Melissa: Welcome back to The Takeaway. I'm Melissa Harris-Perry.
In a repeat of their 2018 race, Georgia's incumbent Republican Governor Brian Kemp claimed another victory on Tuesday night over Democrat Stacey Abrams.
Brian Kemp: As you all know there was a lot of people in high places who thought tonight's victory would never happen, but just like many times before, you all and team Kemp, prove them wrong.
Melissa: The state's highly competitive Senate race between incumbent Raphael Warnock and former football star Herschel Walker remain too close to call as of Wednesday morning.
Here to talk with us about Tuesday night's election results in Georgia, for our latest installment of Georgia at the intersections is Maya King, Politics Reporter at The New York Times. Maya woke up early on Wednesday morning to talk with us after a long night of reporting. Let's start with the race that we know where we know the outcomes. That's the gubernatorial race. It was a matchup that we'd seen four years ago and once again, the prevailing winner is Brian Kemp, what made this race different?
Maya: Well, first, you can look at the result. Tuesday night, Brian Kemp defeated Stacey Abrams by more than seven points. That's about a six-and-a-half-point margin wider than his victory in 2018. One, he was working with the power of the incumbency, two, it has been a far better national environment for Republicans and that's true, still in Georgia. It's really I think a reflection of voters' willingness to put him back in the governor's mansion because they were relatively pleased with the last four years under his leadership.
Stacey Abrams, though, made her campaign a lot about his last four years, saying that low-income Georgians and Georgians of color would suffer under a second term. It's true that a number of a majority of Georgians of color still did support Stacey Abrams's rematch campaign. Though it still really wasn't enough for the coalition that Brian Kemp was able to build. Again, just for the campaign that he ran, that was really focused on his incumbency on the economy and on the conservative policy wins of the last four years under his leadership in Georgia.
Melissa: Abrams said on Tuesday night, she conceded that was another difference this time, again, much larger margins. She did not concede on election night, back in 2018. She did concede, and said that she will continue to fight for the people of Georgia, do you have a sense of what is next for Abrams?
Maya: I did not have a sense I have not heard or nothing has been confirmed to me around what she'll do next. A few theories, though, have been floated to me. One of them is perhaps the fair fight and fair count organizations that she founded in 2018, growing in size and becoming national organizations to create more competitive battleground states in the deep south or other places where there are a lot of Democratic voters, but they might not necessarily feel motivated, or even able to vote. A lot of people that I've heard who are Abrams allies, or who are just really rooting for her have said that that was one option they'd like to see.
Melissa: It's almost impossible to overstate the effect of the work that Stacey Abrams has done in the state of Georgia, right, regardless of coming up short for the gubernatorial race twice. I'm wondering also based on what you saw last night, and we're going to dig into the Senate race in just a moment, but just based on what you saw overall last night, is Georgia now truly a purple state?
Maya: As you pointed out, there's no question the impact of the work that Stacey Abrams has done in Georgia, and what that means for Democratic candidates. However, I think what we also saw on Tuesday night, every Democrat running statewide other than Raphael Warnock lost their race. Republicans, it would seem still have the upper hand in statewide races in Georgia. However, the electorate looks very different. There are still wide openings now for Democratic candidates to run and win for major office as we see with Raphael Warnock, however, it's just not as cut and dried.
This is clearly not the same kind of decisive win that we saw in 2020 with a president taking the state by, excuse me, a Democratic president, taking the state by a very narrow margin and of course, two Democratic senators winning. Here in Georgia, as of Wednesday morning, we have pretty much an entire Republican statewide ticket now winning but on the Senate side, things appear poised for a runoff between Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker. The work that Abrams did, certainly cleared the way for Warnock to be able to be successful or at least get this close. However, I just don't think it's as cut and dried as perhaps we thought.
Melissa: Let's stick on this for one more moment before we turn to this still-up-in-the-air Senate race and that's to ask about the ways that you either did or did not see the National Democratic presence in Georgia this time. I'm wondering-- I'm not far from Georgia, just a couple of states up in North Carolina, it did feel like there was a bit of a less of overall mood and focus around Georgia this time than either in 2020 or in 2018. Hard to tell whether that was just where I was situated, or if in fact, there was less investment by not only the Democratic Party but by the big Democratic donor 501C4 is that kind of thing.
Maya: Oh, well, there was absolutely investment in Georgia, particularly by Democratic donors. Raphael Warnock was one of the highest fundraising candidates of either party in the country and of course, Stacey Abrams remains a fundraising juggernaut.
Melissa: My applause for me just one moment, we're going to be right back with more on Georgia at the intersections. We're back with Maya King, politics reporter at The New York Times, and we're still talking about Georgia, as of Wednesday morning, it does appear that the US Senate race in Georgia is going to a runoff. Maya, I feel like many people know this but I just want to be sure that we're clear about this. Both tell us the reason why this would be going to a runoff even if someone has won a plurality of voters. Second, help us understand who number three was in this race. Who didn't win a lot of votes, but apparently looks like it might be enough to make this difference between 49% versus 50% plus one.
Maya: The only statewide Democrat to be within striking distance of victory is Senator Raphael Warnock. I think that's a reflection, again of the political environment in Georgia, but also of the kind of candidate he was running against and Herschel Walker. The reason why in part, Senator Warnock outperformed Stacey Abrams and other top-ticket Democrats owes in part to a number of Republican and conservative voters, real nervousness around Walker's candidacy.
They felt uncomfortable with one whether or not he was really qualified for office despite being a football star, and two, the stories about his background of domestic violence against his ex-wife. The allegations he paid for multiple women to have abortions despite maintaining a strong pro-abortion stance on the campaign trail. I think that made a lot of swing voters, a lot of moderates, and again, critical mass of conservative voters rather nervous. Some of them outright voted for Senator Warnock, and some of them split their ticket, just to leave it blank in the Senate section or wrote in people like Daffy Duck and Mickey Mouse switch doesn't really help anybody but does indeed fall into Warnock's category, or at least helps him out a little more than it does for Walker.
Then, of course, as you mentioned, we have the third party candidate, Libertarian candidate Chase Oliver, who as of Wednesday morning, discarded about 2% of the vote. Georgia is unique among many other states, and you have to reach that 50% plus one threshold. The fact that neither Warnock or Walker has reached that [unintelligible 00:09:40] part to the fact that 2% of that vote has actually gone to the Libertarian candidate, that won't be a factor in the runoff. Again, this does indeed go to a runoff and it'll be just raw numbers and which side could turn out its voters more.
Melissa: You talked a bit about the Democrats who might end up making a visit, coming down standing with the incumbent Senator. Let's talk about the Republicans that might show up if we end up in a runoff here to stand with Mr. Walker, especially given these concerns that we saw articulated so strongly. Barely, there were some write-ins for Daffy Duck presumably over Mr. Walker. Who do you think they show up? I think most critically, does a visit from President Trump help any of these newly elected Republicans? Will they be beneficial to Mr. Walker's campaign?
Maya: Well, you have already started to pose a question that has been bouncing around in my mind since about two o'clock Wednesday morning, when we started to see this looking a lot like a runoff scenario. I think there are a couple of dynamics buzzing around a Trump visit, the biggest of which being whether or not Donald Trump announces his 2024 candidacy for president. If he visits Georgia, he'll be stumping for his ally and friend, Herschel Walker. He'll also be running for president most likely. He'll be trying to lay out policy plans or at least just getting his base more excited for what could happen in two years.
However, Brian Kemp, his former ally now [unintelligible 00:11:32], has just won re-election and may feel a lot more comfortable keeping the former president at an arm's distance and just being a little bit more forceful. Perhaps in his distancing himself from former President Trump. I don't know what that impact would be on the Senate race, but it is certainly a political dynamic where you have a little bit of division between the Trump wing of the party that still questions the results of the 2020 election, and the other part of the Republican Party that still remains staunchly conservative, but has faith in the results of the 2020 election, in fact, certified them.
There are also though a number of high-profile Republicans who came down to Georgia to stump for Herschel Walker in a way. I think it made a difference. People like Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, Rick Scott, Tom Cotton, these folks are pretty recognizable to the Republican base. You saw on the campaign trail after Herschel Walker would stump he would do a receiving line. A lot of people wanted to take pictures with Walker but also with a lot of these folks.
Whether or not this star power is enough in the runoff scenario is a big question. Again, a lot of this depends on I think how the rest of the Senate landscape looks. If it again comes down to Georgia and Senate control will be decided by who wins this race, that's going to be a major, major galvanizing force not just for the Republicans who will come down and campaign for Herschel, but also for Republican voters to feel like they can go back out and vote again for weeks after turning out in mass for this midterm in November. I'll just say very quickly if the Senate is already decided and it looks like the Georgia race may not make a difference in who controls the chamber, that may dissuade people from turning out a second time.
Melissa: Does gender matter here? Is this primarily the extent to which Abrams looses by a larger margin but at the moment that Warnock is still in this and maybe even will claim victory. Does any of that have to do with her being a Black woman and Warnock being a Black man?
Maya: Before I come down on that I want to look at the exit polls to see what the democratic correlation for each of them looked like. I'm fairly certain that both of them were able to garner a really large amount of support, particularly from men and women of color in Georgia. Though the Abrams campaign and others in her orbit have expressed that one reason why she has this perceived likability problem has nothing to do with anything that she has or hasn't done, and just more on perceptions that are entirely out of her control.
I do think the larger issue here that's made this race look the way it does at this point, is candidate quality. Again, that Walker was just a uniquely difficult candidate for Republicans to run, it cleared an opening and otherwise tough environment for Democrats in Georgia for Warnock to very much still be in the fight.
Melissa: Maya King is Politics Reporter for The New York Times and boy, Georgia, you still got lots of interesting politics to cover. Maya, thank you so much for joining us on the morning after the election.
Maya: Thank you.
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