A week of early voting on a disputed runoff between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican opponent Herschel Walker began Saturday in nearly two dozen counties across the state, thanks to a Georgia Supreme Court ruling.
Recent polls commissioned by AARP show Warnock has a four-point lead over Donald Trump-backed Walker ahead of the Dec. 6 election.
The Fabrizio and Associates poll found Warnock supported 51% of respondents – the first time Warnock received a majority this year – compared to 47% for Walker. That’s more than the 49.4% of the vote Warnock received in the first campaign on November 8th.
The poll found that black voters and voters under 50 were particularly supportive of Warnock, as well as growing support from independents.
A week after the election, Warnock’s campaign sued Georgia over its Election Integrity Act, which restricted early voting on Saturdays after Thanksgiving. The day after Thanksgiving is also a Georgia state holiday, originally commemorating Robert E. Lee, Confederate Civil War general.
State law allows counties to begin early voting “as soon as possible” after the state confirms the results of the general election, with a mandatory deadline of Nov. 28 to Dec. 2. On Wednesday, the Georgia Supreme Court allowed an early vote.
The stakes are still high in this year’s runoff, even though Democrats won 50 Senate seats on Nov. 8.
For Democrats, a Warnock victory would mean securing an outright majority in the US Senate, allowing them to control the majority of committees and making it easier for Joe Biden’s appointments to move forward.
It would also give Democratic lawmakers more certainty when it comes to passing legislation and allow them to rely less on conforming to more conservative Democrats like Senators Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who repeatedly blocked laws.
Most recently, Manchin’s opposition played a crucial role in shaping the Inflation Reduction Act, a comprehensive $739 billion domestic spending and climate protection package signed in August after negotiations. Still, Congress remains divided as Republicans have seized control of the US House of Representatives.
Federal Election Commission filings show Warnock’s campaign has more than $29 million in cash ahead of the runoff, three times more than Walker’s ($9.8 million). Ad-tracking firm AdImpact found that Democratic-aligned groups pumped $25 million into television ads for the runoff, while Republican groups spent $16 million.
While other Republican allies have rallied behind Walker and Republican groups like the Senate Leadership Fund have spent more than $10 million since the general election, Trump has not announced a trip to Georgia to support Walker.
Trump’s standing within the Republican Party has taken a hit since the midterm elections, when the Democrats fared better than expected, holding the Senate and keeping the Republicans in the House of Representatives to just a slim majority. Candidates supported by Trump, in particular, mostly performed poorly.
Walker deflected when asked about Trump’s endorsement, telling Fox Business, “This is not Trump’s race. This is Herschel Walker’s race.”
Barack Obama plans to travel to Atlanta next week to speak at a rally in support of Warnock. Biden has yet to announce a trip.