Obama to hold Dec. 1 runoff rally for Warnock in Atlanta

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Former President Barack Obama is returning to Atlanta for the second time this campaign season, this time to hold a rally for U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock ahead of the Dec. 6 runoff.

Obama will headline a Dec. 1 event for Warnock to boost turnout in the race against Republican hopeful Herschel Walker. The contest landed in a four-week runoff after neither candidate captured a majority of the vote in this month’s election.

The former president starred in an Oct. 28 event for Warnock, Stacey Abrams and other statewide Democrats where he warned the party faithful that “democracy is at stake in this election” and cast Walker, a former football player, as a disaster-in-the-making in the U.S. Senate.

Obama was by far the highest-profile Democrat to rally with Warnock in Georgia during the general election. The senator’s campaign said the event, which attracted thousands of supporters, was more than a headline-grabbing pep rally. Attendees also signed up to complete hundreds of door-knocking shifts to mobilize voters.

Democrats hope that Obama, the rare national figure that Warnock has embraced, can drive up Black voter turnout. The two-term president left office with a nearly 60% approval rating, and his popularity has hardly waned in recent Gallup polls.

The visit comes on the eve of the final day of the early voting period, which Warnock and other Democrats relied upon to bank a crucial cushion of votes during this month’s midterm.

Warnock’s tight alliance with Obama contrasts with his more restrained approach to President Joe Biden, who was the first Democratic presidential nominee to win Georgia since 1992 but remains unpopular with independent voters that Democrats are courting.

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Biden’s approval plunged below 40% in recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution polls, and Warnock has dismissed questions of whether he should run for a second term as “pundit” talk.

Warnock is trying to repeat the strategy he deployed during the midterm, when he pulled slightly ahead of Walker even as every other Republican won comfortable victories in Georgia’s statewide races.

The Democrat is appealing to middle-of-the-road voters who earlier this month split their tickets between Warnock and Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. But he’s also trying to energize his party’s core supporters to cast their ballots in a runoff in which turnout is likely to plummet.

Walker and his Republican allies, meanwhile, want to make the race a litmus test for Biden and the decades-high inflation that many voters say is their top concern.

Democrats have already clinched control of the U.S. Senate, but the Georgia race is more than a consolation prize. A Warnock victory would expand Democrats’ fragile majority in the chamber, while a Walker win would put the GOP on the cusp of winning back control.

The specific time and location of the Dec. 1 visit wasn’t immediately available. Obama is expected to echo the same arguments against Walker that he made in October, when he said the former football star had never “displayed any kind of inclination toward public service” before former President Donald Trump prodded him to run.

“Seems to me he’s a celebrity who wants to be a politician,” Obama said, “and we’ve seen how that goes.”