After Democrats maintained their majority with victories in Nevada and Arizona, Republicans were left wondering how to encourage grassroots support for Herschel Walker in a runoff election against Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA). The election was scheduled for December.
Republicans have been inundating email inboxes with financial appeals ever since the midterm elections, pleading with grassroots conservatives to help elect Walker in a runoff on December 6 and “change the Senate red.” Sens. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) were declared the winners, closing the door on Republicans taking control of the upper chamber. As a result, the party was forced to reevaluate its strategy to unseat Warnock, who finished ahead of Walker on Tuesday but fell just short of 50% of the vote.
On Sunday morning, it was not clear if Republicans had thought about what had transpired and chosen a new message.
The GOP enters the 2022 election season needing to pick up just one additional Senate seat to overtake the minority that the Democrats hold thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris’ ability to break ties. According to the layout of the seats up for election this year, the chances for the Republicans looked good. Republicans were primarily on the defensive in red states, while Democrats were doing so in a small number of swing states, including Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and New Hampshire.
Republicans were upbeat, particularly as election day drew near. Democrats appeared to be trailing on issues like inflation, crime, and border security, while President Joe Biden’s approval rating as president was at an all-time low. The National Republican Senatorial Committee’s chairman, Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), confidently projected that the GOP would pick up at least two seats on November 8 and maybe as many as four. However, the party discovered one by one that numerous routes to the majority were barred.
There were only three options left for the Republicans after Sen.-elect John Fetterman won a seat for his party by defeating Dr. Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania and after Walker lost to Warnock in Georgia: ousting the Democratic incumbents in Arizona and Nevada, defeating either Cortez Masto or Kelly, and defeating Warnock in the Georgia runoff. Kelly and Cortez Masto’s reelection effectively eliminates all GOP chances of gaining the majority.
Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, declared in a statement that voters “had provided a resounding affirmation of Democrats’ Senate majority.” Now, we’re working harder in Georgia to make sure Rev. Warnock is re-elected and Herschel Walker is defeated.
Days earlier, as Warnock re-entered the campaign road to win over voters, the DSCC made preparations to spend $7 million to increase turnout in Georgia for the runoff election. Democrats have a lot to fight for, but the race could be close after Gov. Brian Kemp decisively trounced his Democratic opponent Stacey Abrams in the midterm elections. If they defeat Walker, they may increase their 50-seat majority and boast about growing their party’s membership in a challenging political climate.
This week saw action from the NRSC, Republican National Committee, and Senate Leadership Fund, the super PAC allied with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Along with the Walker campaign, the top GOP organizations are working together to collect money, send out field personnel, and flood Georgia’s media with ads. Their obstacle is persuading Republican voters to turn out in December even if the Senate majority’s future is not at stake.
In these conditions, getting Republican voters to turn up for an irregular election around the holidays is not an easy feat. But with the results of Tuesday’s elections, the party’s work is made even more difficult. Top Republicans predicted a crimson tsunami would sweep the party’s candidates to victory across the country and at every point on the ballot. In Georgia, the Republican anticipated victory without a runoff as Walker’s contest with Warnock drew near.
Instead, Democratic congressional candidates gave Biden the finest midterm election performance for the party in the White House in decades, narrowly defeating Warnock to compel a second round of voting. Even though they went into election day defending a lead of little more than five seats, the Democrats not only managed to keep the Senate, but they also appear to be on track to lose just enough seats in the House to lose their majority.
Republicans at the grassroots level are clearly disappointed, and there are accusations flying at all levels of the GOP establishment. Several factions within the party are blaming McConnell, others are criticizing former President Donald Trump, who persuaded Walker to run for Georgia senator, others are accusing House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). Others are accusing a variety of well-known Republican leaders.
Some senior Republicans are admitting that under these circumstances, motivating grassroots support for Walker and giving the Georgia Senate runoff a sense of purpose could be a difficult task. In an interview with CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan acknowledged that the election just “is not as momentous” as it would have been if the Senate majority were at stake.
Hogan stated, “We still would like to win Georgia, but as a result, we’re not going to win back the Senate.”