The Georgia runoff is over. Raphael Warnock came out on top (as expected). And Republicans are once again running the “quality candidate” canard as the reason for Herschel Walker’s loss (in addition to the overblown, overused, Trump scapegoat). Yet despite the fact Walker was outspent by Warnock nearly 3 to 1 (Warnock spent $126,232,942 to Walker’s $48,455,356), Walker performed remarkably well, netting 48.6 percent of the vote to Warnock’s 51.4 percent.
This as Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp only came out in full force for Walker after he coasted to reelection in November (loaning his field organizing team to the Senate Leadership Fund — the GOP’s Senate super PAC which backed Walker). This translated to just a $2 million ground operation on Walker’s behalf.
Simply put: Walker was outspent, out-fundraised, and had very little help as opposed to Warnock and his campaign/party machine. While GOP establishment types might try to convince you that it was the Trump effect or Walker’s poor candidacy, this is nothing but willful ignorance. Winning elections after the 2020 election rule changes is all about the strength of a candidate’s ground game. Without that, there is no chance of ever succeeding to federal office. Here’s how the Warnock campaign did it.
1. Ballot Harvesting
Ballot harvesting, or the practice of going door-to-door soliciting mail-in ballots from voters, is an art form Democrats have perfected since unsupervised mail-in balloting (and a month of early voting) became legal in the wake of the Covid-19 lockdowns. Democrats in key battleground states know that collecting ballots is more important than collecting votes (i.e., generating Election Day turnout), and so they calculate how many ballots they need to secure a victory, and aim singlehandedly at that.
There are several Georgia-based leftist nonprofits that engage in ballot harvesting and curing. America Votes, a left-wing get-out-the-vote group, knocked on 4 million doors leading up to the Georgia runoff (in contrast, the Walker-backing Faith and Freedom Coalition aimed to knock on just 400,000 doors) and made more than 1 million phone calls encouraging likely Democrat voters to cast ballots. Other Democrat groups such as Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight and the New Georgia Project have engaged thousands of volunteers to push their GOTV efforts, including registering largely non-white Georgian residents to vote. VoteBuilder, a voter registration database run by the Democratic National Committee and each respective state’s Democratic Party, gives such activists the information necessary to group and target Democratic voters and contact them about filling out and sending in their mail-in ballot.
2. Smart Spending
Georgia Democrats were very strategic about how they spent their money leading up to the runoff. While the GOP was largely focused on the old model of generating Election Day turnout through campaign mailers and TV ads (thanks to greedy GOP consultants), Democrats spent their dollars on initiatives that guaranteed them votes. Case in point: the Democratic firm Relentless paid 1,455 Georgians to contact more than 58,000 friends and family urging them to vote for Warnock. As Axios reported, Relentless paid each participant $200 to contact between 40-50 family members and friends, encouraging them to vote for Warnock. This isn’t the firm’s first rodeo, however. During the 2021 Senate runoff, the firm used the same tactic and boosted target voter turnout by 3.8 percent. Warnock’s own campaign also paid individuals $500 in a similar scheme. So did the Progressive Turnout Project (although this type of “relational organizing” was not limited to just Georgia). Research shows that voters are more likely to respond to appeals to vote from people they know.
3. Litigating Election Law
Democrats ride election litigation like a jockey riding a horse. Democrat mega-lawyer Marc Elias, the Georgia Democratic Party, and the Warnock campaign filed a lawsuit back in November against the Peach State to prevent it from banning early voting on the Saturday after Thanksgiving — despite a state law explicitly prohibiting it. While there was still plenty of time available for early voting without that Saturday, Georgia Democrats argued the law would result in voter suppression (a.k.a., give them less time to harvest ballots). A Georgia appeals court bought their argument. The Georgia lawsuit is just one example of multiple efforts by Democrats nationwide to manipulate election law in their favor or sue until they get what they want.
What This Means
Despite what corporate media pundits tell you, Georgia is not a swing state. Republicans overwhelmingly swept all other down-ballot races this past election cycle. Nationally, Democrats were focused on control of the Senate, and accordingly focused their strategy and efforts on keeping their Georgia Senate seat. They did this by pulling out their most effective ground game tactics such as harvesting (and curing) ballots, spending millions of dollars in various get-out-the-vote efforts, and going to court to expand and cement their radical post-2020 election law changes. And it paid off. If Republicans can’t stop their tactics, then the GOP would do well to mirror them.