Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock launched an ad on Thursday, that might confuse you at first.
The ad opens on Donald Trump’s 2024 presidential announcement earlier this week — and in particular his support for Warnock’s Republican opponent in the Georgia Senate second round, Herschel Walker.
“We all have to work very hard for a gentleman and wonderful person named Herschel Walker, a wonderful human being who loves our country and will be a great United States Senator,” Trump said.
As Trump continues to speak, six words appear on the screen to close the ad: “Stop Donald Trump. Stop Herschel Walker.
And that’s it. That’s the whole ad.
It’s, simply put, what Republicans have been openly concerned about — and why even many of those close to Trump wanted him to delay his campaign announcement beyond the Dec. 6 runoff between Warnock and Walker.
“I don’t think President Trump should announce his run tonight,” South Carolina GOP Senator Lindsey Graham said Tuesday before Trump’s speech. “I think most people at the conference would rather not have President Trump announce tonight.”
Looking at the midterm elections, it’s clear that Trump and the election-denying candidates he pushed to GOP nominations were a drag on the party’s overall performance.
Only 39% of midterm voters viewed Trump favorably, while 58% viewed him unfavorably, according to national exit polls. Another 28% said their vote for House was to show opposition to Trump, while only 16% said it was to show support for him.
That margin was smaller in Georgia in particular. Among voters in the first round of the Senate race, more said they voted against Trump (24%) than they supported him (19%), exit polls show. That’s remarkable because 48% of Georgia Senate voters said they would vote for Trump in 2020, while 43% said they would vote for Joe Biden. (Biden won the state by less than 12,000 votes.)
Warnock’s strategy to turn the race into an outright referendum on Trump has two goals:
1) The democratic basis in the state. Much of the job of a runoff election sandwiched between Thanksgiving and Christmas is getting the people who are already ahead of you to the polls. As demonstrated over the past several election cycles, Trump is a huge motivator for Democratic voters.
2) The suburbs of Atlanta. In the general election, Walker took 49% of the suburban vote, compared to 48% for Warnock, according to the exit polls. Warnock is betting that linking Walker to Trump so directly will be a turn-off for swinging suburban voters.
The point: Warnock’s decision to nationalize this race around Trump tells you that he believes the former president is a net negative in the state, and will act as an anchor for Walker’s bid to get a majority of the vote.