ATLANTA — With only three days left in the closely watched Senate runoff election in Georgia, Senator Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, and his Republican opponent, Herschel Walker, are closing out the campaign with the divergent strategies they have deployed through much of the 2022 midterm cycle.
While Warnock has kept a packed schedule of public events and press interviews this weekend, Walker has preferred a less visible approach.
On Sunday, Warnock started one of his final mornings of the campaign at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he is the senior pastor. From there, his campaign planned a lineup of meet-and-greets with voters, capped by two rallies near Athens.
Walker’s campaign has alerted media to one rally Sunday, part of what his campaign is calling an “Evict Warnock Bus Tour.” He will have the support of two men he hopes will be future colleagues: Republican Senators. Tim Scott of South Carolina and John Kennedy of Louisiana.
Walker’s pace is light for a race that appears to be winnable for either candidate, according to polls. The outcome of Tuesday’s election will determine whether Democrats win a 51st vote in the Senate, an addition that would offer some procedural benefits in the chamber. For Republicans, a win by Walker would be a symbolic victory, reasserting Georgia’s red streak despite the Democratic surge two years ago.
The candidates’ closing arguments have not changed much since last month, when Warnock edged out Walker but fell short of the 50 percent threshold, sending the race into overtime.
Warnock has focused on promoting both Democrats’ policy wins and his willingness to work with Republicans. Walker has sought to tie the senator to President Biden’s agenda and focused more on cultural issues than policy points.
The race has also been remarkably personal, as the candidates have traded attacks on their family ties and qualifications, and Walker has fended off accusations of violent behavior.
On Saturday, Warnock held a morning rally focused on getting voters to the polls Tuesday. Hundreds crowded a parking lot near downtown Atlanta, where Warnock said he was “on the verge of victory.” “But I don’t want us to do the victory dance before we actually get into the end zone,” he told the crowd.
Later that morning, Walker was inside his tour bus at an empty tailgate party outside the SEC championship game, waiting for the rain to stop. He eventually decamped to shake hands and take selfies with football fans decked out in the University of Georgia’s red and black. Some wished him luck and shared in warm embraces.
Walker delivered no remarks and declined to answer questions from a small huddle of reporters, as his staffers waved cameras back.
“I’ve never been hiding,” he said later in a short interview with Politico, rejecting accusations that his campaign team was keeping him away from voters and the press.
Walker’s anemic pace in the race’s closing stretch has caused consternation among his allies. Some have feared the Trump-endorsed Republican is running out of time to draw in moderate conservatives and Black voters, who make up about one-third of Georgia’s electorate and appear to overwhelmingly support Warnock. But if white Republicans across the state show up for Walker, it could propel him to victory.
If there was one spot in metro Atlanta where Walker could be expected to find fans, it was the football stadium where the University of Georgia was taking on its conference rival, Louisiana State University. Walker led the University of Georgia to a national championship in the 1980s and won the Heisman Trophy before rising through the ranks of professional football.
But on Saturday, as it continued to drizzle, the few people present at Walker’s tailgate in a prime spot outside the stadium appeared to be staffers and others associated with the campaign. They enticed fans from neighboring tents with the chance to meet Walker inside his bus. Soon, a short line had formed, and members of the campaign passed out buttons and stickers.
Several Walker supporters in line brushed away criticisms of his campaign pace, saying they believed the significance of the race and Walker’s conservative values would move Republican voters to the polls.
“To be able to get to keep the Senate at 50-50 is terribly important,” said Rob Jackson, 74, the president of a sports marketing consulting company.
Warnock ended Saturday with as much fanfare and energy as he began it, joining several US representatives, including Grace Meng of New York, Pramila Jayapal of Washington, and Judy Chu of California, before a cheering crowd of hundreds at an event near downtown Atlanta. The gathering was hosted by the AAPI Victory Fund, a voter mobilization super PAC focused on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, the fast-growing demographic in Georgia and across the nation.