Republicans on Tuesday concluded a 72-hour push to galvanize voters in Georgia’s Senate runoff, where Herschel Walker, one of former President Donald Trump’s most prominent endorsements, will test Mr. Trump’s hold over the party one last time before the 2024 presidential campaign ramps up.
Mr. Walker, 60, is challenging Sen. Raphael Warnock, 53, a Democrat who won the seat in a 2021 special election and is seeking a full term.
Polls show Mr. Walker consistently lagging behind Mr. Warnock. A loss would serve as a final black eye for Mr. Trump in what was a bitterly disappointing midterm election outcome for the Republican Party.
Many of Mr. Trump’s top endorsements in key swing states lost on Nov. 8, defying predictions of a red wave. The losses left Republicans in the House with a bare majority and kept the Senate in the hands of Democrats.
The lackluster results for Republicans also diminished Mr. Trump’s image as a powerful party leader with significant leverage over the base and raised questions about his viability in 2024.
The former president last month announced his intention to run for the White House again after ignoring pleas from the Republican Party to wait until after the Georgia runoff.
SEE ALSO: Calling all non-early voters: Warnock, Walker barnstorm Georgia ahead of Tuesday’s runoff election
Some Republicans saw Mr. Trump as a distraction from the Georgia Senate campaign. A Walker win would leave the Senate evenly split, although Democrats would keep control of the gavel thanks to the tiebreaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris.
Mr. Walker and Mr. Warnock were forced into a runoff because neither won more than 50% of the vote in the general election. In that race, Mr. Walker trailed Mr. Warnock by 37,000 votes. He failed to capitalize on the popularity of Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican who led the Georgia ballot and defeated Democrat Stacey Abrams by 7 percentage points.
Republicans have dumped millions of dollars into the effort to elect Mr. Walker, but they have been significantly outspent by Democrats in the race.
Super PACs have spent $16 million more on Mr. Warnock than Mr. Walker in what has become the most expensive race in 2022, according to OpenSecrets, which tracks political spending.
Republicans were counting on a strong in-person turnout Tuesday. Democrats got a head start with early voters and won a court battle allowing Saturday voting after Thanksgiving.
Mr. Kemp, a Trump opponent, distanced himself from the Walker campaign during the election season as Mr. Walker worked to deflect reports about past personal problems and questions about his qualifications. Safely elected to a second term, Mr. Kemp is helping Mr. Warnock in the runoff campaign.
Mr. Trump has largely been absent.
He endorsed Mr. Walker with great fanfare in the Georgia Republican primary but made no appearances ahead of the general election. Mr. Trump also stayed clear of Georgia ahead of the runoff and instead participated in a “tele-rally” for Mr. Walker on Monday.
Republicans have urged Mr. Trump to keep his distance to avoid rallying more Democrats to go to the polls.
Mr. Trump was criticized this month for hosting a dinner for rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West. Ye, who brought along White nationalist Nick Fuentes, has recently gone on antisemitic rants.
The Warnock campaign is exploiting the former president’s polarizing impact on voters. One attack ad shows footage of Mr. Trump endorsing Mr. Walker. The words “Stop Donald Trump. Stop Herschel Walker” appear on the screen.
Mr. Trump, who continues to argue that the 2020 election was rigged in favor of Democrat Joe Biden, is defending his endorsement record. He posted on his Truth Social media site that his record on endorsements in the general election was 232-22.
He posted a message Monday to Georgia voters on Truth Social to go to the polls on Tuesday.
“To all MAGA Voters, that is, people that want to Make America Great Again and Put America First, tomorrow is a big day. Vote for Herschel!”
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