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Democrats maintain massive ad spending edge in Georgia Senate runoff

First Read is your briefing from “Meet the Press” and the NBC Political Unit on the day’s most important political stories and why they matter.
Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., Georgia, speaks to supporters in Atlanta on Dec. 3, 2022.
Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., Georgia, speaks to supporters Saturday in Atlanta. Dustin Chambers / Bloomberg via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — If it’s Monday ... It’s the last day of campaigning before tomorrow’s Georgia Senate runoff. ... NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard  covers the closing messages by Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker. ... Hillyard also sits down with Walker’s ex-girlfriend Cheryl Parsa, who alleges that the former football star was physically abusive to her in 2005. ... Nearly 2 million Georgians  have voted early, per NBC’s Sahil Kapur, smashing records for single-day early voting. ... And don’t miss the NBCU Academy primer on the runoff at 1:00 pm ET: “How NBC News Covers the Georgia Runoff Election.”

But first: The GOP cavalry never really showed up for Republican Herschel Walker in Georgia’s upcoming Senate runoff — or if it did, it was with far fewer horses than we saw in November’s general election. 

Overall in this runoff, Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., and Democratic allies have outspent Walker and Republican outside groups over the airwaves by more than a 2-to-1 margin, $52.5 million to $25 million, according to ad-spending data from AdImpact from Nov. 9 to Dec. 5.  

And just looking at the campaigns, which get the biggest bang per advertising buck, it’s Warnock at $25.2 million, versus Walker at $10.1 million.

Yet during the original general election, there was almost parity in overall ad spending. 

Warnock and Democrats spent $84.1 million over the airwaves from Sept. 1 to Nov. 8, compared with Walker and the GOP at $76.6 million, with the Warnock campaign dropping $36.9 million versus Walker at $20.1 million (including ads where the GOP nominee split costs with the NRSC). 

The biggest change from the general election to the runoff? 

It’s the decline in outside GOP spending from the Mitch McConnell-backed Senate Leadership Fund, which dropped nearly $40 million into Georgia’s general election from Sept. 1 to Nov. 8, making it the single-largest advertiser during that period. 

But now it’s $11.8 million — behind Warnock’s $25 million and the $20.3 million from Georgia Honor, a Democratic Super PAC. 

The other storyline here is the sheer amount of money that Warnock and Democrats spent over the last two years in two different Senate campaigns — more than $300 million on ads alone. 

All for one candidate. 

Headline of the day

Top Republicans stay silent on Trump’s call to terminate the Constitution

Data Download: The number of the day is … 33%

That’s the share of adults in a recent Pew Research survey who say that President Joe Biden will be successful in enacting his agenda over the next two years, while 65% say Biden will be unsuccessful. A similar share of adults have the same expectation for GOP leaders in Congress — just 36% think GOP leaders will enact their agenda, while 65% say they will not be successful. 

In other words, Americans are bracing for gridlock. 

Other numbers to know

765,000: The number of Americans who would have been put out of work, according to President Joe Biden, if the rail strike had been allowed to proceed.

64%: The percentage of Moore County, North Carolina’s residents who are without power after vandals opened fire on two electric substations in a “targeted attack.” 

6: The number of sheriff’s deputies injured after a woman claiming to be a relative of former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was kicked off a plane in Louisiana. 

30,000: The number of households in Los Angeles that could face evictions at the end of the year as pandemic-era tenant protections are set to expire on Dec. 31. 

$20 million: The amount of money the Secret Services alleges Chinese hackers stole from the U.S. in various forms of Covid aid, NBC News’ Sarah Fitzpatrick and Kit Ramgopal report.

Runoff watch: Walker accuser speaks to NBC News

Days after she first revealed an allegation of domestic abuse against Georgia Republican Senate hopeful Herschel Walker, a former girlfriend of his sat down with NBC News to detail those allegations. 

“He had his hand on my throat, my chest, and then he leaned back to throw a punch,” Cheryl Parsa told NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard about an alleged episode in 2005. “And luckily, I was able to avoid that. And the punch landed on the wall instead of me.”

Walker’s campaign did not respond to requests for a comment about the accusation. It’s not the first allegation of domestic violence against the former football star turned politician who has acknowledged he struggled with mental illness. 

Early voting bonanza: Now that Georgia’s early voting period is over, we know more than 1.85 million Georgians voted early, breaking records and drawing new voters who didn’t cast a ballot in November. 

Warnock volunteer shot: Savannah police arrested a man who is suspected to have shot a 15-year-old volunteering for Warnock.

HBCU snafu: NBC News’ Adam Edelman reports on how private college students in Georgia, including those at historically Black colleges and universities, can’t use their student IDs to vote (ID cards from public institutions are accepted). 

Air war: Both candidates are out with new ads this morning, Walker with one featuring Republican Gov. Brian Kemp stumping for him and Warnock pitching an every-man message on the stump. 

Eyes on 2024: Party time

Democrats over the weekend advanced a new plan for their presidential primary calendar, moving South Carolina up to the first spot on Feb. 3, followed by New Hampshire and Nevada on Feb. 6, Georgia on Feb. 13 and Michigan on Feb. 27, NBC News’ Alex Seitz-Wald reports. The plan still needs to be approved by the full Democratic National Committee next year.

South Carolina Democrats were caught off guard when President Joe Biden proposed that the Palmetto State hold the first nominating contest, Seitz-Wald and Natasha Korecki report. They hadn’t actually pushed to go first, but were pleasantly surprised. 

Korecki and Jonathan Allen also report that the proposed new order could benefit Vice President Kamala Harris in a potential future bid by prioritizing states with many voters of color.  

But displacing New Hampshire from its first-in-the-nation status won’t be easy

Republicans are also dealing with their own party drama. Politico reports that Harmeet Dhillon, a committeewoman from California, is preparing to run against Ronna McDaniel for Republican National Committee chair. Dillon’s firm represents former President Donald Trump. McDaniel also recently named Dillon as a co-chair of a committee analyzing the party’s performance in the midterms. 

And GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin, who just lost a race for New York governor, tweeted that he will announce whether he’s running for RNC chair on Wednesday morning, noting he is waiting until after Tuesday’s Georgia runoff. 

Here’s what else is happening in the 2024 campaign: 

California Senate: Politico details the “shadow race” to succeed Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., should she decide not to run for re-election in 2024. Potential contenders include Democratic Reps. Katie Porter, Ro Khanna, Adam Schiff and Barbara Lee. 

The Senate map: Republicans’ path to the Senate majority in 2024 runs through four red states: Montana, West Virginia, Ohio and Indiana, and Politico has details on potential candidates in each of those states.   

Second acts: Republican Don Bolduc, a retired brigadier general who lost the New Hampshire Senate race, announced Monday that he’s running for vice chair of the state GOP, per a press release. Both Kristina Karamo and Matthew DePerno, two Michigan Republicans who lost statewide bids after casting doubt on the 2020 election, are running for state party chair, per the Associated Press. 

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

The Supreme Court will hear arguments today on whether a web designer who wants to avoid working on same-sex weddings is allowed an exemption from a state law that outlaws discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated U.S. support for Israel, despite concerns about some members of the country’s incoming right-wing government.

President Joe Biden campaigned as a pro-union president, but risks support from some groups after acting against some unions to avert a rail workers strike, NBC News’ Eli M. Rosenberg and Peter Nicholas report.

Democratic governors and governors-elect took a victory lap this weekend at a gathering with donors and lobbyists in New Orleans.