The final Senate contest of the 2022 midterm elections will finally be decided in Georgia on Tuesday as voters choose between incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker in a high-stakes race that will determine whether Democrats can expand their razor-thin majority in the chamber.
The candidates were forced into a runoff after neither Warnock, 53, nor Walker, 60, got more than 50% of the vote in the Nov. 8 midterm election.
Leading up to Election Day on Tuesday, early voting in the Peach State set a number of single-day records and nearly 2 million ballots had already been cast before the period ended on Friday.
Reflecting the critical significance of the race, spending by the candidates and outside groups has neared $400 million, making it the most expensive contest in the 2022 election cycle, according to data compiled by OpenSecrets.org.
According to a RealClear Politics’ average of the polls, Warnock has as much as a 5 percentage point lead over his political rival Walker, a former star running back at the University of Georgia, in the USFL and in the NFL.
Walker, endorsed by former President Donald Trump, has received strong support from national Republicans with a number of high-profile lawmakers trekking to Georgia to campaign with him – including Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Rick Scott of Florida and Tom Cotton of Arkansas.
Trump was expected to hold a tele-rally for Walker on Monday evening.
Former President Barack Obama rallied with Warnock last week, but Biden, like Trump, did not travel to Georgia to campaign for the senator.
Democrats point to the large early vote as an advantage for Warnock but Republicans are hoping a surge of GOP voters on Tuesday can turn the tide for Walker.
A win by Warnock could give Democrats a 51-49 advantage in the Senate, a margin large enough to provide Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer room to maneuver around Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who have used their influence in narrow majority to block some of Biden’s legislative agenda.
With 51 Democratic senators, Schumer could afford to lose the support of one member of his caucus and still win votes.
If Walker wins, the 50-50 split in the upper chamber would remain as it has over the past two years, with Democrats relying on Vice President Kamala Harris to cast tie-breaking votes.
Republicans won a small majority in the House in the Nov. 8 midterm elections.
Trump defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by about 5 points in Georgia in the 2016 presidential election, but lost to President Biden by about less than one point in 2020.
But the 2020 election in Georgia was pivotal for Democrats as both Warnock and Sen. Jon Ossoff racked up wins to give Democrats the 50-50 majority they have in the Senate.
Warnock, the pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, defeated incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler to become the first African-American elected to the US Senate from Georgia.
But he had to run for re-election again this year because his win over Loeffler was in a special election to finish the remainder of Sen. Johnny Isakson’s six-year term after he stepped down in 2019 because of health concerns.
With Post wires