Tom with the BTRTN prediction for the Georgia
Senate runoff tomorrow.
The Georgia Senate runoff election is not quite the “center
of political universe” event that it was in January, 2021 (when there were two
of them). It lost that special luster
when Catherine Cortez Masto eked out a win in Nevada, thereby giving the
Democrats their 50th seat thus maintaining control of the
Senate. But it is still a highly
consequential race. With all 505 Senate, House and gubernatorial races now complete (California’s 13th House district was finally called by AP just a few days ago), we end up once again in Georgia. To end the suspense, let’s get to our
Our official BTRTN prediction for the
Georgia Senate runoff is that Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock will defeat
GOP challenger Herschel Walker by a 51.5% to 48.5% margin.
POST-ELECTION UPDATE: Warnock did indeed win, and with 99% of the vote in, his margin is 51.4% to 48.6%, which is about as close to our prediction as one might reasonable hope to get.
The race is still important because of three factors. The first is committee assignments; if the
Democrats get a clear majority of 51 seats, they will have a majority on each
committee as well, which is not true today.
This will enable the Dems to bring legislation to the floor faster,
including judicial appointments. The
second is that the extra vote is a cushion against Joe Manchin and Kristyn
Sinema, should either seek to block passage of otherwise party lines votes on a
piece of legislation or a judicial appointment.
This would also allow Manchin to vote against the party on some issues which might actually help him get reelected in 2024 in deep red West Virginia, which
the Democrats surely want. And that
brings us to the third reason: the Democrats are facing a tough Senate
electoral map in 2024, so the more seats they hold now, the better their
chances of holding the Senate again in 2024.
The rationale for the Warnock-win prediction is pretty
straightforward; virtually all of the factors one would typically assess are leaning in Warnock’s direction:
· Warnock “beat” Walker in the regular election
four weeks ago by a 49.4% to 48.5% margin, by about 38,000 votes (just a
reminder here that this race went to runoff because neither candidate achieved
50% of the vote, as required by Georgia law).
The remaining 81,000 votes (out of roughly 3.9 million cast) went to Libertarian
candidate Chase Oliver, which amounts to 2.1% of the vote. While Libertarian supporters might typically be more
likely to gravitate to the GOP candidate in the runoff, in this instance, given
Walker’s obvious defects, it is more likely that many of them were Republicans
who voted for Oliver as an alternative to
Walker. Those folks will be far less
likely to bother to show up at all without another GOP candidate on the ballot
to motivate them. It seems incongruous
that they would go back and vote for either Walker or Warnock. They’ll just sit
· The argument the Walker campaign used before
November’s Election Day was that Walker’s election was crucial to stopping the
Biden agenda by flipping the Senate to GOP control. With the Democrats already
winning the Senate, that argument has been undercut. A material portion of Republicans may have
held their noses and voted for Walker to stop Biden in November. But finding a reason to vote for Walker in
December is clearly going to be more difficult, in large part because Walker is
such a hideous candidate, with more baggage than Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson
International Airport on a Thanksgiving travel day. Why go to the voting booth when the Senate is
no longer on the line and there are no other Republicans to vote for? Thus Walker faces erosion even from the 1.9
million that voted for him before.
(Warnock could face erosion, too, but his support seems to be personal
as well as partisan.)
The polls seem conclusive, if still
close. There have been seven runoff polls and all seven have favored Warnock, all within a tight range of +2 to +5. In all but one of those polls Warnock reached the 50% threshold, meaning there were very
Speaking of Thanksgiving, Walker did something
that was unfathomable – he took the entire holiday weekend, five full days, off from
campaigning. The runoff is occurring
only four weeks after Election Day, a measure passed after the 2021 runoff by
the Republican controlled Georgia legislature.
They thought they would benefit from the compressed schedule, but if
your candidate is going to take 20% of the compressed time off, that tends to
defeat the purpose. The languid pace did not stop there. Walker did exactly one event over the last weekend of the campaign. Warnock did six.
It’s not like Walker can count on deep pockets
to counter the effect of abandoning retail politics – Warnock has outraised him
and outspent him on advertising, by a wide margin. As of mid-November, Warnock has $30 million
cash on hand, dwarfing Walker’s $10 million.
The early voting metrics appear to favor
Warnock. The highest turnout levels are
in areas of Democratic strength.
One of our rules is, in a very close election, go with the
incumbent. Incumbents tend to get the benefit of the doubt from those making last minute decisions. We wish we had followed our
own rule when we predicted Nevada last month, and stuck with Catherine Cortez Masto. Had we done so, we would have swept all 35 Senate races without a blemish. Warnock is the incumbent here, and this race,
right now, is not as close as Nevada.
From this vantage point, we believe tomorrow will be the
last day of Hershel Walker’s political career.
Just in case you are a first-time reader, here are a few interesting links for you:
How we did in our Election Day predictions (spoiler alert: quite well):
· Our predictions for the Georgia January, 2021 runoffs (we picked the Dems to win both):
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