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Columns Tom Baxter

Georgia gripped by a frenzy of glomming in runoff’s closing days

Raphael Warnock. (Image by Megan Anderson.)

By Tom Baxter

“LOSING GA… We’re worried…”

“packing our bags… abandoning Georgia”

When inboxes start filling up with desperate messages like these from Democratic fundraisers, one thing’s for certain.

No, it doesn’t mean that U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock’s campaign is tanking. In fact, the legal battle over the Saturday early voting period appears to have boosted turnout in the blue counties where Warnock needs a strong showing. It’s too early to tell much about the runoff, but there are no indications so far that Democratic operatives are abandoning the state in despair.

What this means, instead, is that time is running short on the nation’s last political race of the year, the last opportunity for fundraising organizations in both parties to glom onto a hot contest.

As a general rule, the darkest messages come from party organizations that aren’t directly affiliated with the campaigns they are raising money for. That’s because they have no interest in lowering the anxiety that might make a nervous voter chip in another contribution.

When you’re asked to give a small-dollar donation to “Democrats like Senator Warnock,” you have no idea what percentage of your contribution goes to Warnock. In contrast, an email from Warnock’s campaign with the message line “Rev. Warnock… humbly asking” makes clear that he’s splitting the money 50:50 with Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.

Why Shaheen, who doesn’t have another race until 2026? Her campaign’s paying for that email message you’re reading. She’s glomming on Warnock’s race too, albeit in a more transparent way than others.

In Donald Trump’s Republican Party, glomming has reached monumental proportions. Soon after Herschel Walker made it into the runoff, Donald Trump’s Save America PAC put out an email appeal for contributors to give “ANY AMOUNT IMMEDIATELY to the Official Georgia Runoff Goal” to push the Republican Senate candidate over the top. Only a click-through page was it revealed their money was to be split 90:10. That is, 90 percent for Trump and 10 percent for Walker. After this one-sided deal got called out on Twitter, the Trump PAC changed the split to 50:50. By then, however, the North Carolina Republican Party and newly elected Republican senators J.D. Vance in Ohio and Ted Budd in North Carolina, had also sent out letters with the 90:10 split discreetly nestled inside.

“We need everyone focused on winning the Georgia Senate race, and deceptive fundraising tactics by teams that just won their races are siphoning money away from Georgia,” Walker’s campaign manager, Scott Paradise said last week, chiding his fellow Republicans to “cut it out.”

At the same time, Paradise praised the Trump campaign for its quick action in changing the allocation, without mentioning that it was Trump’s campaign that gave the other campaigns the idea to glom with impunity.

The other Republican campaigns were quietly making the switch to 50:50 by the time the Walker campaign called them out on it. But rest assured we’ll see other campaigns pushing the glom-meter in the future. If you’re going to contribute to politicians, take a good look at the fine print to be sure you know who’s really getting your money.

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Tom Baxter

Tom Baxter has written about politics and the South for more than four decades. He was national editor and chief political correspondent at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and later edited The Southern Political Report, an online publication, for four years. Tom was the consultant for the 2008 election night coverage sponsored jointly by Current TV, Digg and Twitter, and a 2011 fellow at the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas. He has written about the impact of Georgia’s and Alabama's immigration laws in reports for the Center for American Progress. Tom and his wife, Lili, have three adult children and seven grandchildren.

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