WASHINGTON – When Georgian Senator David Purdue did not show up for the debate Sunday night, he made sure of two outcomes: John Usov, Perdue’s Democratic opponent, would enjoy a free-to-air time unrelated to his opponent’s attacks, and the other Senate debate that night would draw much more attention.
Republicans decided that handing Mr. Usov an open microphone was worth the deal.
As Georgians prepare to vote in two of the run-off rounds next month that will decide control of the Senate, there remains a bit of ambiguity as to which of the two Democratic candidates GOP officials would like to advance as a target as they try to stir up their base: Reverend Raphael Warnock in the running Against Georgia’s other Republican Senator, Kelly Loeffler.
Mrs. Loeffler articulated Republican strategy when she described Mr. Warnock as a “radical liberal.” 13 Times in their Sunday evening debate. She has repeatedly cited his previous criticism of police officers and A sermon he once said That “no one can serve God and the army,” a topic that has roots in the biblical passages.
Her plan to attack came on the heels of a similar filming by President Trump during a rally Saturday in Valdosta, Georgia, where Republicans played a video clip likening Mr. Warnock to Reverend Jeremiah Wright, a Chicago pastor whose comments drew scrutiny of his relationship with. Barack Obama in the 2008 campaign. The video clip included footage of Mr. Wright saying, “God damn America.”
That same criticism was echoed by other Republican agents, who spent more time focusing on Mr. Warnock than Mr. Ussof.
“This is the man who celebrated Jeremiah Wright, the extreme pastor who was so leftist so far that Barack Obama had to shirk him,” said Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas during a stopover in Georgia last month.
Make Mr. Warnock, pastor of Atlanta’s storied Ebenezer Baptist Church, the face of opposition to the January 5 election – in place of Mr. Usoff, a young white documentary filmmaker – represents a two-pronged strategy.
Highlighting a black candidate and linking him to the state’s most prominent African American Democrat, Stacey Abrams, amounts to a strategy to spur turnout among white conservatives, especially those who hold racist views and are uncomfortable with black leadership. Mr. Warnock will be the first black Democratic senator from the South.
However, the confrontational approach to Warnock also takes a page from the playbook of the National Republican Party’s rule-of-play for the 2020 campaign. Republicans have had great success in the ballot races, against the predominantly white candidates, by linking them to the most liberal figures and ideas in the Democratic Party – such as stopping funding Police, who is not supported by Mr. Warnock.
These attacks, delivered without overt references to race, may be enough to convince the multi-ethnic coalition of suburban residents who turned into Joseph R. Biden Jr. in the presidential race to vote next month for Republicans and ensure the Republican-controlled Senate.
“Both are new political entrants with thin paper tracks,” said Republican strategist Liam Donovan of the two Democratic candidates, but Warnock gives you more to target than Ossoff, especially on familiar topics that resonate with the Republican audience. Usuf is too boring to present a useful political caricature to him. “
Republicans have another duty when it comes to Mr. Warnock: Since Mrs. Loeffler spent so much of her focus and money fending off Rep. Doug Collins, Republican, in the first round of voting last month in the Senate race, Mr. Warnock came out of November with the lowest unfavorable degrees of The four candidates contested for the two seats.
Both parties see Ms Loeffler, who was appointed to her seat in December and is a first-time candidate, as the most vulnerable Republicans. Its performance was slightly below Mr. Purdue’s performance on the small set of ballots released since the run-offs began.
Mr. Warnock realized the upcoming onslaught was on his way and quickly released an advertisement reviewing the attacks, suggesting that Republicans might even claim he dislikes puppies.
“I love dogs!” He announced that he had hit one of them in the commercial.
However, Mr. Warnock had no such line on guard Sunday night to defuse Mrs. Loeffler’s relentless image of him as an extremist. Instead, he sought to shift focus on his competitor’s fortune and the stock trades she made while serving in the Senate this year.
Mr. Warnock said Mrs. Loeffler “used her privilege as a US senator to win millions from the pandemic while belittling the people she was supposed to represent.”
Mr. Warnock affirmed his commitment to unity – “I’ve worked all my life to bring people together,” he said – and has sought to reassure voters in what remains a center-right nation that he supports police officers.
“Our law enforcement officers are putting it to the test every day,” he said, adding that “they will have an internal ally.” Mrs. Loeffler, however, did not calm down.
“I will not receive a lecture by someone who uses the Bible to justify a split,” she said, referring to Mr. Warnock’s sermon on God and the army. Mr. Warnock responded by accusing Mrs. Loeffler of distorting his words for “cheap political points” and saying that the sermon was about “the moral basis of everything we do”.
What might ultimately drive the Loeffler-Warnock race, and possibly both run-offs, is whether the Republican attacks reminded voters in Georgia of why they showed a long-standing preference for Republican senators, allowing them to put their aversion aside from Mr. Trump’s plot. Promotion.
This may depend in part on the way Mr. Trump behaves after December 14, when the Electoral College formalizes Biden’s victory. On Monday, Georgia officials reasserted the state’s election results after a second recount confirmed that Mr. Trump had lost.
“It strikes me as a focal point,” said Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, referring to the Electoral College deadline next week. He expressed the hope of many in his party that from that moment on, the Georgian Republicans could work openly on the message “We need a firewall.”
For now, Mr Trump’s refusal to admit defeat is denying Republicans the opportunity to set off according to this message; Ms Loeffler demonstrated this in the discussion when she refused to say that Mr. Biden had won the presidency, for fear of alienating Mr. Trump and his ardent supporters.
Even if Georgia’s Republicans manage to fully present themselves as controls on Biden, there are still risks in making Mr. Warnock their only target. If the attacks had an air of intolerance, Republicans might stop the coalition of moderates trying to win them over in the runoff. Many Georgians across ethnic lines take pride in claiming their identity in the New South and may shy away from anything overtly ethnic.
Moreover, anti-Warnock messages may energize black voters, who make up about 30 percent of Georgia’s electorate.
“The Democrats have a hard time convincing some of their African-American voters to return when there is no presidential race at the top of the list,” said White Ayres, a Republican pollster. “But African Americans have never had an African American candidate in the Senate to vote for either of them.”
Jim Galloway, dean of political journalism in Georgia and longtime columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Be warned about the risks To Republicans if they make the attacks too extreme.
He wrote in a recent column that the party was “crossing the line” when it allowed Mr. Collins to claim, as he did last month, that “there is no such thing as a pro-choice priest. What you have is a lie from the bed of hell. It’s time to send him to Ebenezer Baptist Church.” “.
Mr. Galloway wrote, “I couldn’t tell which was more troublesome – pointing to an African American man as“ he, ”or identifying Ebenezer and her worshipers as a den of demonic influence. But it’s hard to walk back either – and with her imprint, Loeffler yielded to both “.
Pressing this question in the debate on Sunday, Mrs. Loeffler insisted that she was not turning to racist appeals, echoing what Mr. Trump had said, saying, “There is no racist bone in my body.” She said it was Mr Warnock’s beliefs – not his identity – that voters should fear the Democrats’ control of the House and the White House.
“What is at stake here in this election is the American dream,” she said. “This is an attack on every Georgian who gets up every day to work hard to provide a better life for their families.”
Mr. Warnock replied: “You lied, not only to me, but about Jesus.”