Republicans fight from behind on runoff day in Georgia: The Note

For all the talk of lessons learned, history seems to be repeating.

December 6, 2022, 6:00 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

For all the talk of lessons learned, the final contest of 2022 is looking a bit like the election that just happened a month ago -- if not the ones that happened a shade under two years ago in the same state.

Democrats come into Election Day in Georgia's Senate runoff with a significant edge driven by record-breaking early voting days that saw more than 1.8 million people already cast ballots. According to the Democratic data firm TargetSmart, that has powered a bigger edge than Democrats had going into the first round of voting last month, when Sen. Raphael Warnock ultimately topped GOP challenger Herschel Walker by nearly 40,000 votes.

Republicans, again, are banking on day-of voting. Walker has been less of an active campaign presence in the runoff than his rival, and his messaging about being a check on Democrats in Washington has barely changed.

"Turnout, turnout, turnout," Walker told ABC's Lalee Ibssa on Monday. "I think a vote for Warnock is a vote for these failed policies. A vote for me is a better coming."

Not much has changed on the Democratic side, either. The turnout machine whirled into action for Warnock, fueled by a campaign stop by former President Barack Obama and more indirect help from President Joe Biden, who did not visit the state during the runoff period.

"If you think about the midterms that just occurred, the president played a big role here," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Monday. "He set the narrative on how Democrats were going to move forward."

Then there's former President Donald Trump. He didn't visit the state either, though he phoned into a closing rally Monday night, and his announcement of another campaign for the White House -- and the controversial conduct and statements that quickly followed -- amounted to the biggest political news outside of Georgia over the last month.

That, too, has happened before. Democrats won both Senate runoffs on Jan. 5, 2021 -- a day before the assault on the Capitol that grew out of Trump's false statements about his November 2020 loss.

PHOTO: Georgia Republican senate candidate Herschel Walker signs autograph for a supporter during a campaign stop, Dec. 5, 2022, in Flowery Branch, Georgia.
Georgia Republican senate candidate Herschel Walker signs autograph for a supporter during a campaign stop, Dec. 5, 2022, in Flowery Branch, Georgia.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

The RUNDOWN with Alisa Wiersema

The stakes in Tuesday's runoff are particularly salient for Democrats who are not only hoping to solidify their Senate majority for immediate legislative purposes but are also aiming to cement their gains in a longtime Republican stronghold before the next election cycle. 

Even though Democrats already clinched the majority until 2024, winning a 51st seat would offer greater room for negotiation given that key Democratic priorities -- including filibuster reform -- have been stalled due to holdouts from within their own party.

The additional seat would also allow Senate Democrats to depart from current power-sharing committee agreements. In a 50-50 chamber, both parties hold an even split of partisan representation on committees, but if Warnock keeps his seat, his fellow senators would be able to hold committee majorities. This dynamic would open the door for Democrats to be better equipped to steer the course of future judicial and executive nominations.  

Although the runoff will determine the next six years of one federal seat in a newly established battleground, the looming specter of 2024's uncertainties and potentially tough political calendar also means that party leaders are paying close attention to how their decks are stacked ahead of time. 

For Democrats, 2024 is already set to bring challenges on the Senate map given that blue seats in the Republican-leaning states of Montana, Ohio and West Virginia will be in play. That tough campaign forecast is also likely to be amplified by the simultaneous presidential campaign cycle, which perennially heightens voter engagement and turnout on both sides of the aisle across the ballot. 

PHOTO: Reverend Raphael Warnock speaks during a midterm runoff election rally at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Dec. 5, 2022.
Reverend Raphael Warnock speaks during a midterm runoff election rally at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Dec. 5, 2022.
Cheney Orr/Reuters

The TIP with Hannah Demissie

Katie Hobbs, Arizona's Democratic secretary of state and governor-elect, on Monday certified the state's election results following this year's consequential midterm race. 

Arizona was ground zero for election-denying candidates and, because of that, where many said democracy could be in danger. In the statewide races for Senate, governor, secretary of state and attorney general, all the Republican nominees denied the legitimacy of the 2020 election. 

But following Republican losses in every major statewide race except for attorney general, for which ABC News has not projected a winner and which is heading to a recount, it seems that some conservatives in the state are looking forward. 

"There's no better place in the nation to build a successful life [than in Arizona]. Let us remember this as we certify the election and begin this next chapter," outgoing Republican Gov. Doug Ducey said during the ceremony.  

During the certification, Hobbs spoke on how she felt democracy was protected in this year's election from election-deniers, like her opponent Kari Lake, who hasn't conceded, and how the same would need to be done in 2024. 

"Arizona had a successful election. But too often throughout the process, powerful voices proliferated misinformation that threatened to disenfranchise voters," Hobbs said. "Democracy prevailed, but it's not out of the woods."   

PHOTO: Arizona Democrat governor-elect and current Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs speaks prior to certifying the Arizona general election canvass in a ceremony at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix, Dec. 5, 2022.
Arizona Democrat governor-elect and current Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs speaks prior to certifying the Arizona general election canvass in a ceremony at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix, Dec. 5, 2022.
Ross D. Franklin/AP

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. "Start Here" begins Tuesday morning with ABC's Terry Moran on the Supreme Court case of a business owner challenging Colorado's anti-discrimination law because she doesn't support same-sex marriage. Then ABC's Patrick Reevell details where the war stands now that Ukrainian drones appear to have hit two Russian bases. And, ABC's Lalee Ibssa breaks down details on the Georgia Senate runoff election. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • At 9:25 a.m. ET, President Biden will depart the White House en route to Maricopa County, Arizona, where he will visit a semiconductor manufacturing facility being built by the Taiwanese company TSMC. He's scheduled to deliver remarks at the facility at 4 p.m. ET.

Download the ABC News app and select "The Note" as an item of interest to receive the day's sharpest political analysis.

The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the day's top stories in politics. Please check back Wednesday for the latest.

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