composite Walker Warnock

The temperature may be dropping, but the U.S. Senate race between Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker is heating up. Both sides have one goal before their Dec. 6 runoff: persuade their base voters to head back to the polls just four weeks after the general election.

In the first round of voting on Nov. 8, Warnock defeated Walker by 37,675 votes out of 3,935,924 ballots cast but failed to clear the 50% threshold to secure outright victory.

To help push the incumbent Warnock over the goal line, the Democratic Party’s biggest draw — former President Barack Obama — will return to Atlanta to campaign for him on Dec. 1. The senator’s campaign says that during Obama’s previous event, rally-goers signed up to complete hundreds of door-knocking shifts.

Meanwhile, as part of a tour to promote her latest book, “The Light We Carry,” former First Lady Michelle Obama will be appearing at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre for two nights starting Dec. 2 in a program moderated by director, actor, producer and writer, Tyler Perry.

Walker can boast good news, as well

Gov. Brian Kemp, meanwhile, is now stumping with his fellow Republican — after steering clear of the Donald Trump-endorsed former University of Georgia football star during the general election campaign. In their first-ever event together, Kemp appeared alongside Walker on Saturday at a rally in Smyrna attended by a few hundred supporters.

Just as importantly, Kemp has lent his get-out-the-vote campaign machinery to Walker, an operation being financed with $2 million from the Mitch McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund. The Walker campaign is also being aided by Greater Georgia, a Republican voter mobilization initiative established by former Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who lost to Warnock in the 2020 runoff election.

What’s unclear is whether the Walker campaign will bring in the same high-wattage stars as the Obamas — and whether the popularity of Kemp and Trump-aligned Republicans who are appearing at campaign events will be enough to lure back the votes of the estimated 200,000 Republicans who crossed over to vote for Warnock in the first round of voting on Nov. 8.

For now, one thing seems clear: Mike Huckabee doesn’t match the Obamas and Perry in star power.

Another potential hiccup: Walker’s awkward moments, like the comments about vampires and werewolves during a campaign stop in McDonough last week (“I don’t know if you know, vampires are cool people, are they not?”). His campaign managers’ velvet-rope strategy of keeping all but the friendliest reporters away from the candidate hasn’t kept those unconventional talking points from going viral. 

Warnock campaign has its own challenges

In the first round of voting, the Democrats’ vaunted voter turnout machine, led by the Stacey Abrams-founded New Georgia Project, didn’t lead Democrats to victory in most state and federal races.

And compared to the 2018 midterm elections, turnout among younger voters, Blacks and Hispanics was lower. Warnock defeated Walker by only 37,675 votes out of 3,935,924 ballots cast.

To muster Warnock’s supporters one more time in a runoff likely to yield far fewer ballots and thus be decided by a far smaller margin, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is putting $7 million into field organizing. It has added more than 300 paid staffers for the runoff, bringing that total to more than 900.

That theme — “One More Time” — is the name of the senator’s bus tour across the state. Today and tomorrow Warnock will be in Rome, Paulding County, Fayetteville, and Covington. He’ll wind up tomorrow afternoon in Atlanta at a Thanksgiving charity event sponsored by Hosea Helps, which has been providing food to needy metro residents for decades.

“You need to approach every county with the same energy,” one Democratic operative told The Current yesterday when asked if the candidates would return to relatively lightly populated Coastal Georgia to campaign before Dec. 6.

The region’s voting in the Senate race on Nov. 8 was clear-cut.

In Chatham County, Warnock won 59.43% of the votes to Walker’s 38.86%; in Liberty County, it was Warnock’s 62.56% to Walker’s 35.72%.

Almost the reverse of that occurred in Glynn County, where Walker won 62.56% of the vote to Warnock’s 35.64%. Similarly in Camden County, 65.45% to Warnock’s 32.22%.

Craig Nelson is a former international correspondent for The Associated Press, the Sydney (Australia) Morning-Herald, Cox Newspapers and The Wall Street Journal. He also served as foreign editor for The...