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Warnock, Walker look to defy history in next week’s Georgia 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.

WASHINGTON — If it’s Monday … It’s eight days until Georgia’s Senate runoff. ... GOP House Leader Kevin McCarthy faces a potential floor fight to become speaker. ... Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., criticizes Donald Trump’s dinner with Ye and white supremacist Nick Fuentes: “Well, he certainly needs better judgment in who he dines with.” ... Overall turnout in 2022 declined from 2018, but not in some key battleground states (where turnout was up). ... And President Biden visits with the American winners of the 2022 Nobel Prize.

But first:  Next week’s Georgia Senate runoff between Sen. Raphael Warnock and GOP challenger Herschel Walker will be the state’s ninth statewide runoff contest this century. 

And here’s what that runoff history tells us:

One, prior to Warnock’s and Jon Ossoff’s twin victories in 2021, Republicans had previously won all statewide runoffs going back to 2006. (Warnock and Ossoff broke that streak.)

Two, also prior to Warnock’s and Ossoff’s wins, the party deemed to be the big winner in the preceding general election — so Democrats in 2006, Democrats in 2008 and Democrats in 2018 — lost in the following runoff. (Warnock and Ossoff broke that streak after the party's presidential victory in 2020.)

Three, most of the time — but not always — the candidate who got the most votes in the preceding general election won the runoff. (The exceptions have been Chuck Eaton in 2006, Lauren McDonald in 2008 and Jon Ossoff in 2021.)

Herschel Walker and Raphael Warnock
Herschel Walker and Raphael Warnock AP; Getty Images

And four, turnout — not surprisingly — has always declined from the general election to the runoff. (But it was down by less than 10% in 2021.)

Bottom line: The Georgia Senate runoffs of 2021 pretty much defied history, thanks in large part to Donald Trump’s chaos after his presidential loss. 

And next week, Warnock will once again be looking to defy the history of the GOP and the losing/underperforming party from the general election winning the runoff. 

While Walker will be looking to defy the history of the candidate getting the most votes in the general election usually coming out on top in the runoff (earlier this month, it was Warnock 49.4%, Walker 48.5%).  

Chart of the day: Decline in urban turnout

NBC News’ Dante Chinni found that while turnout in Michigan and Pennsylvania increased overall in 2022 compared to 2018, turnout in the states’ largest cities actually decreased

Data Download: The number of the day is … 110 million

That’s about how many people voted in the 2022 midterms, a slight decrease from 2018, which saw 115 million Americans cast ballots, per NBC News’ Peder Schaefer. Despite the overall decrease, turnout varied by state, and several states saw increases in turnout compared to 2018 — and they tended to be states where Democrats found success. 

New Hampshire, where Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan won a hotly contested re-election race, saw turnout increase by 8.3%. Arizona, which saw a 7.8% increase, re-elected Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly and elected Democrat Katie Hobbs as governor. And in Pennsylvania, turnout increased 6.6%, and Democrat Josh Shapiro won the governor’s race, while Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman flipped the state’s Senate seat.  

Read more about the turnout breakdown on the Meet the Press Blog. 

Other numbers to know:

100: How many years it’s been since a vote for speaker of the House went to multiple ballots, which could happen again as Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy struggles to win enough votes among GOP lawmakers, per NBC News’ Kyle Stewart and Scott Wong.

51: The average age of the three likely new House Democratic leaders — New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, 52; Massachusetts Rep. Katherine Clark, 59; and California Rep. Pete Aguilar, 43, of California. All three “will almost certainly be elected to the top three leadership slots this week without a challenge or much fanfare,” Wong writes. 

6: How many Arizona counties face a Monday deadline to certify their 2022 election results. 

5%: The increase in road deaths in the U.S. in 2020, per the New York Times, which was higher than many other countries. 

2,564: How many flights were delayed as of Sunday afternoon, as millions traveled over the Thanksgiving weekend. 

8: The number of Chinese cities that saw protests break out over the country’s Covid policies.  

450,000 to 600,000: How many temporary workers retailers are planning to hire to deal with the expected increase in sales for the holidays. 

Runoff watch: Warnock doubles up Walker’s fundraising haul

Almost $21 million raised in less than one month is a pretty good haul — that’s what new fundraising reports show Georgia Republican Senate nominee Herschel Walker raised in the pre-runoff period, from Oct. 20 through Nov. 16 ($20.9 million). He spent $16.5 million over that period and closed with $9.8 million on hand. 

But the bad news for Walker is that his opponent, Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, raised more than double that. Warnock, the top fundraising federal candidate of the 2022 election cycle by a long-shot, raised $52.2 million over that same period. His $32.9 million spent over that same period also virtually doubles Walker’s spend, and the Democrat closed the period with $29.7 million banked away. 

If you’re just getting read back in after the holiday week, here are a few other headlines you may have missed ahead of next week’s runoff: 

Eyes on 2024

Mike Pence makes his move: Meet the Press spoke with former Vice President Mike Pence before the Thanksgiving holiday, where he celebrated the downfall of Roe vs. Wade, dinged Republican candidates “focused on the past” and criticized former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. 

Two Republicans want another crack at a House seat: New Mexico Republican Rep. Yvette Herrell and North Carolina Republican Bo Hines are among those who have already filed paperwork to run again in 2024 (both lost their congressional bids this cycle). 

California knows how to (support the) party: Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom told Politico he’s “told everyone in the White House” he won’t run for president in 2024 and that he is “all in” on President Biden’s re-election. 

Barletta is off the Trump train: Former Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Lou Barletta, who had been a vocal supporter of former President Donald Trump, told Politico he won’t back Trump in 2024 because his “loyalty was only a one-way street.” (Remember: Trump didn’t back Barletta’s gubernatorial bid this cycle.)

Elon tweets about 2024: Twitter’s new owner, billionaire Elon Musk, called the decision to ban former President Trump from the platform “a grave mistake” that “undermined public trust in Twitter,” and added he “reluctantly” backed “Biden over Trump.” When asked if he would support Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis if he ran for president in 2024, Musk replied “yes.” 

E. Jean Carroll files new lawsuit against Trump: The writer filed a new lawsuit against former President Trump related to her allegation that he sexually assaulted her decades ago, a suit allowed under changes to New York’s statute of limitations (Trump has denied the allegation). 

Ready your calendars: The 2024 Democratic presidential nominating calendar jockeying is in full force ahead of a meeting later this week aimed to settle whether there will be a significant shakeup. 

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Former President Donald Trump’s team is mitigating the fallout after news broke that Trump dined with Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, and white supremacist Nick Fuentes.

President Joe Biden says he’ll renew efforts to ban assault-style rifles after nearly three dozen were killed or injured in mass shootings in recent weeks.

NBC News’ Alex Seitz-Wald details Democrats’ efforts to protect Biden from House Republicans who are determined to investigate the president and his family.

Alaska’s results are now clear, and Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola will win re-election, NBC News projects.

A high court in Georgia has reinstated the state’s six-week abortion ban.