The five people with most at stake in Georgia’s Senate runoff

Associated Press/Patrick Semansky

Incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) and Republican challenger Herschel Walker are gearing up for Tuesday’s runoff election in Georgia, the last remaining Senate race to be called almost a month after the midterm elections.

The race shifted into a runoff after neither candidate notched the required majority of votes on Nov. 8.

While observers will be watching with bated breath to see which candidate Georgia voters decide to send to Washington, the runoff also holds high stakes for a number of figures outside the Peach State.

Here are the five people with most at stake in the race.

President Biden

Biden had an undeniably good night on Nov. 8. He’s now hoping to continue his winning streak on Tuesday.

A Warnock win in Georgia would expand Democrats’ Senate majority, bumping them up from a 50-50 split to a 51-49 one and giving the party some breathing room in the upper chamber. 

An expanded majority would further buck the historical precedent of a sitting president’s party losing out in the midterms and give Biden more bragging rights as the 2024 presidential election cycle kicks off. 

The president hasn’t formally announced another bid for the White House but has long insisted that he intends to run. Seeing former President Trump’s traction slip in this year’s midterms could encourage Biden to get in the ring, and being able to boast of stronger-than-expected midterm results could be a help on the campaign trail.

A bigger Senate majority would also ease Biden’s process of getting his judicial nominees confirmed and getting Democratic priorities through the upper chamber. Senate Democrats have been able to ease up during the lame-duck session before the next Congress convenes, assured they’ll still be in power come January.

Former President Trump

A Walker loss in Tuesday’s runoff would be a notable blow to Trump, who hand-picked the ex-NFL star and stumped hard for him in the state.

Trump is already facing questions about his waning influence over the GOP as he mounts his third bid for the White House. 

A number of the former president’s favored endorsees lost out in key races across the country on Election Day, and many in the GOP pointed fingers at the former president for the party’s overall disappointing midterm results. 

While hoping for a red wave, Republicans failed to take over the Senate and won a slimmer-than-expected House majority. 

On the other hand, a Walker win in the Georgia race would keep the Democrats where they are with just 50 seats, plus the tiebreaker vote from Vice President Harris — and would likely be touted by Trump as an upset victory that would put wind in his sails.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)

Even though Democrats have enough seats to control the Senate, Georgia’s runoff could either hand Schumer a much-needed 51st vote — and with it the power of a real majority — or more of the same headaches from the past two years.

A win for Warnock would mean a single Democratic senator would no longer necessarily be able to derail the party’s legislative goals, relieving some of the pressure on the entire party. Democrats’ Senate ambitions have so far hinged on Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who have held up legislation around spending, voting rights and climate change.

With a 51st Democratic seat, the party also wouldn’t need to rely on a tiebreaker vote from Harris, and it could clear the path for reconciliation bills that only require 50 votes.

A real majority in the Senate would also ensure Democrats a firmer hand on committees. A Warnock win would give Democrats at least one more member on each committee than Republicans, tipping the scale for Democrats to pass partisan nominees and push forward Biden’s agenda. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

No matter the results of Georgia’s runoff election, McConnell will be the minority leader after fellow Republican senators voted to give another term in the top role last month. But that one uncalled seat is the difference between McConnell keeping some grip on the chamber and having to relinquish more power to Schumer.

For one, a 50-50 Senate would mean Schumer and McConnell would still need to negotiate on a power-sharing agreement. Committees would continue to be evenly split between the two parties, creating extra steps when a vote is tied and a time-consuming, and potentially futile, process to advance legislation or presidential nominations to the full Senate. That power dynamic goes out the window if Warnock wins his seat.

A win from Walker, however, would not only allow McConnell to hold more sway despite being in the minority, but it would give his party a morale boost after a dispiriting midterm cycle.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.)

Scott, who chairs the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, was optimistic about his party’s midterm prospects but ultimately called the results a “complete disappointment” for the GOP.

Republican Sens. Thom Tillis (N.C.) and Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.) last month called for an audit of Scott’s National Republican Senatorial Committee over some spending concerns as the party reckons with its midterm losses.

A Walker win could alleviate some of the bruising Scott and the campaign arm suffered last month, especially as the ambitious Florida Republican eyes a potential White House run.

A Walker loss, though, could further worsen things for Scott as he comes under scrutiny from fellow GOP members over his role amid tensions with McConnell, who has ties to a super PAC that pledged millions to boost Walker.

Scott campaigned for Walker in Georgia as the anti-abortion Republican weathered reports that he allegedly paid a former girlfriend to have an abortion, saying he was “proud to stand” with Walker’s campaign.

Tags Barack Obama Charles Schumer Donald Trump Georgia Georgia Senate runoff Herschel Walker Herschel Walker Herschel Walker Joe Biden Raphael Warnock Raphael Warnock Rick Scott Rick Scott Runoff Schumer Senate Warnock

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