Former President Donald Trump hosted a tele-rally for Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker on the eve of Tuesday’s consequential runoff election as the former president makes one final effort to push his hand-picked candidate across the finish line in a state that has given him political setbacks since the 2016 election.
Trump’s virtual appearance marks a slight shift in strategy, as the former president has largely stayed away from Walker in the final months of his Senate campaign. Despite appearing alongside Walker for a number of rallies during the primary election cycle, Trump has taken more of a hands-off approach as the general election neared — with several Republicans saying it’s for the best.
“I think he’d be more effective if he did it by phone,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told Politico earlier this month.
Many Republicans have blamed Trump for midterm defeats by turning the final days of the campaign into a tease about his forthcoming 2024 announcement and motivating Democrats to head to the polls to vote against him.
Democrats have already secured a tight majority in the Senate after Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto’s win in Nevada, guaranteeing the party 50 seats plus Vice President Kamala Harris’s tiebreaking vote. However, Republicans are hoping to preserve their tie in the Senate to maintain some sense of control, eyeing a 50-50 makeup as a way to block Democratic legislation.
The GOP has already secured a narrow majority in the House, meaning a tie in the Senate could help the party stall the Democrats’ agenda over the next two years.
Trump homed in on that goal during his tele-rally appearance on Monday, warning voters not to hand a victory to the Democratic Party.
“A vote for Raphael Warnock is a vote to give Chuck Schumer and the unhinged far-left Democrats total control of the United States Senate,” he said. “We can’t let this happen.”
Trump’s distance from his hand-picked candidate in the Peach State comes as the former president has been the subject of a number of criminal investigations and controversies that have caused a divide among the Republican Party. Most recently, Trump has been under scrutiny for hosting white supremacist Nick Fuentes and rapper Kanye West, who has made a number of antisemitic comments in recent weeks, at his Mar-a-Lago home earlier this month.
Additionally, the former president has come under fire for suggesting over the weekend that election fraud should be used to justify terminating the Constitution and throwing out the results of the 2020 election.
Meanwhile, Warnock’s campaign has sought to weaponize Trump’s endorsement of Walker. It released an ad in mid-November tying Walker to Trump, mirroring a larger strategy used by some Democrats during the midterm cycle that sought to paint their Republican opponents as far-right extremists.
The Senate race in Georgia poses high stakes for Trump as Walker’s campaign is his last chance to secure a victory after a disappointing midterm cycle that saw several of his endorsed election-denying candidates lose their races.
Voters began casting in-person ballots Tuesday as polls opened in Georgia at 7 a.m. EST. Early voting for the runoff race opened on Nov. 28. More than 1.8 million people had already voted by Tuesday morning.