Georgians cast 3.5 million ballots in the Senate runoff, including 1.9 million early and absentee ballots and 1.6 million votes on Election Day. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office said more Election Day votes were cast in the runoff than on Election Day in the general election.
That should have equaled a win for Herschel Walker, according to Republican estimates on Monday that suggested turnout of just one million Election Day votes would be enough for him to cancel Senator Raphael Warnock’s (D-GA) early vote lead. Instead, Warnock won 1.8 million total votes and Walker 1.7 million — 51.37 percent to 48.63 percent, according to unofficial results.
“This race was really, really, a unicorn,” Georgia Faith and Freedom Coalition Executive Director Mack Parnell said Thursday on The John Fredericks Radio Show.
Parnell said that although Walker improved his performance in parts of northern Georgia where he got fewer votes than Republican Governor Brian Kemp in the November election, Warnock improved his margins in the rest of the state. Even still, Walker’s runoff turnout was about 90 percent of his general election turnout, a high level that consultants consider “almost unheard of,” Parnell told The Georgia Star.
In the runoff, Warnock’s huge fundraising allowed him to air an attack ad focused on Walker’s struggles with domestic abuse. That reveals two of the problems Walker faced, according to Parnell.
“For a small segment of the Georgia electorate, you know a suburban-type voter, it just made Herschel Walker unpalatable, even though policy-wise, they more strongly identified with Herschel Walker’s policies. Just, the personality and the character mud that was thrown, the $120 million on that one ad, that was just not able to be overcome,” Parnell said.
Parnell said that conservatives did turn out, and that the reelection of Kemp, “the most conservative governor in the history of our state,” shows Georgians do vote for conservative politicians. Parnell identified four essential GOP factions: Libertarian-inclined voters, social conservatives, business conservatives, and suburbanites that lean conservative on fiscal policy.
He said, “You have to be able to have the policies that appeal to those other bases of the conservative movement, but at the same time, be the type of person that people can be vocally supportive of, rather than having to worry, ‘What are my friends going to think, that I’m voting for this guy?”
Warnock’s ability to attract very large amounts of cash made him a “unicorn” candidate, Parnell said, and disguised Warnock’s own strong fundraising performance.
“I don’t really have an answer for how to match $175 million in a Senate race in Georgia, because that’s almost incomprehensible that it’s possible,” he said, calling for conservative-sympathetic donors in big tech to counter spending from their Democrat-favoring counterparts.
Although Stacy Abrams out-spent Kemp in the governor’s race, Kemp kept the race focused on policy, while Warnock made the race about personality, Parnell said.
Before early voting was over, some Republicans began criticizing national Republicans and the Walker team for not embracing early voting after Walker had a two-day head start of early voting in mainly Democrat-favoring counties, while Republican-favoring counties opted for a later early vote start date. The election result is giving fuel to Republicans who are calling for a new focus on early voting and boosting turnout by all legal means, a reaction to traditional Republican skepticism of early and absentee voting.
Parnell said, “Even if you just take your foot off the accelerator of saying those things are bad, because the damage was done from a lot of people saying, ‘You can’t do this.’ And even some people talking about machines, or whatever the issues are, that’s not going to fly, because that’s going to discourage people from voting.”
“This is the cards that were dealt. You know, we have early voting, we have absentee voting, and if conservatives want to be competitive, you have to use the avenues that are legally available,” he said.
Parnell also called for conservative pastors to engage in politics more.
“Liberal pastors are zero percent afraid to engage in the political process. We’re called to be salt and light in every area of our lives. And so, some of the conservative movement’s got to realize that politics plays a role in our culture,” he said.
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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Raphael Warnock” by Raphael Warnock. Photo “Herschel Walker” by Herschel Walker. Background Photo “Voting Booths” by Tim Evanson. CC BY-SA 2.0.