There were two debates scheduled for this weekend in the Georgia runoff elections, one for each of the Senate races being decided. But only one of the debates actually took place with both of the candidates participating. Senator David Perdue opted to skip his debate with Jon Ossoff, instead continuing with a bus tour across the state. That meant that most of the action was focused on the other debate between Senator Kelly Loeffler and Pastor Raphael Warnock.

This may not strike you as a particularly Earth-shattering development, but the election news has slowed down considerably this month and I suppose everyone needs to find some drama to focus on. With that in mind, Jonathan Martin and Astead W. Herndon seem to believe they identified and solved a big mystery here. Why would the GOP make such a choice? And the answer is equally obvious to them. The party wanted everyone’s attention focused on the other debate because they plan to “attack” Raphael Warnock from now until the polls close on January 5th. (Yahoo News)

As Georgians prepare to vote in two runoffs next month that will decide control of the Senate, there is little mystery as to which of the two Democratic candidates GOP officials want to elevate as a target as they try to rouse their base: the Rev. Raphael Warnock, who is running against Georgia’s other Republican senator, Kelly Loeffler.

Loeffler made plain the Republican strategy when she called Warnock a “radical liberal” 13 times in their debate on Sunday evening. She repeatedly invoked his past criticism of police officers and a sermon in which he once said that “nobody can serve God and the military,” a theme that has roots in biblical passages.

Her plan of attack followed a similar portrayal by President Donald Trump during his rally on Saturday in Valdosta, Georgia, where Republicans played a video that likened Warnock to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the Chicago pastor whose comments drew scrutiny to his relationship with Barack Obama in the 2008 campaign. The video included footage of Wright famously saying “God damn America.”

The article by Martin and Herndon is peppered with all manner of insinuations about why “the GOP” would make such a choice. These include some not very veiled insinuations of racism. They highlight the fact that Warnock is Black and some of his critics have linked him to “the state’s most prominent African American Democrat, Stacey Abrams.” Yes, that’s actually how they described her, even though her primary claim to fame is losing. But they go on from there to suggest that Republicans want to bolster turnout among “white conservatives, especially those who harbor racist views and are uneasy about Black leadership.”

There’s plenty more of that, along with some references to how “storied” Warnock’s church is and his claims of being someone who brings people together. There’s no word as to whether or not Warnock will have to write this article off as an in-kind contribution to his campaign.

A couple of points should be made here before these stories gain too much traction. First of all, “the GOP” has no ability to dictate who does or doesn’t show up at a debate, at either the state or national level. The decision to skip the debate and stay out on the campaign trail was made by Perdue and his team. He apparently saw more value in retail politicking with people in an up-close and personal fashion than hanging out in a studio for a debate with a moderator that probably would have favored his opponent anyway. Perdue has his own race to win and I seriously doubt that he would make a decision about his own debate based on whether or not it would lead to a larger audience for Loeffler.

In terms of how the “attack” ads are going to play out, there’s an obvious reason that a lot more focus will be placed on Warnock. Jon Ossoff is a rather vanilla candidate without much of a paper trail. That’s not to say that some decent oppo research about his extremely progressive/liberal positions hasn’t emerged, but most of it is fairly generic for a Democrat. On the other hand, Raphael Warnock has a lengthy history as a pastor and public speaker, with libraries of videos, sermons and speeches to draw on. And his many questionable comments, some of which we’ve featured here, are all fair game for the Loeffler campaign. His preaching about abortion being somehow justified in the bible and how no one can serve both God and the military are only the tip of the iceberg.

So none of this adds up to some sort of nefarious, top-secret GOP scheme. The two campaigns are playing out in a typical fashion on both sides. None of the candidates are getting a free pass and they will all definitely be “attacking” their opponents by bringing up their records and asking the voters to hold them accountable on that basis. There’s less than a month to go, however, so you can expect more hyperbole like this to be showing up in the political press as we close in on Christmas and New Years.