By Jim EllisFeb. 25, 2021 — Just when former Sen. David Perdue (R) appeared prepared to challenge new Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) in the 2022 general election, he abruptly reversed course and announced Tuesday that he will not run. Perdue had filed a 2022 campaign committee with the Federal Election Commission, but such action does not make one an official candidate.
Without Perdue in the 2022 race, the fight for the Republican nomination becomes a free-for-all. Earlier in the week former Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R), who lost her Jan. 5 Senate runoff election, as did Sen. Perdue, confirmed that she is considering running in 2022 in addition to forming a grassroots organization with the goal of increasing right-of-center voter registration in Georgia.
Former Rep. Doug Collins (R), who lost in the 2020 special Senate election, placing behind Sens. Warnock and Loeffler in the crowded jungle primary, also said that he is considering a new run for the Senate, or even a potential Republican nomination challenge to Gov. Brian Kemp.
Yesterday, Atlanta Journal Constitution political reporter Greg Bluestein listed several more Republicans who apparently have not yet ruled out a Senate bid next year. They are: Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, Attorney General Chris Carr, Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, and former US Ambassador to Luxembourg Randy Evans.
In the Nov. 3 special jungle primary, Rev. Warnock captured the highest vote total, 1,617,035 of 4,914,361 ballots cast from within a field of 20 candidates. Sen. Loeffler placed second, 292,760 votes ahead of third place finisher Collins.
The fact that Loeffler finished substantially ahead of Collins will be one argument she will likely use to convince base voters that she is most able to defeat Sen. Warnock this time around. Collins, conversely, will contend that a Republican primary is very different than a special election in a regular voting schedule, thus suggesting that he is better positioned to win a primary nomination and develop a stronger base from which to oppose Sen. Warnock.
With Georgia changing politically, any Republican nominee is going to have a difficult time unseating Sen. Warnock but doing so is certainly within the realm of possibility. In the Jan. 5 runoff, while both Loeffler and Perdue were losing to their respective Democratic opponents, a third race was also on the ballot.
In a statewide contest for a seat on the Georgia Public Service Commission, Republican Lauren McDonald won the election with 50.4 percent of the vote, only slightly more than both Senate GOP candidates obtained but enough to clinch the victory. In 2022, the McDonald vote model will have to be followed and expanded upon for any Republican candidate to win the forthcoming election.
Let’s take a look at some key voter registration statistics. Georgians do not register by political party, but the Secretary of State does record demographic information such as race and gender.
According to the latest registration statistics, the non-Hispanic white universe accounts for only 52.6 percent of the entire 7,383,220-person voting populace. The black component comprises 30.1 percent, meaning a Republican candidate is going to have to draw an improved share from the remaining 17.3 percent to cobble together a majority coalition.
Within this latter group of Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, those who don’t fit into one of the aforementioned categories, and individuals who did not complete the entire registration form is a number that exceeds 1.27 million people.
The eventual Republican nominee’s strategy must address how the campaign will persuade a larger share of these people to help counter what will be a strong and unified black turnout; this, added to the larger share of the white vote that Democrats have been drawing in recent elections.
Expect the next Georgia race to again become a national Senate campaign that will likely transform into the top Republican conversion opportunity.