Whew—Georgia got smarter over the past month and managed not to elected a dangerous idiot to the United States Senate. In yesterday’s runoff election, Georgians reëlected Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock to his first full six-year term and rejected muddled-headed Republican mental-illness poster child Herschel Walker.
Turnout was predictably lower for the December 6 runoff than for the November 8 general. The Georgia Secretary of State reports that 57.02% of Georgia voters showed up for the November election; with 99% of precincts counted, only 50.47% of Georgia voters appear to have cast ballots for this month’s single-contest run-off.
But a small portion (0.4 percentage points) of that turnout decline came from new voter registration. The deadline for registering to vote in the runoff was actually November 7, before anyone knew there would be a runoff, so voter registration efforts by the Warnock and Walker campaigns during the past four weeks wouldn’t have produced more voters for either candidate. However, between October 11 (the deadline for registering to vote in the general) and November 7, Georgia netted 54,778 new voters.
Those new voters and everyone else who showed up for the runoff leaned toward Warnock more strongly than the general electorate. Warnock increased his vote percentage from 49.44% in November to 51.38% yesterday, a 1.93-point gain. Walker’s total crept up from 48.49% to 48.62%, a meager 0.13-point gain.
Now remember, both men saw fewer voters bother to get off the couch and come vote for them, but Walker’s drop-off was 46.5% bigger than Warnock’s. 188,574 fewer people cast votes for Walker in the runoff than in the general; that’s 9.9% of his November voters. Warnock lost 128,652 of his November voters, a 6.6% drop-off.
This math is loose and filled with assumptions. Some of each man’s drop-off could include people switching their votes from November, not just no-shows. The December ballots don’t provide that information.
But whatever the details of each candidate’s runoff drop-off, consider: if we add those drop-offs back to each man’s column—i.e., if Walker had gotten those 188,574 November Walker voters to come vote for him again yesterday, and if Warnock and done the same with his 128,652 runoff no-shows—Walker would have won the election by just over 22,000 votes, 50.27% to 49.73%.
It is possible that Walker’s larger general-to-runoff drop-off and his resulting loss simply demonstrate that Walker voters were less engaged or lazier. It could show that Republicans were more dispirited by their failure to take the Senate and didn’t see as much reason to hold the Democrats to a VP-tiebreak-only majority as Democrats were motivated to dunk on Republicans by adding one more seat for a genuine Manchin-muffling Senate majority.
But Warnock’s greater percentage gain and runoff win could show a simpler result: Warnock and Walker got another month to communicate with voters, and with the media field cleared of all other candidates and the spotlight exclusively on these two candidates, more Georgians saw that the incumbent Democrat, a well-educated Georgia pastor and experienced policymaker, was the far more qualified candidate than a rambling, lying, violent former football player carpetbagging from Texas.