Former President Barack Obama, repeating his battlefield blitz ahead of the midterm elections, will run again for Senator Raphael Warnock, while the Georgia Democrat is looking to withstand a stiff challenge from Republican Herschel Walker ahead of his Dec. 6 runoff.
Obama’s return trip to Georgia is scheduled for December 1, on the eve of the final day of the early in-person vote that has proved crucial for Democrats in recent years, including Warnock’s victory in the runoff nearly two years ago. Obama made his first appearance with Warnock in the general election in late October during the early parliamentary term.
Warnock led Walker in the general election by about 36,000 votes but fell short of a majority, triggering a runoff under Georgia law.
Obama is the only significant national Democrat to have personally campaigned for Warnock, who has spent much of his reelection campaign targeting independent voters and even moderate Republicans in addition to core Democratic supporters. Republicans, in turn, have sought to make the race more of a national bipartisan referendum, tying Warnock to President Joe Biden and generational high inflation.
Democrats managed to defend their Senate majority, already securing 50 seats — along with Vice President Kamala Harris’ game-changing vote — and managing to confine Republicans to a flimsy House majority. But Georgia remains an important seat because a 51st senator would give Democrats an outright majority, including on Senate committees, while protecting the caucus from overruns.
Warnock and other Democrats across the country hailed Obama as well-placed to carry the party’s banner because he remains well-liked by the Democratic base and is still highly respected by independents.
Obama tried to capitalize on that prestige ahead of the general election, adopting the GOP portrayal of voters’ choice at midterm. He argued that Republicans were not offering any real solutions to inflation, which the former president stressed was a global phenomenon, not something that Biden and Democrats are helping Washington create. Obama also called Republicans a threat to democracy, noting many GOP leaders’ continued support for former President Donald Trump and his false claims that the 2020 election was fraudulent.
In Georgia specifically, Obama hammered Walker, a prominent athlete-turned-politician, as woefully unprepared for the Senate, an argument Warnock makes both in his campaign speeches and in paid advertising.
Walker has welcomed a parade of national Republican figures, including several visits from Sens. Rick Scott of Florida, the GOP’s Senate campaign chair, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. But he hasn’t performed with Trump, despite their longtime friendship and the former president, who encouraged Walker to run and then backed him.
Most early in-person votes for the runoff are expected to occur from November 28 to December 2, the week before runoff day. Some counties plan to open early voting sites as early as Tuesday, but many counties said they might not be able to do so in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. A state judge last week granted Democrats’ request to allow an early vote on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, despite appeals from state officials. It’s not clear how many local polling stations would be able to mobilize over the bank holiday weekend for early site builds, even if they were authorized to do so.
Associated Press reporter Darlene Superville contributed from Washington.