Sen. Warnock cites ‘bipartisanship’, avoids Biden in Georgia

ATLANTA (AP) — Democrats in Georgia have predicted that if Sen. Raphael Warnock loses to challenger Herschelle Walker this fall and Republicans regain control of Capitol Hill.

“They are going to take away our democratic rights one after the other,” longtime state legislator Nan Orrock warned partisans at the birthday party for the senator, who turns 53 on July 23. “Failure,” she said, “is not an option.”

Warnock struck a different deal.

“I work with someone to do something good for the people of Georgia,” he told the same crowd, highlighting the trio of Republican senators with whom he has made legislative deals. Warnock mentioned President Joe Biden’s name only once and several times only to “President of the United States”, trying to distance himself from Biden – and the rising inflation that marked his term. Is.

Running for his first full Senate term, Warnock is projecting himself as a senator who is willing to do whatever it takes to help his state. It’s a change from his approach in the nationally advanced twin runoff campaigns won by Warnock and fellow Georgia Democrat John Osoff in January 2021, giving his party control of the Senate two months after Biden was elected president.

Now, with inflation rising and Biden’s popularity waning, Warnock needs a more nuanced argument, and he is selling his work in Washington, specifically on the economy, to something separate from the Democratic leadership of the White House and Senate. in the form of.

Republicans sense an opportunity in a state they dominated for two decades before 2020. Walker, like Warnock was the first-time candidate two years ago, is doing everything possible to shape the contest into a referendum that his campaign calls “Biden-Warnock.” Agenda.”

“It’s still a national race,” said Gail Gicho, a senior adviser to Walker. “The burden is on Rafael Warnock and he has a very close relationship with Joe Biden in this environment. Herschel has put him on the defensive.”

Warnock’s strategy of playing down his “bipartisan” credentials and leaving other Democrats to attack Republicans and rally party loyalists, may be his only shot at rebuilding his runaway coalition. In that election, the Democrats were united and enthusiastic; Republicans were not, especially GOP-leaning moderates, who were brushed off by then-President Donald Trump by his lie that Biden’s victory was a fraud. Some of those voters helped Warnock win by a margin of 2% to 94,000 votes. This time, Warnock can’t depend on Trump to push those key swing voters in his direction.

Attracting them again begins directly with not respecting Republican attacks.

When asked about Walker’s broader sides, Warnock ignored the specifics and lamented the “demagogues trying to divide us”.

When asked about Biden’s performance, he hinted again. “I’m focused on what I’m doing,” Warnock said. “When it means standing with this person or that person, it’s based on what it does for Georgia.”

Even on the president’s achievements, Warnock avoids partisan cheerleading. He lauded the US rescue plan, a coronavirus relief package that passed without a Republican vote, for tax cuts aimed at low-income workers. He praised the long-sought infrastructure bill that included the “Cruz-Warnock Amendment” as a “bipartisan” success.

“Listen to me now,” Warnock said with a laugh, as some of his supporters mocked Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. The two men, Warnock explained, wanted the extension to the east of Interstate 14—a small section in what is now central Texas—a federal priority. Since a Senate committee did not support the idea, potential partners had to work in the full Senate.

The amendment passed unanimously.

“Guess what: the highway that runs through Texas also runs through Georgia,” Warnock said. “It goes past red districts and blue districts. … everyone should be able to get where they need to go.”

Warnock’s Republican Sens of Alabama. Noted other efforts with Tommy Tuberville and Marco Rubio of Florida. With Tuberville, he pioneered a measure that would open up European markets to peanut farmers in his two states. With Rubio, he worked on legislation to improve maternal mortality in the United States.

Tuberville is a staunch ally of Trump. Rubio came to Georgia to campaign against Warnock at the start of the runoff campaign. Warnock did not mention those details.

As for the uneven economy, Warnock specifically referred to “global inflation,” sidelining Biden.

He noted his work on the jobs and technology measure, which the Senate approved on Wednesday with 17 Republican votes. The bill, which aims to boost computer chip production in the United States, would strengthen supply chains and expand national technology production, among other investments, Warnock explained.

The senator pushed for his proposals to limit the cost of insulin for people with diabetes and allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices with drug companies. He reminded supporters that he called on Congress to suspend the federal gas tax in February at the start of the 2022 energy price hike.

“Someone must be listening,” Warnock said, as Georgia’s Republican administration suspended the state gas tax in March and “the president of the United States is now on record saying that we should suspend the gas tax nationally. “.

Warnock reminded reporters that he came out swinging when Biden’s budget plans called for the closure of the Pentagon’s war preparedness center in Savannah. “I stood up against the administration” and “a terrible idea,” Warnock said, taking a position that aligns him with Republicans in the state’s congressional delegation.

Additionally, he said he is “moving the President of the United States right now” on canceling student loans for some borrowers. Biden’s Education Department has already eased some rules on loan repayments, and the president is still considering a more blanket waiver, up to a cap. The White House has said that a decision on the amount could be made in August.

At Walker’s camp, Gicho likes the idea of ​​Warnock mimicking scenes from the two-month runoff blitz, when Biden traveled to Georgia twice and shared the steps with Warnock and Osoff. “The best surrogate can be Warnock,” she said of the beleaguered president. “But we know that won’t happen.”

Instead, Warnock appears ready to carefully flaunt his party’s credentials. In fundraising solicitations and online ads, Warnock says he is “running to keep Georgia blue.” But the campaign targets credible Democratic voters.

Standing over birthday cake and candles, the senator remembered his runaway victory and thanked the Georgians who “gave us the smallest majority possible.”

“Think what would have happened if it went the other way,” he allowed. But at its climax 15 minutes later, the Baptist minister has grown – and perhaps towards a potentially decisive center.

“We are one nation,” he said, raising his voice. “We are one people. And come November, Georgia is going to do it one more time.”

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