The short answer is, I don't know. Prior to the 2021 Georgia Senate runoffs, I wrote a whole piece -- solidly argued, based on historical precedent and other factors, if I do say so myself -- about why Republicans were favored to sweep both races, especially since each GOP nominee led on election night. And then January 5, 2021 happened, resulting in a pair of Democratic Senators. Previous patterns didn't hold, partially because hundreds of thousands of Republican voters stayed home for the runoff, convinced by Donald Trump that the system was rigged and participation was pointless. Democratic voters had no such own-goal wet-blanketism depressing their turnout, and they won narrow victories. Will 2022 be different? Some thoughts:
(1) Georgia Republicans overhauled the elections system in the state with a series of common-sense and reasonable reforms, led by Gov. Brian Kemp. Democrats and their allies screamed bloody murder, lying incessantly and disgracefully about what was done. Georgians ultimately and wisely didn't buy the hysteria. Republicans overwhelmingly re-nominated Kemp, despite Trump's ferocious opposition, then Kemp soundly defeated election denier and two-time loser Stacey Abrams last week. The system is not rigged, and it seems Republican voters in the state feel much more confident about that than they did roughly two years ago. Kemp is also a force in Georgia politics, having created his own powerful political operation, which will now be deployed on behalf of Herschel Walker. These factors help the Walker campaign.
(2) It's hard to gauge each side's motivation to turn out. Democrats have already held the Senate, which may energize their voters in Georgia to show up and secure a one-seat net gain. It could also conceivably breed some sense of complacency. Abrams already lost, Democrats will hold the Senate, does this really matter as much? Republicans might want to build on Kemp's success and hold the Senate line at a 50-50 technical minority, with the difference of one seat potentially looming large ahead of the next cycle:
Even if 2023 majority not at stake, GA runoff is still really important as you look ahead to 2024 Senate map. Ds could really use an extra seat cushion given how exposed they are next time pic.twitter.com/fqSUL747tj— Kyle Kondik (@kkondik) November 12, 2022
An even Senate split in the next Congress would dramatically improve the GOP's prospects of gaining the upper chamber in 2024 -- and would also give Chuck Schumer (and tie-breaker Kamala Harris) zero margin for error, with Joe Manchin always lurking as an X-factor and possible headache for Democrats. 51-49 would be easier to manage for Schumer et al, especially on controversial nominees. In other words, there are things at stake in this Georgia race. But that's a lot harder to message than "control of the Senate is on the line" when it comes to Republican voters who may be demoralized in the wake of last week's relative disappointment. The latter point would be the rallying cry if just one GOP Senate challenger had won anywhere else, but none did, so Georgia at least feels more like an afterthought. If rank-and-file Republicans perceive the runoff that way, Raphael Warnock will benefit.
(3) Statewide incumbents just aren't losing this year, in either party, anywhere. Literally the only incumbent Senator or governor who's been unseated is Nevada's Democratic governor. All others have won. That trend may not extend into an unusual one-state runoff scenario, but it can't be ignored, either.
(4) Georgia voters are exhausted by the political ads and campaigning. Tons of money is pouring into the state, yet again, and it's understandable that neither party wants to unilaterally disarm or put itself at a relative disadvantage. But my guess is that there are very, very few persuadable voters left ahead of this final leg of the race. It's all about mobilizing bodies to cast ballots at this point.
We'll revisit all of these dynamics as December 6th approaches. I'll leave you with another debunking of Democrats' ugly 'Jim Crow suppression' lie, following record-setting Georgia turnout, as well as news of Kemp deservedly moving to clean house within the state party after his impressive electoral showing:
Georgias voter turnout this year was about seven points higher than New York’s.— Zaid Jilani (@ZaidJilani) November 15, 2022
With re-election in hand, Gov. Kemp is doing what everyone expected him to do — gut the Georgia GOP. It’s necessary. Its chairman backed the primary challengers to the statewide GOP officeholders and won’t leave power. https://t.co/MYKRsw4XLT— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) November 14, 2022