Obama urges Georgia Democrats to boost turnout for Warnock

ATLANTA (AP) – Former President Barack Obama and Sen. Raphael Warnock on Thursday urged Democratic voters to continue pushing for a clear lead in early voting in Georgia Senate Runoff against Republican Herschel Walker, before the last Friday day of early voting in person and Election Day Tuesday.

“If they’re not tired, you can’t be,” Obama told a crowd gathered in a cavernous former railroad repair shop east of downtown Atlanta.

Voters have already cast more than 1.4 million ballots amid a direct push by Democrats to get as many votes as possible, while Republicans, especially Walker, have taken a less aggressive approach that could leave the GOP candidate heavily dependent from the runoff Voter turnout on election day.

“We’ve got to keep showing up,” Warnock told the crowd at his biggest event of the four-week runoff. “We have to keep voting. We cannot back down even for a moment. We have to keep our foot on the gas all the way to victory.”

Both Obama and Warnock have criticized Walker, part of the Democratic Party’s attacks that Walker is unqualified and unfaithful.

“I believe in my heart that Georgia knows that Georgia is better than Herschel Walker,” Warnock said.

Obama told a story about how Walker once claimed he let Obama beat him at basketball, but later admitted he had never met the Democrat.

“When you repeatedly serve up blatant lies, it says something about the kind of person you are and the kind of leader you would be if elected to the United States Senate,” Obama said.

Voters in Georgia cast more than 1.4 million votes.

Warnock voted Sunday after a religious rally that invoked the civil rights traditions of southern black churches, including Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Warnock occupies a pulpit once held by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Walker, meanwhile, is expected to vote on the day of the runoff, as he did in November for the midterm elections.

Warnock leads Walker by about 37,000 votes out of almost 4 million voters the general election but fell short of the majority required under Georgia law.

Early voting data across the country, including some weekday weekends and Thanksgiving in certain counties, showed higher overall voter turnout in the most Democratic counties and congressional districts. Still, both parties are finding data to tout as they jockey for any edge in the final race of the 2022 midterm election cycle, and both campaigns generally agree that Warnock will lead among early voters as he did in the first round, while Walker will have an advantage on the ballot on Election Day, as he did in November. The respective margins will determine the ultimate winner.

TargetSmart, a Democratic Party data firm, analyzed the identities of more than 830,000 voters who had cast ballots by the end of Tuesday and concluded that Democrats had widened their lead by 14 percentage points from six days before the Nov. 8 election . This analysis does not include more than 240,000 additional ballots released on Wednesday.

Walker’s campaign manager, Scott Paradise, dismissed notions of Democratic dominance. He argued that their advantage came only because heavily Democratic urban districts held early voting over the weekend, while more Republican districts waited until the statewide early voting period that began Monday. Republicans sued, unsuccessfully, in state court is trying to block early voting on Saturday for the runoff.

Paradise said an analysis of Walker’s campaign found that nine of the top 10 turnout counties Monday were counties Walker won in November with a combined 70 percent of the vote. He added that among the state’s most populous counties — those with more than 100,000 registered voters — two Republican strongholds, Hall and Forsyth, reported the highest turnout rates Monday. Paradise said these trends reflect the high level of enthusiasm among Republicans.

Still, Republicans have some catching up to do.

According to statewide voting data compiled by Ryan Anderson, an independent analyst in Atlanta, four of the state’s five Democratic-held congressional districts already had early turnouts through Tuesday of at least 43 percent of the total early vote for the November election, when each There were at least 17 days of early in-person voting in Georgia County. Only one of Georgia’s nine Republican-held congressional districts eclipsed that 43% mark.

Warnock first won the seat as part of the concurrent Senate runoffs on January 5, 2021, when he and Jon Ossoff prevailed over incumbent Republicans to secure narrow Democratic control of the Senate for the start of President Joe Biden’s term.

“It happened because of you, Georgia, and now we need you to do it again,” Obama said.

Warnock is now seeking a full six-year term. This time, control of the Senate is not in play: Democrats have already secured 50 seats and have the deciding vote of Vice President Kamala Harris. That puts pressure on both the Warnock and Walker campaigns to convince Georgia voters that it’s worth their time to vote again, even if the national stakes aren’t as high.

Obama, however, argued on behalf of Warnock himself, saying that “51 is better than 50 because it means that Senator Warnock will continue to represent you in Washington.”

Warnock received about 70% of his total votes in the first round of advance voting; for Walker, it’s about 58%. This resulted in an advantage of over 256,000 votes for Warnock. Walker responded with an Election Day margin of more than 200,000.

The senator’s campaign, Democratic Party committees and concerted political action committees have focused their turnout efforts on early voting. Republicans countered with a wide-ranging push of their own, including direct mail pressure from a superpolitical action committee that included Gov. Brian Kemp, who received 200,000 more votes than Walker to comfortably win a second term.

Still, Republicans are grappling with some intra-party narratives, including from former President Donald Trump, that question some early voting, particularly mail-in ballots, pushing some Republicans to vote on Election Day. As recently as Tuesday, Trump stated on social media that “YOU CAN NEVER HAVE A FAIR AND FREE ELECTION WITH MAIL VOTING – EVER, EVER EVER. IT WILL NOT AND CANNOT HAPPEN!!!”

Walker himself makes no mention at all of early in-person voting or mail-in ballots as he urges his supporters to vote.

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