As Election Night 2022 unfolded, it was looking for all the world like we would witness a replay of the 2020 cycle, when Democrats pulled off a pair of last-minute runoff victories in Georgia weeks after the regular election to pull into a 50-50 tie and seize effective control of the Senate. This time around, it appeared Adam Laxalt and the GOP were going to flip the seat held by Democrats in Nevada and pull into a 50-49 seat lead, thus making control of the upper chamber of Congress hinge once more on the outcome in the Peach State.
Here we go again, went the narrative. The stage was set for another dramatic showdown in Georgia. But of course, that was not to be, so there is an understandable tendency to brush off the importance of the Senate race that concludes today, after early voting began days ago, replete with long lines. Incumbent Raphael Warnock will try to hold off rookie candidate and football hero Herschel Walker for a second time — he finished one point and 38,000 votes ahead of him in the regular election — and turn a 50-50 split into a true Democratic majority in the upper chamber. Georgia’s famously arcane law — Louisiana is the only other state that maintains the practice — calls for a head-to-head runoff if no candidate reaches 50%+1, the reason for this second vote.
Georgia Off Their Mind
Republicans, already smarting from the seemingly inexplicable victory of seriously addled Democrat John Fetterman in Pennsylvania, have no doubt been left dazed and confused by their loss of the Senate and unanticipated struggle to win the House. And GOP voters in Georgia will no doubt be fighting both disappointment and complacency as they are asked to vote for the second time in less than a month for a controversial candidate who already finished behind his opponent once.
To what extent have these combatants helped or hurt themselves in the month-long runoff campaign? Recent reports indicating Walker has taken an inordinate amount of time off the campaign trail do not bode well for the GOP, nor does the fact that Warnock has led in all six polls conducted since Election Day — by between two and five points, just inside the margin of error. “I think a lot of Republicans are hoping we’ll be pleasantly surprised, but there aren’t a lot of indications out there to base that on,” Jason Shepherd, former chair of the Cobb County GOP, told Politico. “Just a lot of hope and faith in things unseen. It’s the Christmas season, after all.”
Now, lest you think otherwise because Democrats are already assured of continuing effective control of half of Congress, there is more than just pride at stake in today’s election. For starters, while the all-important committee chairs who set the agendas will continue to be Democrats, in a 50-50 chamber committee membership is also evenly split, unlike when an actual majority exists. That could be the difference in certain judicial appointments, which represent the gift that will keep on giving to the White House in controlling the Senate. Two more years of clear sailing for Biden’s nominees will profoundly impact the federal judiciary, especially since Biden has already appointed more judges at this point in his administration than any president except John F. Kennedy.
But beyond the immediate impact of at least maintaining a fully balanced Senate is how this seat in Georgia could affect the composition of the Senate in 2024 when Republicans will be blessed with a highly favorable landscape, featuring eight vulnerable Democratic incumbents — three running in heavily red states, and five others in battleground states Joe Biden won by slim margins. Democrats will need all the help they can get in staving off minority status. Having the extra margin provided by the seat in Georgia could in the end prove crucial — for both parties.
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