5 takeaways from the Georgia Senate runoff

(CNN) Senator Raphael Warnock remains undefeated.

After being pushed for another runoff in November, the Democrat urged Georgia voters in December to outdo him “once again” — and once again, they delivered.

As of November 2020, Warnock has been the leading voter in four consecutive Georgia Senate elections. But because state law requires statewide candidates to win a majority to win a general election, Warnock has had to double performance in both his 2020 special election and his bid for a full six-year term in 2022.

His win in that head-to-head with Republican nominee Herschel Walker means Democrats will expand their already secured 51-seat Senate majority over Republicans’ 49-seat and cement the Peach State as a potentially pivotal battleground for the 2024 presidency.

As the 2022 midterm cycle draws to a close, here are five takeaways from this final election night in Georgia.

The 51st seat gives the true majority to the Democrats

Democrats had already seized control of the Senate last month, securing 50 seats, which would allow Vice President Kamala Harris to cast the deciding vote as she is doing now. However, winning a 51st seat thanks to Warnock’s victory on Tuesday carries important benefits for Democrats, who govern the Senate, and for President Joe Biden’s administration.

The party will now enter 2023 with a true Senate majority – a majority that does not require the power-sharing agreement struck in an evenly divided chamber for the past two years. That outright majority means Democrats will have majority on committees, allowing them to more easily push Biden’s nominee.

For example: The 22-member Senate Judiciary Committee will switch from an 11 Democrat-11 Republican split to 12 Democrat-10 Republican. This eliminates a GOP procedural mechanism that slows the confirmation of Biden’s nominees to the judiciary.

Meanwhile, Democratic leaders are at less risk of a single senator holding their priorities hostage because the party can now afford to lose a vote. Harris, who has already cast the third most crucial votes of any vice president and the most since John Calhoun nearly 200 years ago, would be less tied to Capitol Hill.

It’s also a first boost for Democrats ahead of the 2024 election, which will see the party defend multiple seats in deep red states, including West Virginia and Montana, to maintain its majority.

Georgia is a swing state for the time being

As long as former President Donald Trump remains an influential figure in Republican politics, Georgia will be a crucial battleground on Election Day — especially when federal offices are up for election.

If there were any doubts before Tuesday, they have now been cleared.

Walker was Trump’s hand-picked candidate to take on Warnock, and he failed, despite first running with a popular Republican governor and then, this time, receiving the same governor’s explicit endorsement and support on the campaign trail.

Kemp’s inability to drag Walker across the finish line says less about him — or even Walker, who is in any case a flawed candidate — than it does about the state’s shifting partisan bias. Changing demographics, a developing economy, and strategic, dogged organizing by the Democrats have transformed what was a beacon of the Old South into a legitimate swing state.

Now until 2024.

The Democrats’ turnout machine strikes again

After the 2020 election, Georgia Republicans passed controversial legislation that, among other things, shortened the amount of time between a November election and a possible runoff, creating a condensed schedule that narrowed the window for absentee voters and reduced the number of days early in person decide by vote.

It does not matter.

Georgia’s Democratic turnout machinery has delivered again over the past four weeks — with a start that dates back years and thanks in large part to the groundwork of Stacey Abrams and her allies — in a hard-fought race that netted tens of millions of dollars good results in spending by campaigns and national organizations.

While the final number of votes cast remains to be seen, early in-person turnout ahead of this year’s runoff was lower compared to 2021. That’s because the new law has reduced the period between votes from nine to four weeks. But it was still going strong, as the final week of voting before Election Day repeatedly broke the state’s record for early voting in a single day.

Turnout was particularly high in key Democratic strongholds, including major metropolitan areas and suburbs, which were shaded blue after former President Donald Trump’s election in 2016. Six years later, Georgia is not only a symbol of Trump’s apparent opposition to Republicans, but a role model for Democrats looking to capitalize on it.

Trump earns another seat in the Senate

Trump sought to use the 2022 midterm elections to fill congressional majorities and state houses with allies who owed their positions to Trump’s support prior to his third White House candidacy. Instead, he endorsed a series of flawed, controversial candidates who lost races that the GOP expected would win. Walker joined a list Tuesday night that includes Arizona’s Blake Masters and Pennsylvania’s Mehmet Oz, as well as governor losers such as Arizona’s Kari Lake, Wisconsin’s Tim Michels, Michigan’s Tudor Dixon and Pennsylvania’s Doug Mastriano.

No Republican presidential candidate had lost Georgia since 1992. But with Trump running for re-election, the Democrats won the presidency in 2020 and both the state’s Senate seats in the 2021 runoff. Then, this year, they won another Senate seat, defeating a candidate put forward by the former president.

The losses are having an immediate impact: Trump has already launched his 2024 presidential bid. Any defeat by a Republican pushed by Trump is likely to anger donors, embolden potential rivals and undermine GOP voters’ confidence in Trump’s political power.

The blame game that began four weeks ago will continue in the wake of Walker’s defeat, likely fueling calls for Republicans to seek leadership elsewhere.

Kemp cannot convince the ticket distributors

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp kept his distance from Walker as he sought reelection in this year’s rematch with Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams — and won 2.1 million votes, about 200,000 more when Walker beat Warnock in November.

After his victory, however, Kemp gave his party’s Senate nominee a stronger welcome, despite the governor’s bad blood with Trump.

Kemp’s goal was to persuade some of those tens of thousands of voters to support the Republican candidate in the runoff. He has appeared with Walker at rallies, edited TV commercials for the former University of Georgia football star, and even loaned the campaign that helped win him victory to a super-PAC allied with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to help Walker to strengthen .

That was in marked contrast to the actions of Trump, who held a tele-campaign for Walker on the eve of the election but otherwise did little to help in the runoff. And if Walker had won, Kemp would have deserved a big chunk of the credit.

However, the Georgia runoff proved a lesson from former President Barack Obama and later Trump: Voter support is often non-transferrable. And without Kemp on the ballot, many of the same moderate suburbanites who rejected Walker in November did so again in the runoff.