Dec. 4, 2022 coverage of the Georgia runoff election

By Andrew Menezes, Matt Reed and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 4:00 PM ET, Sun December 4, 2022
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2:30 p.m. ET, December 4, 2022

Georgia secretary of state touts record-breaking early turnout in Senate runoff

From CNN's Dianne Gallagher and Ethan Cohen

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks to reporters in Atlanta, Georgia on Tuesday, November 9.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks to reporters in Atlanta, Georgia on Tuesday, November 9. (Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post/Getty Images)

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Sunday touted the historic turnout during the early-voting period for the Senate runoff between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker.

More than 1.85 million Georgians have voted ahead of the election Tuesday, according to data from Raffensperger's office, including in-person turnout and absentee and military voters.

More than 1.7 million of those voters cast their ballots early in person and more than 350,000 of them voted on Friday, the last day of early voting. That’s the largest early voting day in the state’s history.

Turnout for the runoff has reached 26.4% of active Georgia voters, Raffensperger said in a news release Sunday.

“Georgia has struck the perfect balance between accessibility and security,” said Raffensperger, a Republican who was elected to a second term last month. “These historic turnout levels emphasize that any lawful voter who wants to cast a ballot can do so easily. Turnout and voter participation is excellent. Our elections division will continue working with county election directors to expand early voting opportunities in the future.”

2:27 p.m. ET, December 4, 2022

Here's how Donald Trump is helping Raphael Warnock in the Georgia runoff

Analysis from CNN's Harry Enten

Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Robstown, Texas, on October 22.
Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Robstown, Texas, on October 22. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Donald Trump's continued presence on the American political scene is one of the reasons Republicans underperformed in this year's midterm elections.

The former president's debilitating effect on his party was perhaps no more evident than in Georgia, where Trump's Republican nemesis Gov. Brian Kemp cruised to reelection, while his preferred Senate candidate, Herschel Walker, was forced into a runoff with Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock.

Now with the Georgia Senate runoff just two days away, those problems are clearer than ever. Trump's unpopularity in Georgia is causing him to stay out of the state in the campaign's final days and is part of a deeper reshaping of political alignments in America.

To understand the Trump impact on Georgia, take a look at the CNN/SSRS poll of the Senate runoff released on Friday. Trump came in with a favorable rating of just 39% and an unfavorable rating of 54% among likely voters.

Of course, with Trump no longer president, you might think these numbers wouldn't matter. After all, President Joe Biden isn't significantly more popular in Georgia, with a favorable rating of 41% and an unfavorable rating of 52%, according to the CNN survey.

But when you break the poll down further, you see how Trump's unpopularity is potentially keeping voters from casting a ballot for Walker. The former football star led Warnock by 87 points among voters who didn't have a favorable view of Biden but had a favorable opinion of Trump.

That type of margin would have been more than enough for Walker to win, if it held among all voters who view Biden unfavorably. The problem for Walker is that voters who had a favorable opinion of Trump and not one of Biden made up only 37% of the electorate in our poll.

A sizable 21% of likely Georgia voters had a favorable view of neither Biden nor Trump. This group of voters still preferred Walker to Warnock, but only by 14 points.

So in other words, there was an over 70-point difference in Walker's margin among those who didn't like Biden, based on whether they liked Trump or not.

Warnock's ability to keep Walker's margins down among those who liked neither Biden nor Trump works for him mathematically because the poll found him leading by 100 points among the 40% of likely voters who just liked Biden.

To put in perspective how unusual it is for a former president to have such a strong effect, consider the last time there was an unpopular Republican president who had recently left the White House. In a September 2010 CNN pre-election poll, Republican House candidates were still winning voters who didn't like George W. Bush (the former president) or Barack Obama (the incumbent) by about 50 points.

If Walker was winning those who didn't like Biden or Trump by 50 points, he'd be leading in our Georgia poll.

Read more here.

11:00 a.m. ET, December 4, 2022

Walker described himself as living in Texas during 2022 campaign speech, CNN KFile review finds

From CNN's Andrew Kaczynski and Olivia Alafriz

Georgia Republican Senate nominee Herschel Walker speaks during a campaign stop in Wadley, Georgia, on October 6.
Georgia Republican Senate nominee Herschel Walker speaks during a campaign stop in Wadley, Georgia, on October 6. (Meg Kinnard/AP)

Georgia Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker, facing renewed and growing questions about his residency in the final week of the runoff campaign, described himself during a campaign speech in January as living in Texas and said he decided to run for Georgia’s Senate seat while at his Texas “home,” according to a CNN KFile review of his campaign speeches.

Georgia Democrats have called for an investigation by state officials into Walker’s residency after CNN’s KFile reported that Walker was getting a tax break in Texas intended for a primary residence, possibly running afoul of Texas tax law and some rules for establishing Georgia residency for voting and running for office.

“I live in Texas,” Walker said in January of this year, when speaking to University of Georgia College Republicans. Walker was criticizing Democrats for not visiting the border when he made the comments. “I went down to the border off and on sometimes,” he said.

Earlier in the speech, Walker said he decided to run for Georgia’s Senate seat while at his Texas home after seeing the country divided.

“Everyone asks me, why did I decide to run for a Senate seat? Because to be honest with you, this is never something I ever, ever, ever thought in my life I’d ever do,” said Walker. “And that’s the honest truth. As I was sitting in my home in Texas, I was sitting in my home in Texas, and I was seeing what was going on in this country. I was seeing what was going on in this country with how they were trying to divide people.”

The Georgia Republican is heading into a runoff election against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock on Tuesday. Walker and his campaign have so far not commented to CNN or others on the reporting of the tax break or questions about his residency.

Last month, The Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported that Georgia authorities have been urged in a complaint to investigate Walker’s residency. Georgia Democrats in a statement called for an immediate investigation of Walker’s residency, and US Rep. Nikema Williams, the chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Georgia, also asked authorities to see if Walker lied about living in Georgia.

“The Georgia Bureau of Investigations and the Georgia Attorney General’s office must immediately investigate whether Herschel Walker lied about being a Georgia resident,” Williams said.

Read more here.

10:00 a.m. ET, December 4, 2022

Rep.-elect Maxwell Frost joins the Georgia Senate campaign trail to turn out young voters for Warnock 

From CNN's Kaanita Iyer

Maxwell Frost speaks at an event in Washington, DC, on November 18.
Maxwell Frost speaks at an event in Washington, DC, on November 18. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Florida Democrat Maxwell Frost, the first member of Generation Z to be elected to Congress, will head to Georgia to campaign for Sen. Raphael Warnock ahead of Tuesday's runoff election. 

"We heading to Georgia Monday & Tuesday to Get Out the Youth Vote! This election is too important to not Organize," the congressman-elect tweeted Saturday, adding that Warnock "must win." 

CNN exit polls showed that in the November general election last month, Warnock was able to sustain the improvements he made in the 2021 runoff election with the youngest voters. He won 68% of the 18-24 vote in the 2021 runoff, and 69% of 18-24 year-olds last month.

However, Georgia voters last month were older compared with recent elections, with those over 50 representing 59% of the electorate, a new high since 2018. The share of voters under 30, meanwhile, shrank to 11%, its lowest point since 2018.

Read more on what data from last month's general election tells us about Georgia voters here.

9:27 a.m. ET, December 4, 2022

Georgia election official says he doesn't expect results in Senate runoff Tuesday

From CNN's Kaanita Iyer

Voters cast their ballots in Columbus, Georgia, on November 28.
Voters cast their ballots in Columbus, Georgia, on November 28. (Cheney Orr/Reuters)

A Georgia election official said Saturday the winner in Tuesday's runoff between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican nominee Hershel Walker might not be known on election night after record early voter turnout.

"We're preparing for, you know, it being a very tight race," Georgia secretary of state’s chief operating officer Gabriel Sterling told CNN's Pamela Brown. "I anticipate we may not know on Tuesday night. It just, it really depends because it's up to the voters and they're, and they're showing up in droves."  

More than 1.8 million Georgians have voted so far, with about 300,000 people voting early each day last week — setting records for the largest single-day early voting turn out in state history. Early voting for the runoff ended on Friday.

"There's obviously a lot of enthusiasm," Sterling said. "Both Democrats and Republicans can point to the turnout models and say, 'that's good for us' so nobody knows what's going to happen." 

A CNN poll released Friday showed Warnock with a narrow lead over Walker. 

9:39 a.m. ET, December 4, 2022

Warnock attempts to turn out the Asian American vote ahead of Tuesday's runoff 

From CNN's Kaanita Iyer

Sen. Raphael Warnock speaks during a rally hosted by the AAPI Victory Fund and Warnock for Georgia on Saturday, December 3, in Atlanta, Georgia.
Sen. Raphael Warnock speaks during a rally hosted by the AAPI Victory Fund and Warnock for Georgia on Saturday, December 3, in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Dustin Chambers/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

In a final push ahead of Tuesday's runoff, Sen. Raphael Warnock joined the AAPI Victory Fund for a rally Saturday to target Asian American voters.  

Warnock was joined by fellow Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff, actor Daniel Dae Kim, singer Eric Nam and TV host Jeannie Mai Jenkins. 

CNN exit polls from the first round in November showed that a slightly larger share of White voters and smaller shares of Black, Asian and Latino voters cast their ballots in 2022 compared with Georgia’s previous three midterm elections and runoffs.  

At the rally, Warnock commented on the renewed and growing questions about GOP opponent Herschel Walker's residency. 

"Come Tuesday, we're going to send him running back to Texas," Warnock said. A CNN review of Walker's campaign speeches found that the Republican described himself in a speech in January as living in Texas. 

9:38 a.m. ET, December 4, 2022

Analysis: Results from the latest CNN poll shows candidate quality still matters

Analysis from CNN's Harry Enten

Voters wait to cast their ballots for the Georgia Senate runoff on November 28, in Columbus, Georgia.
Voters wait to cast their ballots for the Georgia Senate runoff on November 28, in Columbus, Georgia. (Cheney Orr/Reuters)

Many Democrats might be wondering how the Georgia Senate runoff is even close. Republican Herschel Walker’s campaign has suffered through a number of scandals, yet he still only narrowly trails Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in our latest CNN/SSRS poll

It might lead some to offer the common refrain: “Nothing matters.” 

But the poll is an indication, in my mind, that candidate quality still matters when it comes to voter preferences. Walker would likely be ahead were it not for what voters see as his flaws as a candidate. 

For one thing, Walker is vastly underperforming the fundamentals baseline. President Joe Biden’s disapproval rating is 57% in Georgia, but Walker is at just 48% of the vote against 52% for Warnock, according to the CNN poll. 

Why this matters: Warnock has a 99-point lead among the 42% of voters who approve of Biden, but Walker only has a 67-point lead among those who disapprove of Biden.  

The reason Walker isn’t doing better among those who disapprove of Biden is simple: Voters who back Warnock while also disapproving of Biden simply don’t like Walker. His favorable rating among this group is a mere 5%. 

This looks a lot like a pre-runoff New York Times/Siena College poll. Although voters in that survey (like this one) slightly preferred Warnock, they also slightly preferred a Republican-controlled Senate.  

Indeed, voters in the CNN poll who said the candidates’ positions on the issues were more important than their character and integrity favored Walker by a 29-point margin. 

They were overwhelmed, however, by Warnock’s 49-point margin among those who said that character and integrity were more important.  

If Warnock ends up winning, it will be a sign that candidate quality still matters. That’s a lesson Republicans learned this year in a number of states, where Democratic candidates won despite Biden’s unpopularity.

9:37 a.m. ET, December 4, 2022

Just days away from the Georgia Senate runoff — Here's everything you need to know about the race

From CNN's Melissa Holzberg DePalo and Ethan Cohen

Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Senate nominee Herschel Walker.
Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Senate nominee Herschel Walker. (Getty Images, Shutterstock)

Georgia will host a Senate runoff election, on Dec. 6, between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Senate nominee Herschel Walker, a former football player.

Warnock and Walker first faced each other in the Nov. 8 general election, but neither of them received more than 50% of the vote, forcing a runoff election.

The candidates:

This is Warnock’s fourth campaign in two years. He first ran in 2020 against appointed GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler to finish former Sen. Johnny Isakson’s term. That race went to a runoff election in Jan. 2021 which Warnock won. Warnock and Democratic Georgia Sen. Jon Ossoff’s wins gave Democrats control of the Senate in 2021.

Republican football player Herschel Walker easily won the GOP nomination earlier this year. While Donald Trump’s endorsement helped Walker secure the nomination, the former president did not campaign for the former football star in the runoff amid concerns a visit could turn off independents and suburban women, critical voting blocs in the state.

What votes looked like on Nov. 8: In the November general election, Warnock led with 49.4% of the vote and Walker had 48.5%. The libertarian candidate, Chase Oliver, carried 2.1% of the vote.

Poll and voting information: Any registered voter can vote by mail or vote early in person. Voters did not have to participate in the November general election to participate in the runoff election. Polls open Tuesday at 7 a.m. ET and close at 7 p.m. ET. The last day to vote early was Friday.