Obama to Turn His Dem Star Power on Key Ga. Senate Race (AP)
James Oliphant Friday, 28 October 2022 03:44 PM EDT
Democrats will call in their biggest star, Barack Obama, on Friday in the hopes that the former president can excite voters in Georgia and help the party hold onto a critical U.S. Senate seat.
Obama, a two-term Democrat who left office in 2017, will stump in Atlanta for Sen. Raphael Warnock, who faces Donald Trump-backed Republican challenger Herschel Walker, and Stacey Abrams, who is running against Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.
Polls show the race between Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker to be tight, while Abrams has consistently trailed Kemp in that race.
Georgia is a top takeover target for Republicans, who need to pick up just one seat to gain control of the Senate. The historically conservative state elected President Joe Biden and both Warnock and Democratic Senator Jon Ossoff two years ago, suggesting the stirrings of a political realignment.
"Georgia played a determinative role last cycle and could likely be in the same position in a few weeks," said Eric Schultz, a spokesman for Obama. "Given the stakes of this year’s elections, our goal is simple: inspire voters to cast their ballots."
Obama's trip comes as Democrats are growing increasingly anxious about the Senate race. For months, Warnock had held a steady polling edge over Walker, a former football star at the University of Georgia who has dogged by questions about his turbulent personal life.
Walker has since closed the gap. On Thursday, the Senate's top Democrat, Chuck Schumer, was caught by a television camera microphone at an event telling Biden the race in Georgia was going "downhill."
"It's hard to believe that they will go for Herschel Walker," Schumer told Biden.
Walker has faced allegations of domestic violence from his ex-wife. More recently, two women have claimed that Walker pressured them to have abortions during their relationships, allegations he has denied.
Walker opposes abortion but has been inconsistent regarding whether it should be allowed in cases of rape or incest or to safeguard the health of the mother. Warnock, senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, supports abortion rights.
On Friday, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, an arm of the party that backs Warnock, launched a new TV ad highlighting the domestic violence allegations as part of a $7 million investment in the race's closing days.
Prior to the evening event with Obama, Warnock campaigned in rural Dalton, north of Atlanta. Walker meanwhile was stumping in the southeastern part of the state along side evangelical activist Ralph Reed.
On his campaign Facebook page, Walker posted the video with Schumer and Biden, saying, "The momentum is on our side, but the game's not over until the clock hits zero."
Obama's appearance is the start of a five-state tour that will take him to the battleground states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania. That last appearance, on the Saturday before the Nov. 8 midterm elections, will be joint with President Joe Biden, who has held back from campaigning in some key battlegrounds as he struggles with low public approval ratings.
Beyond Georgia, Republicans have focused their efforts on flipping a Democratic Senate seat in Arizona or Nevada.
Georgia has seen a record-breaking number of early voters, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s office. More than 1.1 million residents have already voted as of Thursday, far ahead of the total (730,706) at this point in 2018, the year of the last midterm election.
A surge of Black voters helped power Warnock’s victory two years ago, and he will need them again to win, said Andra Gillespie, a political science professor at Emory University in Atlanta.
“African-American voters are going to be crucial (for) Democrats’ chances,” Gillespie said. “Bringing in President Obama helps to underscore the importance of African-American vote, while also exciting other voters.”
Republicans are also expected to win enough seats to take over the U.S. House of Representatives. Controlling both chambers will enable them to stonewall Biden’s agenda, block his executive branch nominees and launch investigations of his administration.