Sunday, November 13, 2022


Election analysts have called the Nevada Senate race for Catherine Cortez Masto, which gives Democrats fifty seats and continued control of the Senate. One contest remains: the Georgia runoff between Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker, who were essentially tied, at just under 50%, after Tuesday's voting.

Who has the advantage in the runoff? My first thought was that Democrats will be less motivated now that they know their party has Senate control. Because the Republican red wave never happened, it will be hard to turn out moderates and occasional voters with the argument that democracy is on the line. Republicans will want a little revenge after being shellacked, so that might motivate them to turn out.

Or is it the other way around? Will Republicans be too demoralized to care about the outcome? Will politically engaged Republicans be too angry about the party's midterm failures to show up again? That's possible. And the Georgia Democratic Party is good at turnout (though not good enough to prevent total control of state government by the GOP).

One argument I'm seeing is that Republicans won't be motivated to turn out for Walker because he's a flawed candidate. I think that's projecting our view of Walker onto GOP voters. In Marist's final poll of the race, which accurately predicted that the two candidates would end up in a tie, Walker had a 40% favorable rating and a 48% unfavorable rating -- not great, but not much worse than Warnock's 46%/45% rating. Among likely voters, Walker's numbers were 46%/47%. (Warnock's were 49%/47%.) Among Republicans, Walker had a 79% favorable rating -- notably lower than Warnock's 93% rating among Democrats, but still overwhelmingly positive.

Look at the way Republican voters have always viewed Trump. They haven't seen him as morally flawed or unintelligent or ineffective. Maybe that's changing now, but we saw in the 2016 that scandal didn't hurt him -- particularly with evangelical Christian voters. It's as if those voters decide who's a Christian and then dismiss any words or deeds that don't seem consistent with Christianity as noise rather than data. I think they feel this way about Walker, too -- when they're told about sins, they simply assume he's repented (or Trump has repented) and God has forgiven him. And besides, Democrats are evil!

So I worry about Democratic motivation with less on the line than there was in the January 2021 Senate runoffs, though Democrats might be eager to give the party a cushion. And I agree that Republicans might be too angry at their own party to vote -- but they're usually too angry at Democrats not to vote. So I'd say the race is a tossup.

The person who could help decide this race is Rupert Murdoch. We know he wants to crush Donald Trump and anoint Ron DeSantis as the 2024 presidential nominee. With that goal in mind, he should be using Fox News and his other media properties to help defeat Herschel Walker. The mainstream and Murdoch media have settled on a midterm narrative that says Trumpism hurt the party -- voters rejected election denialists (even though plenty of denialists won downballot races) and voters also rejected Trump's handpicked candidates. A Warnock win wouldn't change the balance of power, while a Walker win would undermine the argument that it's bad for the GOP to leave the job of candidate selection to Trump.

If I were Murdoch, I'd order a ban on Walker cheerleading by Fox's on-air personalities, particularly Walker's biggest media backer, Sean Hannity. I'd demand reports on Walker's scandals.

But I doubt Fox will do that. The long-term goal is Trump's downfall, but the short-term goal is always giving the rabid base what it wants. So Fox will root for Waker to win. And, regrettably, he still might.

FINAL THOUGHT: I agree with the conventional wisdom about Trump announcing a presidential run before the Georgia runoff: It would help Warnock. We'll see whether Trump can be talked into waiting.

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