The race for the Senate in Georgia has become one of the most watched contests of the midterms, with the Democrats hoping their incumbent pastor can fend off the Donald Trump-backed former football star. Raphael Warnock, Joe Biden’s hope of keeping the state blue, was only elected last year, using his victory message to appeal for neighbourly love and reconciliation.
Warnock, a religious advocate for health care and abortion access, “presents the more orderly family life”, Dr Christopher Phelps of the American Studies department at Nottingham University told Express.co.uk.
The Ebenezer church reverend has said he believes the ending of federal access to abortion, enshrined in Roe v. Wade, is a “departure from our American ideals”, and has slammed tax cuts for the USA’s richest.
But he is now challenged by GOP contender Herschel Walker, the first-time candidate vying to unseat Warnock and flip the state red.
Personally endorsed by former US President Donald Trump, the ex-NFL star has raised his profile both as a legitimate threat to Warnock, but also one mired in controversy.
But more rests on Warnock than just keeping a blue hold on Georgia; the Democrats “must hold Georgia to hold the Senate”, according to Dr Phelps.
If Warnock loses his spot in the Senate, the Democrats may be unable to pass any legislation through Congress for the next two years, right up to the 2024 presidential elections.
Georgia is often designated a “purple” state, rather than red or blue, for its ability to tip either way, but is described by Dr Phelps as “dominated by Atlanta, a major centre of African American life, while northern Georgia is largely white and rural”.
A poll released on Wednesday showed Senator Warnock was still maintaining his lead over his Republican challenger.
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Warnock is also more widely perceived as caring more about everyday Georgians, polling at 57 percent, whereas Walker’s score was 46 percent.
Another poll, released the previous day, showed the Democratic senator was pulling ahead of Walker by 48 percent to 46 percent.
The Emerson College Polling and The Hill survey from October 4 to October 7 showed a four-point rise for the Democrat since the same poll was conducted in August.
The poll was conducted in the wake of allegations being made public against Walker that he had urged a former girlfriend to have an abortion, and then reimbursed the anonymous woman for the procedure.
Walker has vocally opposed abortion, speaking in favour of a total ban on the procedure.
This is a more hard-line stance than many anti-abortion Republicans have taken.
Although Walker has vehemently denied the allegations, his son publicly denounced his father, and the scandal may “blunt Walker among moderate, suburban voters”, if not the most harcore of Trump’s followers, according to Dr Phelps.
The allegations have “drawn attention to his history of mental health struggles, extramarital affairs, and erratic behaviour”, and set back the GOP’s hopes of making “inroads into the black and urban vote”.