Dec. 3, 2022 coverage of the Georgia runoff election

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Many Democrats might be wondering how the Georgia Senate runoff is even close. Republican Herschel Walker’s campaign has suffered through a number of scandals, yet he still only narrowly trails Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in our latest CNN/SSRS poll. 

It might lead some to offer the common refrain: “Nothing matters.” 

But the poll is an indication, in my mind, that candidate quality still matters when it comes to voter preferences. Walker would likely be ahead were it not for what voters see as his flaws as a candidate. 

For one thing, Walker is vastly underperforming the fundamentals baseline. President Joe Biden’s disapproval rating is 57% in Georgia, but Walker is at just 48% of the vote against 52% for Warnock, according to the CNN poll. 

Why this matters: Warnock has a 99-point lead among the 42% of voters who approve of Biden, but Walker only has a 67-point lead among those who disapprove of Biden.  

The reason Walker isn’t doing better among those who disapprove of Biden is simple: Voters who back Warnock while also disapproving of Biden simply don’t like Walker. His favorable rating among this group is a mere 5%. 

This looks a lot like a pre-runoff New York Times/Siena College poll. Although voters in that survey (like this one) slightly preferred Warnock, they also slightly preferred a Republican-controlled Senate.  

Indeed, voters in the CNN poll who said the candidates’ positions on the issues were more important than their character and integrity favored Walker by a 29-point margin. 

They were overwhelmed, however, by Warnock’s 49-point margin among those who said that character and integrity were more important.  

If Warnock ends up winning, it will be a sign that candidate quality still matters. That’s a lesson Republicans learned this year in a number of states, where Democratic candidates won despite Biden’s unpopularity.


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