By Kent R. Kroeger (October 16, 2022)
There are two constants in how the U.S. news media and pundit class cover elections: (1) They love scandals, and (2) they are convinced that political campaigns matter. But reality is different.
Most elections are predictable months before the general election (and often before the candidates have even been nominated by their parties). For incumbents, re-election rates are over 90 percent for U.S. House races and over 80 percent for U.S. Senate races. And while a scandal can end the careers of otherwise strong political candidates — one estimate is that 40 percent of candidates facing a ‘scandal’ will not survive the next election — there are too many cases like that of scandal-plagued U.S. House member Matt Gaetz (FL-Rep) who is a strong favorite to get re-elected in 2022.
Many scandals do affect voter evaluations, but there is also research showing that positive prior views of a politician can cushion them losing support due to a scandal. And, presumably, as Americans are becoming more partisan in how they filter new political information, they may be less likely to punish their party’s candidate facing a scandal.
The Georgia U.S. Senate race between Raphael Warnock (D) and Herschel Walker (R) is a good case in point.
No U.S. state is more politically competitive than Georgia. President Joe Biden won by 11,779 votes in 2020 in an historically red state that is slowly evolving into a blue state.
Since 2018, new voter registrations in Georgia have predominately come from counties where Biden beat Trump, and despite eight of Georgia’s 14 congressional districts voting Republican in 2020, Georgia feels slightly more blue and than red heading into the midterm elections.
In this context, I would be shocked if Warnock, a Baptist paster who ran in a 2020 special election to replace resigning Senator Johnny Isakson (R), didn’t win the 2022 U.S. Senate race. He’s disciplined and articulate whose only significant flaw is association with an unpopular incumbent president.
In contrast, Warnock, despite being a political amateur when he first ran for the U.S. Senate, is running against a true political amateur in former…