more than 2.89 million. voters. Turnout was lower than on Election Day last month, but it topped past Georgia runoffs.

Warnock took advantage of early voting and mail-in participation, which tend to favor Democrats. Walker was largely dependent on in-person turnout on Election Day, which tends to favor Republicans. Ultimately, strong turnout in blue urban areas and lower than expected turnout in a number of red counties worked against Walker.

All eyes are now on 2024

With the final midterm contest of 2022 in the rearview mirror, attention will turn to the 2024 presidential election.

Republicans considering a 2024 bid will likely use Walker’s loss, as well as the defeats of other Trump-endorsed candidates, against the former president. The GOP will also likely seek to recalibrate its strategy on early and mail-in voting, as well as candidate recruitment.

That was reflected in comments from a close ally of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who called for soul-searching in the party following Walker’s defeat.

“The R’s need an honest assessment of the party’s issues,” Josh Holmes tweeted. “Do not take points that irritate loud voices. Nothing is beyond repair, but it’s not a winning product from an infrastructure perspective.

Democrats, including Biden, have expressed newfound optimism as they approach 2024. The party has largely defied medium-term expectations, mitigating its losses in the House and increasing its majority in the Senate. Democrats credit Biden’s midterm message, but others argue that the quality of GOP candidates played a role in sinking Republicans and strengthening Democrats.

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