On Tuesday, Nov. 15, Trump is expected to launch his 2024 presidential bid. By that time, the stakes for Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoff will officially be winner-take-all: majority control of the chamber and, with the GOP’s success in the U.S. House elections, the entire legislative branch.
Enter Trump the narcissist, armed with six months’ worth of pent-up toxic rhetoric for Georgians. What better way to launch a White House run than to use his influence to drive Republican turnout and help the party win back the Senate?
Trump is indeed a powerful force in Georgia elections — one likely to backfire on the GOP and lift Warnock, not Trump’s pal Herschel Walker, to runoff victory.
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If success in a general election race comes down to political platform and who shows up, winning a runoff is entirely about turnout. All the campaign points have been made. All the other races are settled. Whichever candidate gets more of his voters to the polls wins.
Nothing impacts Georgia Democratic voter turnout more than the Trump effect.
What is the Trump effect?
Look at the Nov. 8 results. With Trump all but ignoring the Georgia election and focusing his energies in other states, such as Ohio, Georgia Republicans swept all state government leadership positions as Democratic turnout sagged.
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In the May GOP primary, Georgians of all political stripes took Republican ballots — Georgia is an open primary state — to repudiate Trump’s handpicked candidates. Only two of seven advanced to the general. Walker, a beloved football star, would have won the primary nod regardless of Trump’s endorsement.
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In the 2020 Senate runoffs, Trump’s post-election fraud claims and campaigning for Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler boosted Democratic turnout. Trump also suppressed the GOP vote as his followers avoided the polls after the then-president told them their vote didn’t matter amidst his “Big Lie” claims.
In the November 2020 general election, a record number of Georgians turned out to vote Democrat in November 2020, propelling Joe Biden to the first Democratic presidential win in the state this century.
They need a villain
Trump is just what a flat-lining Democrat such as Warnock needs to rally casual voters. They need a villain. Not that Walker didn’t try to mimic Trump, with all the name-calling, issue flip-flopping, race-baiting and belittling of women, transgender Georgians and those suffering from mental illness.
But to the barely engaged, maybe-I’ll-go-vote citizen, Walker is Dr. Evil to Trump’s Darth Vader — both are repulsive, but Walker warrants a mere eye-roll, not a sprint to the nearest polling station.
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The same goes for the nearly 100,000 Georgians who did cast ballots on Nov. 8. Instead of giving Walker the Trump treatment and voting for the Democratic opponent, 80,000 went for the Libertarian candidate, and another 18,000 left the boxes next to the U.S. Senate candidates’ names blank.
If 23,000 of those voters go for Warnock, there is no runoff. Asked those Georgians to cast ballots again on Dec. 6, with just the one race on the ticket, how many will go to the trouble? You might need to take your shoes off to count the number, but you won’t need a calculator.
Trump, though, changes the math. Once he becomes Walker’s outspoken champion, it becomes 2020 all over again. Trump is back on the ballot. Nearly half-a-million more Georgians participated in the 2020 Senate runoffs than did the Nov. 8 election. More than 300,000 of those 2020 runoff voters went for Warnock against Loeffler, who was a lousy candidate but not a mean-spirited, loathsome human being like Walker.
Such is the power of the Trump effect. He turns out Georgians better than fresh doughnuts at Krispy Kreme. Come 9 p.m. Tuesday, when Trump launches his presidential bid, Warnock’s campaign can flip on the “hot now” light.
Adam Van Brimmer is a deputy editor and opinion columnist at the Savannah Morning News, where this column originally ran. Contact Van Brimmer at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @SavannahOpinion.
Story Credit: usatoday.com