- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 10, 2022

ATLANTA — Georgia Democrats are “praying” that former President Donald Trump launches a 2024 presidential next week, saying it would be manna from heaven for Sen. Raphael Warnock in his runoff race next month against Herschel Walker.

The thinking is that Mr. Walker’s close ties to Mr. Trump — who prodded him to move back home to Georgia from Texas for the Senate race — will weigh down his run while the Trump announcement energizes Democrats and turns off some Republicans.

“If he announces like they say, the second or third week of November, before the December [runoff] election, oh, my God. … We’re praying that he does it,” Lewanna Heard-Tucker, chair of the Fulton County Democratic Party, told The Washington Times. “We are like, ‘Could he be that crazy?’ And we’re like, ‘Of course he could. Why would he not?’ … Please, Lord, let them do it. Let him do it.”

Mr. Trump planned to take credit for delivering massive Republican wins in the midterm elections and parlay that into a “very big announcement” at his Mar-a-Lago estate next week. He encouraged people to expect a 2024 campaign kickoff.

Instead, his favored candidates fell short of expectations in key races, including in Arizona, Pennsylvania and Georgia.

Running in an awful environment for Democrats, Mr. Warnock bested Mr. Walker by 49.4% to 48.5%, just shy of the 50% threshold needed to avoid a Dec. 6 runoff.

SEE ALSO: Mutiny: GOP figures turn on Trump for deflating party’s midterm score

Republicans are blaming Mr. Trump for blessing candidates based on their fealty to him, not their ability to win, and alienating voters with his incessant claims of a stolen election.

“I’ll be advising him that he move his announcement until after the Georgia runoff,” Jason Miller, a former Trump adviser who spent the night at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, told The Associated Press. “Georgia needs to be the focus of every Republican in the country right now.”

Mr. Trump notched victories in Ohio and North Carolina. J.D. Vance and Rep. Tedd Budd, who received Mr. Trump’s blessing in the primaries, defended the seats of retiring Republican Sens. Rob Portman and Richard Burr.

The Trump-backed nominees in Arizona and Nevada, Blake Masters and Adam Laxalt, were still waiting for votes to be counted. Their races were too close to call. 

Democrats were increasingly optimistic that Sens. Mark Kelly and Catherine Cortez Masto would survive.

In Georgia, Mr. Walker also struggled. Meanwhile, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger cruised to wins in their respective reelection contests after angering Mr. Trump by refusing to overturn the results of the Georgia presidential election in 2020.

SEE ALSO: Abandon ship? Trump media allies warn him, supporters to back off attacks on rising star DeSantis

Democrats say it will be hard for Mr. Walker to muster the same interest in his campaign without Mr. Kemp on the ballot.

“We think a lot of their people are just going to stay home,” Ms. Heard-Tucker said.

She suspects Republicans are trying to talk Mr. Trump “off the ledge” over the timing of his announcement.

“I think even the Republicans realize that he’s the puppet, but the problem is that nobody knows exactly who the puppet master is going to be, and so until they figure that out, they don’t even want a piece of that. And if Donald Trump is the puppet master, they definitely don’t want any piece of that.”

It was clear on Election Day that Mr. Trump still has loyal fans in Georgia.

Trump all the way,” Wade Hammett, 57, said after voting straight-ticket Republican. “I’m sure he is going to do it. I don’t know why he would say it now, but look at him. You see him on stage, and thousands of people are there.”

“He ran this country great before,” he said.

Other self-identified conservatives said they would rather Mr. Trump stay on the sidelines.

“He may run, but I don’t know if he has the same backing as he did the first time,” said Sean, who declined to give his last name. “I’m hoping he doesn’t run again.”

The 36-year-old, who voted for Mr. Trump, said he is sick of elections in which the choices are between the lesser of two evils.

Democrats, meanwhile, are apoplectic about a Trump comeback. 

“It should be illegal,” said Matthew Read, 39. “That was like a depressing period for a lot of people. There was like no hope.”

For Mr. Warnock, the runoff race with Mr. Walker is a bit of deja vu.

The 53-year-old senior pastor at the church once led by Martin Luther King Jr. won his seat in a 2020 runoff race after Mr. Trump declared that his election had been rigged. Turnout for the runoff was depressed in conservative parts of the state.

Democrat Jon Ossoff also benefited by winning the other Georgia seat in a runoff. The outcomes of those elections handed control of the Senate to Democrats.

This year’s runoff race in Georgia could once again determine the balance of power in Washington, depending on the results of Senate races in Arizona and Nevada.

Ms. Heard-Tucker said her phone was ringing nonstop. People from across the country are reaching out to donate money and volunteer their services.

“Energywise, I don’t think we have seen anything yet,” she said.

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide