Obama rallies for Warnock ahead of high-stakes Georgia Senate runoff

Former President Barack Obama speaks in support of Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., during a rally on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Former President Obama stumped for Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) on Thursday night to offer the senator a last-minute boost ahead of his consequential Georgia runoff against Republican Herschel Walker.

Warnock and Walker are facing off against each other for a second time this cycle in the Georgia Senate race after neither one was able to notch the 50 percent of the votes needed to avoid a December runoff election. While the November midterms have already solidified a Democratic majority in the Senate, Obama’s visit in Atlanta was meant to gin up enthusiasm among Democrats in an election that could help solidify the party’s Senate majority and have implications for their 2024 Senate map.

“If we want real progress, if we want lasting progress, we can’t be satisfied with one victory, because victories are always incomplete. History doesn’t just move in a straight line. It moves sideways, sometimes it moves backwards when we’re not vigilant, when we’re not working. So we can’t allow ourselves to get tired,” Obama told the crowd.

Obama and Warnock reminded Georgians of Democrats’ track record in the Senate, pointing to legislation passed over the summer aimed at boosting the domestic semiconductor industry and scientific research, the bipartisan infrastructure legislation passed last year, the Senate confirmation of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson — the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court — and a gun package passed earlier this year.

“Some folks are asking, ‘Well, if Democrats already have control of the Senate, why does this matter? What’s the difference between 50 and 51? The answer is a lot,” Obama said.

“Let me break down for you: An extra senator gives Democrats more breathing room on important bills. It prevents one person from holding up everything. And it also puts us in a better position a couple of years from now when you’ve got another election, but the Senate map is going to be tilted in the favor of Republicans,” he added.

The former president also nodded to the issue of abortion, which galvanized voters last month amid suggestions from Democrats that a Republican Senate majority would look to impose a national ban on the medical procedure.

The stakes of the Georgia Senate runoff are high, as indicated by the fact that it’s broken records on campaign spending this election cycle and drawn out energized voters on both sides. Republicans are eager to see a win after many of their Senate candidates in battleground states underperformed their expectations and as they look to keep a possible 50-50 Senate power sharing agreement in play. 

But in a midterm environment that theoretically should have offered tailwinds to Republican candidates, Walker is now forced to contend with several obstacles in the runoff: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) won’t be on the ballot this time, and the Senate majority remains in Democratic hands. 

Still, Warnock is no stranger to runoff races, and the December election poses some of the same challenges for his campaign, including possible voter fatigue over having to vote a second time and concerns that some Democratic voters may be weary of voting again given that the majority has already been decided. 

And as Walker’s campaign sees surrogates come out to spark GOP enthusiasm among Republican voters, including figures like Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, Obama is seeking to do the same with Democrats.

“I’m here to tell you that we can’t let up,” the former president said.

“We can’t be complacent. We have to run through the tape,” he added. “And that means all of us doing our part to make sure that Raphael Warrnock goes back to being the United States Senator from the great state of Georgia.”

Tags Barack Obama Herschel Walker Obama Raphael Warnock Raphael Warnock

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