Does money matter in politics? Are you kidding me?
On this scale and timeline, however, this report on the Georgia runoff from Politico may not be quite as alarming as it might otherwise be. We’re eight days away from the runoff Election Day, and Herschel Walker finds himself facing third down and long in the fundraising contest:
— $73 million: That’s how much Warnock and Walker have raised from Oct. 20 through Nov. 16. Warnock, who led the pack of Senate candidates for most money raised this cycle, brought in more than twice as much as Walker. The incumbent raised $52.2 million compared to Walker’s $20.9 million.
Warnock’s war chest is three times larger than Walker’s, ending the period with $29.7 million. Walker had $9.8 million in the bank. In that period, Warnock had $31.9 million in operating expenditures, while Walker had $16.4 million.
The question becomes not who’s got the most money, but rather whether both candidates have sufficient money. The answer to that appears to be yes, considering that the election will be over in eight days. The functional difference between spending $2 million a day or $3.5 million is likely pretty narrow over a one-week span. For perspective, the two campaigns and their allies combined spent $44 million in the first eighteen days of the runoff, or just under $2.5 million a day.
Where has that left the race? No one’s doing much polling for the runoff. RCP only lists a Fabrizio/Anzalone poll from the first week of the runoff campaign that showed Warnock up four points, 51/47. The sample was a thin 500 likely voters, though, and its margin of error (±4.4%) makes the result a statistical dead heat. That’s exactly what we got out of the general election, too.
Voting has already started, however. Over 156,000 people voted in person this weekend after Democrats won a court decision to add those days to early voting. Not all of the counties in Georgia offered early voting, however, so no one’s sure what that means. To put that number into perspective, over 4.48 million people voted in the 2021 Senate runoffs in Georgia. That’s about 3.5% of the turnout from 2021 over this weekend — a substantial turnout, but not overwhelming.
The biggest question will be ground game. Both sides still have tons of cash going for TV and radio ads in the final days, but will they have invested as well in GOTV? Warnock likely will have an edge on Walker in that sense, having built those operations in 2020 and kept them in place over the last two years in order to fight for a full term. Walker’s getting a lot of help from the Senate Leadership Fund and the RNC for the runoff, and the RNC has done a good job over the last several years in building ground operations generally (a result of their 2013 “autopsy”).
One has to wonder, too, whether Donald Trump’s recent meeting with white supremacist/Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes might have done some damage in Georgia. Walker is Trump’s endorsed choice in this Senate race, and in fact the candidate Trump personally recruited and promoted. Trump has mainly stayed out of the runoff and Walker has kept Trump at arms’ length, but that might not be enough to keep focus away from him in the accelerated timeline of this race. If independents in Georgia need an excuse to stick with the status quo and Warnock, that might have given them fresh reason to make that choice.