Georgia Democrats are predicting disastrous results if Sen. Raphael Warnock loses to challenger Herschel Walker this fall and Republicans regain control of Capitol Hill.
“They are going to take away our democratic rights one after another,” longtime MK Nan Orrock warned supporters at a birthday party for the senator, who turned 53 on July 23. “Failure,” she said, “is not an option.”
Warnock took a different approach.
“I work with anyone to do something good for the people of Georgia,” he told the same crowd, pointing to a trio of Republican senators with whom he has reached legislative agreements. Warnock mentioned President Joe Biden’s name only once and only referred to the “President of the United States” several other times, trying to distinguish himself from Biden – and the rising tide. inflation that marked his tenure.
Present for his first full term in the Senate, Warnock presents himself as a senator ready to do whatever it takes to help his state. It’s a change from his approach in what were second-round nationwide campaigns won by Warnock and fellow Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff in January 2021, giving their party control of the Senate two months after the election. election of Biden as president.
Now, with inflation on the rise and Biden’s popularity on the decline, Warnock needs a more nuanced argument, and he’s selling his work in Washington, especially on the economy, as something separate from the White House. and the Senate Democratic leadership.
Republicans sense an opportunity in a state they dominated for two decades before 2020. Walker, a first-time candidate like Warnock was two years ago, is pulling out all the stops to shape the contest as a referendum on what his campaign calls the “Biden-Warnock agenda.”
“It’s still a national race,” said Gail Gitcho, Walker’s senior adviser. “The burden is on Raphael Warnock and the extremely close ties he has with Joe Biden in that environment. Herschel has put him on the defensive.
Warnock’s strategy of touting his “bipartisan” credentials and letting other Democrats attack Republicans and rally party loyalists may be the incumbent’s only chance to recreate his second-round coalition. In this election, Democrats were united and enthusiastic; Republicans were not, especially the pro-GOP moderates whom then-President Donald Trump alienated with his lies that Biden’s victory was fraudulent. Some of those voters helped Warnock win his 94,000 votes by a 2% margin. This time, Warnock can’t rely on Trump to nudge those key voters in his direction.
Attracting them again begins by not directly dignifying Republican attacks.
Asked about Walker’s broadsides, Warnock ignored specifics and lamented “demagogues trying to divide us.”
He pivoted again when asked about Biden’s performance. “I’m focused on the job I’m doing,” Warnock said. “When it means standing with that person or that person, it’s based on what that does for Georgia.”
Even on the president’s accomplishments, Warnock eschews partisan cheerleaders. He hailed the US bailout, a coronavirus relief package passed without any Republican votes, for its tax cuts for low-income workers. He praised a long-sought infrastructure bill as a “bipartisan” success that included the “Cruz-Warnock Amendment.”
“Listen to me now,” Warnock said with a laugh as some of his supporters mocked Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. The two men, Warnock explained, wanted to make the eastward expansion of Interstate 14 — now just a short stretch in central Texas — a federal priority. Because a Senate committee hadn’t approved the idea, the unlikely partners had to work with the entire Senate.
The amendment is adopted unanimously.
“Guess what: the highway that goes through Texas also goes through Georgia,” Warnock said. “It goes through red districts and blue districts. … Everyone should be able to get where they need to go.
Warnock noted other efforts with Republican Sens. Tommy Tuberville from Alabama and Marco Rubio from Florida. With Tuberville, he spearheaded a measure that would open European markets to peanut growers in their two states. With Rubio, he worked on legislation to improve maternal mortality rates in the United States.
Tuberville is a staunch ally of Trump. Rubio came to Georgia to campaign against Warnock at the start of the second-round campaign. Warnock did not mention those details.
As for the uneven economy, Warnock notably referred to “global inflation” while avoiding Biden.
He noted his work on a jobs and technology measure, which cleared the Senate on Wednesday with 17 Republican votes. The bill, which aims to boost computer chip production in the United States, would strengthen supply chains and expand domestic technology production, among other investments, Warnock said.
The senator highlighted his proposals to cap insulin costs for people with diabetes and allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices from pharmaceutical companies. He reminded his supporters that he called on Congress to suspend the federal gasoline tax in February, at the start of the 2022 energy price spike.
“Somebody must have listened,” Warnock said, because the Republican administration in Georgia suspended the state gas tax in March and “the President of the United States has now publicly stated that we should suspend the nationwide gasoline tax.
Warnock reminded reporters that he came out strong when Biden’s budget plans called for the closure of the Pentagon’s combat readiness center in Savannah. “I stood up against the administration” and “a terrible idea,” Warnock said, taking a stance that aligns him with Republicans on the state’s congressional delegation.
Additionally, he said he was “pushing the President of the United States right now” on student loan forgiveness for certain borrowers. Biden’s Department of Education has already relaxed some rules on debt repayment, and the president is still considering a more general forgiveness up to a cap. The White House said a decision on the amount could be made in August.
In Walker’s camp, Gitcho is relishing the idea of Warnock reenacting scenes from the two-month runoff blitz, when Biden twice visited Georgia and shared scenes with Warnock and Ossoff. “The best substitute Warnock could have,” she said of the beleaguered president. “But we know that’s not going to happen.”
Instead, Warnock seems ready to carefully brandish his party credentials. In fundraising solicitations and online advertisements, Warnock says he’s “running to keep Georgia blue.” But the campaign is targeting those reliable Democratic voters.
Standing in front of birthday cakes and candles, the senator fondly recalled his runoff victory and thanked the Georgians who “gave us the narrowest majority.”
“Think what would have happened if it had been the other way around,” he admitted. But at his crescendo 15 minutes later, the Baptist minister went bigger – and perhaps to a potentially game-changing midfield.
“We are one nation,” he said, his voice rising. “We are one people. And in November, Georgia will do it again.
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