Former President Barack Obama returned to Atlanta on Thursday to rally support for Sen. Warnock’s re-election in the Georgia runoff race against Republican Herschel Walker.
Mr. Obama, the nation’s first Black president, has served as the party’s surrogate closer in marquee races this midterm election cycle, helping to give Democrats a final jolt of momentum before Election Day, and hoped to boost Mr. Warnock five days from the election.
“I am here today for the same reason I was here the last time – to ask you to vote one more time for my friend and your outstanding senator, Raphael Warnock!” Mr. Obama said.
Mr. Obama described Mr. Warnock as a “workhorse” and a “class act.” and said Mr. Walker reminds people he doesn’t have the competence for the job “every time he opens his mouth.”
“Since the last time I was here, Mr. Walker has been talking about issues that are of great importance to the people of Georgia like whether it is better to be a vampire or a werewolf,” he said. “This is a debate I once had myself when I was 7. And then I grew up.”
“Mr. Walker decided he wanted to be a werewolf, which is great. As far as I am concerned he can be anything he wants to be except a United States senator,” he said, sparking applause from the crowd.
With control of the Senate decided, the race in Georgia will determine whether Democrats will emerge with an additional seat in the upper chamber after entering the election cycle facing daunting inflation headwinds.
Mr. Obama said the election showed that “most Americans prefer leaders who want to bring people together, to solve real problems, as opposed to conspiracy theorists and fearmongers,” he said. “That makes me somewhat optimistic.”
“It is good to know that folks would prefer normal to looney tunes,” Mr. Obama said. “But, and you knew there was a ‘but,’ I am here to tell you we can’t let up.”
For his part, Mr. Warnock has been a fundraising juggernaut, raising over $175 million for his re-election push, far outpacing Mr. Walker’s $58 million.
Former President Donald Trump nudged Mr. Walker into the race but has yet to hold one of his signature campaign rallies for the football legend.
Mr. Walker has instead leaned on an array of other Republican leaders, including Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
President Biden also has not entered the fray, signaling the Warnock campaign is confident they are better off with Mr. Obama giving them a late-innings boost.
Mr. Warnock, senior pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, and Mr. Walker, a former Heisman Trophy-winning running back at the University of Georgia, each fell short of capturing more than 50% of the vote in the Nov. 8 election, triggering the runoff race.
Mr. Warnock, however, outperformed Mr. Walker in the race by more than 37,000 votes.
Mr. Walker, meanwhile, ran 203,000 votes behind Mr. Kemp.
The result revived fears the personal baggage Mr. Walker brought into the race — including a history of violent behavior and allegations the pro-life candidate paid girlfriends to have abortions – had turned off Republican voters he needs to win the seat.
At Thursday’s rally with Mr. Obama, Mr. Warnock said Mr. Walker was a great football player but has shown he is not prepared for the job of U.S. senator.
“Georgia it is time to raise your voice because this race is about character and competence,” Mr. Warnock said. “I know we have political differences, that is part of what makes this country a great county, but let me tell you in my race this is not about Republican and Democrat. This is not about right and left. This is about the difference between right and wrong.”
Republicans, meanwhile, say Mr. Warnock is a far worse option, arguing his liberal tendencies do not reflect the state.
Nearly 1.2 million people have already voted in the runoff race. Both parties say the early totals bode well for their candidates.
Mr. Warnock said he feels good about the early tallies while warning his supporters “we cannot let up.”
“We have to keep our foot on the gas all the way to victory!” he said.
Before his visit, Mr. Obama recorded a television commercial in which he vouched for Mr. Warnock. Former first lady Michelle Obama also got involved, taping a pair of robocalls targeting likely Warnock backers.
Mr. Obama also visited the state before the midterm elections.