Dec. 1, 2022 coverage of the Georgia runoff election

By Elise Hammond, Maureen Chowdhury and Melissa Macaya and Séan Federico-O'Murchú,
CNN

Updated 0324 GMT (1124 HKT) December 2, 2022
19 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
8:34 p.m. ET, December 1, 2022

Obama describes Herschel Walker as unsuited for US Senate

From CNN's Greg Krieg

Former President Barack Obama described GOP nominee Herschel Walker as a comically unserious candidate unfit to represent Georgia on Capitol Hill.

In his second visit to Atlanta during the campaign – having previously stumped for Warnock ahead of the Nov. 8 election – Obama just a few days ahead of the run-off doubled down on his past criticism and added a few new flourishes. 

 For those who had forgotten his past remarks, Obama said Walker provided further evidence of his lack of credentials “every time he opens his mouth.”

The former president’s visit comes days before the end of a condensed run-off campaign of only four weeks, down from the nine the state previously mandated before the passage of a controversial voting law in 2021. Obama urged the audience not to become complacent, alternately praising the Democrat’s character and lampooning Walker’s assorted controversies and bizarre campaign trail rhetoric. 

Obama’s presence, too, marked a stark difference between the two campaigns.

While Democrats were able to call on Obama, a singularly popular figure within their party, to energize voters, the most popular Republican nationally, former President Donald Trump, has stayed away for fear of alienating swing voters. (Democrats, though, have also been cautious in choosing surrogates: President Joe Biden has not appeared in Georgia.) 

“Mr. Walker has been talking about issues that are of great importance to the people of Georgia, like whether it’s better to be a vampire or a werewolf,” Obama joked. “This was a debate that, I must confess, I once had myself… when I was seven.”

The riff followed a puzzling sidebar from Walker during a rally a few weeks ago, when the Republican recounted having recently seen a movie that he said was called “Fright Night, Freak Night, or some type of night.”

 “I don’t know if you know, but vampires are some cool people, are they not? But let me tell you something that I found out: a werewolf can kill a vampire. Did you know that? I never knew that,” Walker said, before adding: “So I don’t want to be a vampire anymore. I want to be a werewolf.”

 Obama had clearly become familiar with the video, which Warnock has replayed in part in recent campaign ads.

“In case you were wondering, Mr. Walker decided he wanted to be a werewolf. Which is great. As far as I'm concerned, he can be anything he wants to be. Except for a United States senator,” Obama said, before continuing with another story about Walker’s past claim of having let Obama beat him at basketball only to admit, later, that the two had never met.

In a less bombastic portion of his speech, Obama pushed back against any suggestion that the Georgia Senate race had diminished in importance after Democrats clinched a Senate majority last month.

 “An extra senator gives Democrats more breathing room on important bills. It prevents one person from holding up everything. It also puts us in a better position a couple of years from now when you've got another election and the Senate map is going to be tilted in the favor of Republicans. And it'll help prevent Republicans from getting a filibuster-proof majority that could allow them to do things like passing a federal abortion ban.”

 

7:24 p.m. ET, December 1, 2022

Obama to Warnock supporters: We still got work to do

(Pool)
(Pool)

Former President Barack Obama urged supporters of Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock to avoid complacency ahead of Tuesday's runoff election.

The former president said that he was encouraged by early voter turnout numbers, but said that more needs to be done to secure Warnock's chances, noting that early voting in the state ends Friday.

"Now I know a lot of folks have been voting early over the last few days, that is a good thing. That is an encouraging thing. But — you knew there was a but —plenty of folks haven’t voted yet. Tomorrow is the last day for early voting and then we need to get people out to the polls on Tuesday, which means we still got work to do," Obama said at a rally with Warnock in Atlanta.

More than 1.1 million votes have been cast so far, according to the Georgia secretary of state’s office. The state has had several days with historically high early voting numbers.

7:06 p.m. ET, December 1, 2022

Happening Now: Former President Obama is speaking at Warnock rally

(Pool)
(Pool)

Former President Barack Obama is holding a rally with Sen. Raphael Warnock tonight in Atlanta and is addressing his supporters.

What's at stake in the runoff: Even with control of the Senate already secured, the stakes are high as Democrats seek to secure a majority outright instead of the power-sharing agreement currently in place.

7:12 p.m. ET, December 1, 2022

Warnock urges supporters to "keep our foot on the gas all the way to victory" amid high early voter turnout

From CNN's Elise Hammond

Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock speaks during a rally in Atlanta on December 1.
Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock speaks during a rally in Atlanta on December 1. (Alyssa Pointer/Reuters)

Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock is urging his supporters to continue to turn out to the polls ahead of the Dec. 6 runoff election, saying "it's time to raise your voice."

More than 1.1 million votes have been cast so far, according to the Georgia secretary of state’s office. The state has had several days with historically high early voting numbers.

But Warnock said now is not the time to let up, urging voters to cast their ballot if they haven't already.

“We got to keep our foot on the gas all the way to victory," he said at a rally Thursday in the final sprint of the campaign.

Warnock took a stab at his Republican challenger Herschel Walker, saying, “This race is about character and competence" — a common attack on his opponent he has made throughout his campaign.

“I know we have political differences. That's what part of what makes this country a great country," he said, adding, “This is not about Republican and Democrat. This is not about right and left. This is about the difference between right and wrong."

"I believe in my soul that Georgia knows that Georgia is better than Herschel Walker," he said.

6:53 p.m. ET, December 1, 2022

Happening Now: Warnock addressing supporters in Atlanta

(Pool)
(Pool)

Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock is addressing supporters at a rally in Atlanta right now. Former President Barack Obama is also expected to speak at the event.

Warnock thanked his supporters for turning out on Election Day and allowing him to finish ahead of GOP opponent Hershel Walker. But he added that the pressure is still on.

“Here’s the thing. Even though you made sure my campaign finished first, that doesn’t matter if you don’t dig even deeper, work even harder, build a movement that’s even stronger and deliver the victory for the people of Georgia on Dec. 6. Are you ready to win this election? It's time to vote," he said.

What's at stake in the runoff: Even with control of the Senate already secured, the stakes are high as Democrats seek to secure a majority outright instead of the power-sharing agreement currently in place.

7:00 p.m. ET, December 1, 2022

Former Atlanta mayor says she's optimistic about Warnock's chances on Tuesday

from CNN's DJ Judd

Arriving at the White House for the administration’s State Dinner with French President Emmanuel Macron, Keisha Lance-Bottoms, White House senior adviser for Public Engagement and former Atlanta mayor, said she was optimistic about Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock’s chances in Tuesday’s runoff election.

“I think it’s going to be a great night in Georgia on Tuesday, and I’m not saying that as a Bulldogs fan,” Lance-Bottoms said, adding she found early vote totals “very encouraging.” 

More than 1 million Georgians have voted early — absentee or in-person – so far.

But Lance-Bottoms wouldn’t say if President Joe Biden intends to visit the state ahead of election day Tuesday.

“I don’t know the answer to that — I think the President will go wherever he’s wanted and needed, and I know that — we know that we have a great senator in Georgia, so we’re excited," she said.

6:03 p.m. ET, December 1, 2022

Analysis: Why Democrats should like the early voting patterns in Georgia's runoff so far 

From CNN's Harry Enten

People are seen in line to vote at the sole polling place open for Saturday early voting in Bartow County on November 26 in Cartersville, Georgia.
People are seen in line to vote at the sole polling place open for Saturday early voting in Bartow County on November 26 in Cartersville, Georgia. (Elijah Nouvelage/The Washington Post/Getty Images)

More than 1 million Georgians have voted early (absentee or in-person) ahead of Tuesday’s Senate runoff election. The compact nature of the early voting period for the runoff makes it difficult to make an apples-to-apples comparison with what occurred during the November general election.

Still, there are a number of notable trends that suggest an upside for Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in his race against Republican Herschel Walker. This doesn’t mean Warnock is definitely going to win, but the data indicates you’d rather be Warnock than Walker right now.

When examining early voting, keep in mind we do not know how people are voting in the runoff. We know how voters as a group cast ballots in the general election. Groups that were more favorable for Warnock seem to be voting in larger numbers now compared with the general election when a similar number of early ballots were cast.

Remember too that Warnock got more votes than Walker in November, even though both failed to take a majority of the vote to avoid a runoff. This means Walker needs to gain more (or lose fewer) voters than Warnock in order to win.

Perhaps the best way to see if Walker voters are turning out in larger numbers is to look at race and age. Warnock won Black voters 90% to 8% in November’s general election. Walker won White voters 70% to 28%.

So far in early voting, Black voters make up a little more than 33% of the electorate, while White voters account for 54%. At a roughly similar point in the general election based on the number of early votes cast, about 31% of voters were Black and about 57% were White.

This may seem like a small difference, but given the large partisan gap between Black and White voters, it suggests that those who have gone to the polls so far are more Democratic than at a similar point in the general election.

I should note that a number of Democratic counties opened up early in-person voting sooner than Republican-leaning counties. That said, voters in all Georgia counties have been able to cast a ballot for a number of days now, and the racial voting gap between the general election and runoff has not gone away.

Keep reading here.

5:26 p.m. ET, December 1, 2022

Even as the votes come in, both candidates are still ramping up to Election Day

From CNN's Gregory Krieg and David Wright

Sen. Raphael Warnock is accompanied by civil rights leader Andrew Young as they head to the polls in Atlanta on Sunday, November 27.
Sen. Raphael Warnock is accompanied by civil rights leader Andrew Young as they head to the polls in Atlanta on Sunday, November 27. (Ben Gray/AP)

While some Georgia counties held early voting last week or over the weekend, every county is required to hold early voting Monday through Friday of this week. The condensed time frame leading up to the runoff means there are fewer days of early voting than there were before the general election.

Both candidates are still ramping up to Election Day as early votes continue to come in. For Warnock, that means another visit from former President Barack Obama, who will be in Atlanta tonight to campaign for him. The senator was joined on the stump by New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker over the weekend and welcomed musician Dave Matthews to a Monday night rally.

Herschel Walker speaks during a campaign rally Tuesday, November 29 in Greensboro, Georgia.
Herschel Walker speaks during a campaign rally Tuesday, November 29 in Greensboro, Georgia. (John Bazemore/AP)

On Tuesday, Walker welcomed Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel and Oklahoma Sen.-elect Markwayne Mullin. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham have also been out in force for Walker.

The stakes are such that even the parties’ most powerful figures are making tough decisions in order to help their side gain any advantage – or, in the cases of President Joe Biden and former President Trump – be careful to do no harm.

Trump and Biden have both steered clear of Georgia, where neither is popular with those decisive swing voters, during the campaign. Trump, who recruited Walker to run and has been a consistent supporter, will not appear in the state ahead of the Dec. 6 election, a person close to Walker confirmed to CNN.

Many Republicans also blame Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election in Georgia for their defeat in the January 2021 runoffs, when then-GOP Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler lost to Democrats Jon Ossoff and Warnock, respectively.

Republicans have spent much of the race hammering Warnock over his record of consistently voting for the president’s legislative agenda. Warnock, in turn, has sought to highlight his bipartisan work in the Senate and has steadfastly kept his distance from any potentially divisive figures in his party.

4:44 p.m. ET, December 1, 2022

Walker’s chances could depend on his ability to win over a significant block of GOP voters who voted for Kemp

Analysis by Stephen Collinson

America is heading for a year-end political collision that will set the stage for showdowns between the new Republican-led House and the Democrats who still wield power in the Senate and White House. The Georgia Senate runoff is one of the key end-of-year political showdowns.

Former President Barack Obama, who was the most effective Democratic messenger in the midterms, is due to campaign for Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in Atlanta tonight at a 6:15 p.m. ET rally.

Republican challenger Herschel Walker's chances could depend on whether he is able to win over a significant block of Republican voters who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for him despite backing Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. Walker's problem is that he’s a protégé of former President Donald Trump, from whom Kemp kept a good distance.

After Trump announced his 2024 campaign days after the midterms, Warnock and his supporters started framing the runoff as the first chance for Democrats to stop Trump’s bid to return to the White House. Their argument recalled complaints by many Republicans that Trump’s intervention in two 2020 Senate runoffs in Georgia cost the GOP the chance to control the Senate.

This might all be about one seat. But holding the Senate 51-49 rather than 50-50 would be huge for Democrats because it would insulate them from the incapacitation of one of their members and could diminish the power of West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who has been a stubborn brake on President Joe Biden’s aspirations for two years.

Read about the other end-of-year political showdowns here.