What Georgia’s 2022 runoff can teach us about the 2024 White House race
U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Georgia, speaks during an election night watch party at the Marriott Marquis on Dec. 6, 2022, in Atlanta, Georgia. Warnock defeated his Republican challenger Herschel Walker in a runoff election. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Several years ago, several “Eat This, Not That” books took America by storm, dispelling a lot of myths about our eating habits, giving us smarter diets. Here’s a similar version, based upon lessons from the 2022 Georgia election and runoff, which can help candidates prepare for the 2024 election and avoid myths from prior ballot contests.
1) Expand early voting & absentee options: Across my state of Georgia, Herschel Walker signs read “Vote December 6.” Republicans in the state repeatedly sought to emphasize voting on Election Day, and Election Day only. When given the option, nearly every red county chose not to have Early Voting on Saturday.
By contrast, Democrats encouraged their supporters to either vote on Election Day, or do Early Voting or cast absentee ballots. The evidence showing how many counties Senator Raphael Warnock flipped, or improved his position, were more than those Herschel Walker was able to muster.
It didn’t need to be this way for Republicans. In Troup County, where I live, several others and I lobbied for Early Voting on Saturday, which was approved by our Election Commission. And Walker prevailed in this red county by a 60%-40% margin.
2) Math matters. Reach out to independents & crossover voters: A reporter from Gannett News Service interviewed me about runoff strategy after the November 8 Election. I pointed out that the winner would be the one who reached out to independents and crossover voters from the other party. A Republican operative in the same article dismissed my suggestions, saying the runoff would only be about turning out the base.
As a result, Warnock was able to reach out across party aisles and Republicans even more effectively, whereas Walker stuck to his base, and repeated his second-place showing in the runoff election, by a similar percentage. Playing only to your supporters might have mattered when turnout in runoff elections fell by a lot, as it did in 2008. But this is 2022, a new era.
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3) Positive ads work: Walker, and Warnock to some extent, saturated the airwaves with negative ads during the regular season election. The latter might have avoided the necessity of a runoff if he had provided the same positive upbeat ads that propelled his candidacy to victory in 2020 against Senator Loeffler and Rep. Doug Collins. Even liberals told me they had enough of Warnock’s anti-Walker ads, and we could never figure out what Walker would actually do if elected. During the runoff, Warnock provided more of the 2020 campaign commercials (with some new negative ones which were more humorous than nasty). Walker didn’t.
4) Be independent of Trump: Not all Georgia Republicans lost statewide elections. Most actually won, against some tough Democratic Party opponents. The vast majority of these GOP officeholders were primaried by Trumpers, but these candidates failed to dislodge the incumbents, which ran more main street ads than MAGA ones. Only one Trump-endorsed primary candidate, state legislator Burt Jones, won. He generally stayed away from a Trump-embraced campaign, and prevailed against an experienced opponent.
Of course, there will be some who read this column who will deny all of this, calling for restriction on early voting and absentee voting, insist on only playing to the base, pay for more negative ads, and meaner ones too, and insist on taking orders from Trump. You can count on them to lose again in 2024.
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia. His views are his own. He can be reached at [email protected].
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John A. Tures