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Final sprint to the Georgia Senate runoff election

4 min ago

Former Atlanta mayor says she's optimistic about Warnock's chances on Tuesday

from CNN's DJ Judd

Arriving at the White House for the administration’s State Dinner with French President Emmanuel Macron, Keisha Lance-Bottoms, White House senior adviser for Public Engagement and former Atlanta mayor, said she was optimistic about Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock’s chances in Tuesday’s runoff election.

“I think it’s going to be a great night in Georgia on Tuesday, and I’m not saying that as a Bulldogs fan,” Lance-Bottoms said, adding she found early vote totals “very encouraging.” 

More than 1 million Georgians have voted early — absentee or in-person — so far.

But Lance-Bottoms wouldn’t say if President Joe Biden intends to visit the state ahead of election day Tuesday.

“I don’t know the answer to that — I think the President will go wherever he’s wanted and needed, and I know that — we know that we have a great senator in Georgia, so we’re excited," she said.

19 min ago

Analysis: Why Democrats should like the early voting patterns in Georgia's runoff so far 

From CNN's Harry Enten

People are seen in line to vote at the sole polling place open for Saturday early voting in Bartow County on November 26 in Cartersville, Georgia.
People are seen in line to vote at the sole polling place open for Saturday early voting in Bartow County on November 26 in Cartersville, Georgia. (Elijah Nouvelage/The Washington Post/Getty Images)

More than 1 million Georgians have voted early (absentee or in-person) ahead of Tuesday’s Senate runoff election. The compact nature of the early voting period for the runoff makes it difficult to make an apples-to-apples comparison with what occurred during the November general election.

Still, there are a number of notable trends that suggest an upside for Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in his race against Republican Herschel Walker. This doesn’t mean Warnock is definitely going to win, but the data indicates you’d rather be Warnock than Walker right now.

When examining early voting, keep in mind we do not know how people are voting in the runoff. We know how voters as a group cast ballots in the general election. Groups that were more favorable for Warnock seem to be voting in larger numbers now compared with the general election when a similar number of early ballots were cast.

Remember too that Warnock got more votes than Walker in November, even though both failed to take a majority of the vote to avoid a runoff. This means Walker needs to gain more (or lose fewer) voters than Warnock in order to win.

Perhaps the best way to see if Walker voters are turning out in larger numbers is to look at race and age. Warnock won Black voters 90% to 8% in November’s general election. Walker won White voters 70% to 28%.

So far in early voting, Black voters make up a little more than 33% of the electorate, while White voters account for 54%. At a roughly similar point in the general election based on the number of early votes cast, about 31% of voters were Black and about 57% were White.

This may seem like a small difference, but given the large partisan gap between Black and White voters, it suggests that those who have gone to the polls so far are more Democratic than at a similar point in the general election.

I should note that a number of Democratic counties opened up early in-person voting sooner than Republican-leaning counties. That said, voters in all Georgia counties have been able to cast a ballot for a number of days now, and the racial voting gap between the general election and runoff has not gone away.

Keep reading here.

57 min ago

Even as the votes come in, both candidates are still ramping up to Election Day

From CNN's Gregory Krieg and David Wright

Sen. Raphael Warnock is accompanied by civil rights leader Andrew Young as they head to the polls in Atlanta on Sunday, November 27.
Sen. Raphael Warnock is accompanied by civil rights leader Andrew Young as they head to the polls in Atlanta on Sunday, November 27. (Ben Gray/AP)

While some Georgia counties held early voting last week or over the weekend, every county is required to hold early voting Monday through Friday of this week. The condensed time frame leading up to the runoff means there are fewer days of early voting than there were before the general election.

Both candidates are still ramping up to Election Day as early votes continue to come in. For Warnock, that means another visit from former President Barack Obama, who will be in Atlanta tonight to campaign for him. The senator was joined on the stump by New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker over the weekend and welcomed musician Dave Matthews to a Monday night rally.

Herschel Walker speaks during a campaign rally Tuesday, November 29 in Greensboro, Georgia.
Herschel Walker speaks during a campaign rally Tuesday, November 29 in Greensboro, Georgia. (John Bazemore/AP)

On Tuesday, Walker welcomed Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel and Oklahoma Sen.-elect Markwayne Mullin. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham have also been out in force for Walker.

The stakes are such that even the parties’ most powerful figures are making tough decisions in order to help their side gain any advantage – or, in the cases of President Joe Biden and former President Trump – be careful to do no harm.

Trump and Biden have both steered clear of Georgia, where neither is popular with those decisive swing voters, during the campaign. Trump, who recruited Walker to run and has been a consistent supporter, will not appear in the state ahead of the Dec. 6 election, a person close to Walker confirmed to CNN.

Many Republicans also blame Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election in Georgia for their defeat in the January 2021 runoffs, when then-GOP Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler lost to Democrats Jon Ossoff and Warnock, respectively.

Republicans have spent much of the race hammering Warnock over his record of consistently voting for the president’s legislative agenda. Warnock, in turn, has sought to highlight his bipartisan work in the Senate and has steadfastly kept his distance from any potentially divisive figures in his party.

1 hr 38 min ago

Walker’s chances could depend on his ability to win over a significant block of GOP voters who voted for Kemp

Analysis by Stephen Collinson

America is heading for a year-end political collision that will set the stage for showdowns between the new Republican-led House and the Democrats who still wield power in the Senate and White House. The Georgia Senate runoff is one of the key end-of-year political showdowns.

Former President Barack Obama, who was the most effective Democratic messenger in the midterms, is due to campaign for Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in Atlanta tonight at a 6:15 p.m. ET rally.

Republican challenger Herschel Walker's chances could depend on whether he is able to win over a significant block of Republican voters who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for him despite backing Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. Walker's problem is that he’s a protégé of former President Donald Trump, from whom Kemp kept a good distance.

After Trump announced his 2024 campaign days after the midterms, Warnock and his supporters started framing the runoff as the first chance for Democrats to stop Trump’s bid to return to the White House. Their argument recalled complaints by many Republicans that Trump’s intervention in two 2020 Senate runoffs in Georgia cost the GOP the chance to control the Senate.

This might all be about one seat. But holding the Senate 51-49 rather than 50-50 would be huge for Democrats because it would insulate them from the incapacitation of one of their members and could diminish the power of West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who has been a stubborn brake on President Joe Biden’s aspirations for two years.

Read about the other end-of-year political showdowns here.

3 hr 24 min ago

Why the Georgia runoff is key for Democrats — even though they already won control of the Senate

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

Republican Herschel Walker and Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock.
Republican Herschel Walker and Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock. (Getty Images)

With just days to go before Georgia’s Senate runoff between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker, heavy hitters and big dollars from both national parties are pouring into the state for a race that will determine the balance of power in the Democratic-controlled Senate next year.

If the Republican prevails, the parties will again split the Senate 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris providing a tie-breaking vote and Democrats the slightest possible advantage.

Democrats will control the chamber after the party’s incumbents held their ground and Pennsylvania’s John Fetterman picked up a seat held by retiring GOP Sen. Pat Toomey.

But this is still a race full of consequences.

In the short term, a Warnock victory would deliver more power to Democrats as they seek a firmer grip on the procedural life of the Senate, which could help them confirm more Biden nominees in a more expeditious manner. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin would also lose some of his leverage, if Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had a vote to spare, which could hold added significance given Manchin is facing reelection in 2024.

Senate Minority Whip John Thune, a South Dakota Republican, spelled out the stakes on Monday.

“Having an evenly divided Senate means that you get equal representation on committees,” Thune said. “We’ve been successfully able to bottle up some bad nominees at the committee level. So (the Georgia race has) got real consequences.”

Thune also conceded that his party could use a morale boost after underperforming expectations in the midterms, despite narrowly gaining control of the House.

“It’d be nice to get a win on the books, and especially in a state like Georgia, where, frankly, we think we should be winning,” Thune said.

Beyond that, looking ahead to the next election in 2024, Republicans – already with a more favorable map than this year – would be better positioned to win back a majority, perhaps a significant one, if Walker can pad their numbers now.

4 hr 44 min ago

Walker described himself as living in Texas during 2022 campaign speech, CNN KFile review finds

From CNN's Andrew Kaczynski and Olivia Alafriz

Herschel Walker speaks to supporters at a campaign rally on November 16 in McDonough, Georgia.
Herschel Walker speaks to supporters at a campaign rally on November 16 in McDonough, Georgia. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Georgia Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker, facing renewed and growing questions about his residency in the final week of the runoff campaign, described himself during a campaign speech in January as living in Texas and said he decided to run for Georgia’s Senate seat while at his Texas “home,” according to a CNN KFile review of his campaign speeches.

Georgia Democrats have called for an investigation by state officials into Walker’s residency after CNN’s KFile reported last week that Walker was getting a tax break in Texas intended for a primary residence, possibly running afoul of Texas tax law and some rules for establishing Georgia residency for voting and running for office.

“I live in Texas,” Walker said in January of this year, when speaking to University of Georgia College Republicans. Walker was criticizing Democrats for not visiting the border when he made the comments. “I went down to the border off and on sometimes,” he said.

Earlier in the speech, Walker said he decided to run for Georgia’s Senate seat while at his Texas home after seeing the country divided.

“Everyone asks me, why did I decide to run for a Senate seat? Because to be honest with you, this is never something I ever, ever, ever thought in my life I’d ever do,” said Walker. “And that’s the honest truth. As I was sitting in my home in Texas, I was sitting in my home in Texas, and I was seeing what was going on in this country. I was seeing what was going on in this country with how they were trying to divide people.”

The Georgia Republican is heading into a runoff election against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock on December 6. Walker and his campaign have so far not commented to CNN or others on the reporting of the tax break or questions about his residency.

Last month, The Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported that Georgia authorities have been urged in a complaint to investigate Walker’s residency. Georgia Democrats in a statement called for an immediate investigation of Walker’s residency, and Congresswoman Nikema Williams, the chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Georgia, also asked authorities to see if Walker lied about living in Georgia.

“The Georgia Bureau of Investigations and the Georgia Attorney General’s office must immediately investigate whether Herschel Walker lied about being a Georgia resident,” Williams said.

Read more here.

2 hr 56 min ago

Pompeo won't appear with Walker today, citing family emergency 

From CNN's Wesley Bruer and Dianne Gallagher

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addresses reporters after a gathering at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, on September 20.
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addresses reporters after a gathering at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, on September 20. (Steve Senne/AP)

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will not be appearing alongside Republican Senate nominee Herschel Walker in Georgia on Thursday due to a family emergency, according to Walker campaign representative Will Hampson.

Pompeo was expected to attend campaign events during Walker's bus tour.

CNN reported earlier this week that former President Donald Trump will not appear in Georgia to campaign for Walker ahead to the state’s Dec. 6 runoff, according to a person close to the Republican Senate candidate, opting instead to phone in for a remote rally with supporters some day before the election.

CNN's Mike Warren and Kristen Holmes contributed reporting to this post.

3 hr 41 min ago

Negative attack ads dominate airwaves in Georgia in final stretch of runoff

From CNN's David Wright

Waves of bitter attack ads are dominating Georgia's airwaves as the runoff between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker enters its final stretch.  

Even with control of the Senate already secured, the stakes are high as Democrats seek to secure a majority outright instead of the power-sharing agreement currently in place. That has led to candidates and allied outside groups waging a fierce battle for the final seat, spending millions of dollars, launching personal attacks and leaning into divisive debates as the December 6 runoff approaches.

"Is it just me or does it feel like we've been here before? The whole country's finished voting, and only us left," Warnock observes in a new ad, featuring a familiar beagle — a commentary on the last runoff in Georgia, from which he emerged victorious. He goes on to say that Walker "repeats the same lies, trying to distract from what we all know is true about him." 

Walker, meanwhile, launched a new spot over Thanksgiving week that features a college athlete criticizing participation policies for transgender athletes.

"Warnock's afraid to stand up for female athletes," Walker says in the ad. 

Outside groups have also ratcheted up the intensity of the attacks. Georgia Honor, a Democratic super PAC, launched an ad highlighting domestic abuse allegations against Walker and reporting that Walker paid for a woman's abortion.  

Georgia Honor also went up with an ad focused on abortion, a winning issue for Democrats in the midterms.

Meanwhile, Senate Leadership Fund, a top Republican super PAC, has fired back at Warnock, launching an ad that claims "a low income apartment building tied to Senator Raphael Warnock is filing eviction notices against residents." The ad also criticizes Warnock and President Joe Biden for "reckless spending" that "keeps driving up inflation." 

How the numbers break down: Senate Leadership Fund announced plans to spend over $14 million on the runoff, helping Walker mitigate an otherwise significant advertising gap with Warnock and his Democratic allies. So far, the group has spent about $11.5 million.   

Overall, candidates and groups from both parties have combined to spend $57.7 million on the runoff, including future reservations through December 6, according to AdImpact data. Democrats are outspending Republicans by about $37.4 million to $20.2 million so far.  

Warnock is the top advertiser, at about $18.1 million, while Herschel Walker has spent about $6.4 million.

5 hr 31 min ago

Why the Georgia Senate race went to a runoff

From CNN's Paul LeBlanc

Voters cast ballots at a polling location in Atlanta on November 8.
Voters cast ballots at a polling location in Atlanta on November 8. (Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Democrats clinched 50 seats in the Senate, but the stakes remain high for Georgia’s Dec. 6 runoff between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker.

Neither candidate surpassed the 50% threshold needed to win the race outright in the November general election, forcing a runoff.

A runoff is an additional election used to determine the winner of a certain race when neither candidate earns the required threshold for victory – in this case, 50%.

In Georgia, runoffs are more straightforward than general elections, as the candidate with the most votes wins.