ATLANTA, GA – An impassioned former President Barack Obama urged Georgians to re-elect Sen. Raphael Warnock as he headlined a large rally for the first-term Democratic lawmaker who’s facing off with Republican challenger Herschel Walker in Tuesday’s Senate runoff election.
And Obama repeatedly targeted Walker, questioning his competence to serve in Congress.
The former president charged that Walker, a first time candidate and former college and professional football star, lacked the “confidence or the character, the track record of service, that would justify him representing Georgia in the United States Senate right now.”
And taking aim at some of the controversial comments Walker’s made in recent weeks – including telling supporters that “I don’t want to be a vampire anymore, I want to be a werewolf” – Obama jabbed at Warnock’s opponent, saying “Mr. Walker has been talking about the issues of great importance to the people of Georgia.”
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Walker took aim at Obama on the eve of the former president’s return to Georgia, calling him an “actor,” among other criticisms.
Walker, a former professional and college football star who won the Heisman Trophy and steered the Georgia Bulldogs to a national championship, was narrowly edged by Warnock – the pastor at Atlanta’s famed Ebenezer Baptist Church where Martin Luther King, Jr. once preached – in November’s general election. Warnock led Walker by roughly 37,000 votes out of nearly 4 million cast. However, since neither candidate topped 50% of the vote required by Georgia law to secure victory, the race headed to a runoff.
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This was Obama’s second trip to Georgia in just over a month. The former president teamed up with Warnock and 2022 gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams at a large rally at an arena near Atlanta’s airport in late October, just ahead of the November general election.
Obama joined Warnock on the eve of the final day of early voting ahead of the runoff election.
“I’m here for the same reason I was here last time,” Obama told the crowd that Warnock’s campaign estimated at roughly 5,000, as he urged them “to vote for your outstanding senator.”
“Tomorrow is the last day of early vote and then you need to get people out to the polls on Tuesday,” the former president emphasized. “I’m counting on you to do it.”
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More than 1 million Georgians have already cast ballots, according to state officials, and Democrats have aggressively pushed for their supporters to get to the polls to give Warnock a head start ahead of next Tuesday’s contest.
Democrats point to early voting data that indicates high turnout so far in blue counties and congressional districts. However, Walker pushed back on the notion that Warnock and the Democrats were dominating early voting in the Georgia runoff.
“The people right now are having their voices heard, and their vote counted, and I’m happy with the turnout because I think it looks good for me,” Walker told Fox News in an interview aboard his campaign bus following an event in Dalton, Georgia on Wednesday.
With the Democrats secured in their control of the Senate and the chamber’s majority no longer on the line in the runoff election – unlike two years ago when the Democrats sweep of the twin Georgia Senate runoffs gave them the majority – there is a concern that Democratic voters won’t feel the urgency to head to the polls.
“What’s the difference between 50 and 51? The answer is a lot,” Obama highlighted. “Let me break it down for you. An extra senator gives Democrats more breathing room on important bills. It prevents one person from holding out everything.”
“It also puts us in a better position a couple of years from now when you’ve got another election. But then the Senate map is going to be tilted in favor of Republicans and it’ll help prevent them from getting a filibuster-proof majority,” Obama added.
There are also concerns for Republicans that their voters will be deflated.
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But Ralph Reed, the founder of the evangelical Christian Faith and Freedom Coalition and a past chair of the Georgia GOP, disagreed with that argument, telling Fox News as he campaigned with Walker on Wednesday that “these people are mad and they want to hit somebody.”
Pointing to the acknowledgment that if the Democrats win the Georgia runoff, they will have control of Senate committees that they would not enjoy in an evenly split chamber (Democrats would still retain the majority thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie breaking vote through her constitutional role as president of the Senate), Reed emphasized that, “we’ve been able to explain to voters and the activists the difference between a 50-50 Senate and a 51-49 Senate.”
Fox News’ Jake Karalexis contributed to this report