Outsmarted financially as Democrats dominate the early vote, Herschel Walker’s Georgia Senate campaign on Thursday begged donors to put up more money due to growing sentiment from Senator Raphael Warnock.
“Simply put, we are outnumbered 3 to 1 by Warnock, and we are outnumbered almost 2 to 1 by outside groups. We need help,” Walker campaign manager Scott Paradise wrote in the memo sent to donors Thursday, which was obtained by NBC News ahead of Tuesday’s second round.
The memo calculates that Warnock and the Democratic groups backing him have spent and pledged a combined $92 million since the November election, compared to the $45 million saved by Walker and his Republican allies.
While urgent calls for last-minute fundraising are a staple of any campaign in the last days, the sense of concern underlying Paradise’s plea is supported by data and concerns from fellow Republicans who suggest that the election in Warnock’s favour.
Polling has been relatively sparse during the second round. Most surveys show Warnock ahead of Walker – albeit by an amount that falls within the margin of error – so the race could be statistically tied. The proximity of the race is emphasized in Paradise’s memo, which calls the contest “winnable” — but only if Republicans, who outnumber Democrats in the state, prove to be in force.
However, so far the opposite is happening. Democrats dominate the early vote, and more Republicans are publicly expressing doubts about Walker, who has been beset by news articles and Democratic ads that raise questions about his character, honesty and eligibility for office.
Republican former Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan, an anti-Trump Republican, said he waited in line for an hour to enter the early voting polling place, but ultimately did not vote because “the Republican Party deserves better than Herschel Walker.”
John Cowan, a Republican who unsuccessfully ran against Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene in 2020, described the GOP vote as “frankly not good” in a text message.
“There’s not a lot of energy here for Walker,” Cowan said, adding, “The current voter turnout favors the Democrats. We’ll see what next Tuesday looks like.”
As of Wednesday morning, early ballots cast by Democratic voters statewide outnumbered Republican ballots by 21 percentage points. Democratic data company whose research did not challenge Walker’s campaign.
Tom Bonier, the CEO of TargetSmart, said part of the reason for the Democrats’ relative advantage now is that major metropolitan counties voted early over the weekend, while Republican counties did not. But, he said, GOP turnout in rural counties with many Republicans is also down 3 points to 1 point compared to early November voting.
That signals a GOP turnout problem for Walker, who was the only statewide Republican not to defeat his Democratic opponent in November. Walker received about 203,130 votes short of Republican Governor Brian Kemp—who was riding to victory—and he received 37,675 votes short of Warnock.
Core Republican voters just can’t get excited about Walker, and they generally came out because they liked Kemp or their congressional candidates. But Walker wasn’t the reason, and they’re not coming out for Walker,” Bonier said.
“The other possibility is that they wait for Election Day,” he added. “But to add that up, to be a plausible explanation, you’d have to explain why there are more waiting for Election Day now than compared to this point in the November general election.”
On Thursday, former President Barack Obama met with Warnock in Atlanta for the second time in six weeks to keep Democrats motivated and tout the importance of beating Republicans for the 51st seat.
“They know they don’t have winning ideas. Their strategy is to scare you and confuse you and trick you, bring the okey-dokey down on you and make you believe your vote doesn’t matter,” he said. “Here’s the point: it only works if you let it. You have the power to decide these elections.
The Walker campaign is no longer beaming with the confidence it had heading into Election Day in November. Walker’s stupid speeches sound less cheerful. His media appearances have been limited to friendly conservative outlets. His campaign goes to great lengths to keep reporters away from him at rallies, literally erecting barricades to keep the media at bay. And his pleas for money are getting sharper.
Walker’s strongest message evaporated when Democrats seized control of the Senate in the general election. He kept putting the brakes on President Joe Biden’s agenda, who has lost some of his power now that the Senate majority is off the table.
NBC News exit polls from the Nov. 8 election show that Walker benefited more from the scramble for Senate control, while Warnock scored better in the contrast between the candidates.
The vast majority of Georgia voters who said Senate scrutiny was “very important” to them favored Walker by 4 points, NBC News exit polls showed. Among the smaller portion of voters who said Senate scrutiny was “somewhat” important, Warnock won by 21 points. And those who said the Senate majority was not important favored Warnock by 14 points.
Meanwhile, voters said by a slim majority that Warnock shows common sense, and they said by a nearly 2-to-1 spread that Walker doesn’t.
Florida Senator Rick Scott, the chairman of the Senate National Republican Committee, downplayed the elimination of Senate scrutiny from the equation, arguing that the 50th vote still matters to the balance of power for Republicans.
“Everything we see – it’s really tight,” said Scott, who said the race was still up for grabs. “It’s 50-50% now, 48-48%, so it’s really getting up and running.”
The Walker campaign’s internal investigation shows that President Donald Trump, a friend who recruited him to participate, is toxic to swinging voters Walker must winand as a result, Trump has remained out of state in the past months.
Trump’s possible Republican presidential rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, has helped raise funds for Walker, but he has not been invited to campaign for Walker in the state, in part because Walker doesn’t want to upset Trump. according to two sources familiar with Walker’s thinking.
“Some people still can’t get over the Trump connection,” said Ed Muldrow, the former chairman of the Gwinnett County GOP.
But Muldrow said “Kemp’s support seems to help Walker” as the governor campaigns for him, which he failed to do in the general election. At the same time, Muldrow said, the Democrats’ ads against Walker are “brutal.”
And they are numerous.
Warnock and Democrats have aired TV ads that have been shown a total of more than 17,200 times in Georgia (80% of which portrayed Walker in a negative light), compared to fewer than 5,000 ads that Walker and Republicans have aired (91% of which have been negative) , according to AdImpact, a tracking service.
In his memo, Paradise credited the assistance of the National Party, National Republicans and the state GOP, saying they “have been great partners through this second round and invested millions of dollars and deployed hundreds of personnel.”
“That being said, ad spend is drastically in favor of Warnock, and we have five days to make that change.”