Neither Ossoff nor Warnock is saying anything particularly bold on racial issues to appeal to Black voters. That’s not surprising. Ossoff and Warnock can’t take a stand on any issue, racial or nonracial, that is likely to alienate a lot of white voters in Georgia. A Democratic campaign needs to win around 30 percent of white voters in Georgia to carry the state — and that’s often where they fall short. Biden ran slightly ahead of both Ossoff and the combined total of Warnock and all the other Democrats in the other Senate race, suggesting that there may be some white moderates or independents who couldn’t stomach Trump but were fine with backing a Republican for Senate. Democrats need those voters to either stay home on Election Day or flip to the Democratic Party. So racial ideas like reparations, which are popular among Black voters, are off the table, as they would likely not appeal to white swing voters in Georgia.
Instead, Ossoff and Warnock’s approach is similar to Abrams’s campaign in 2018, when she ran for governor: a lot of focus on showing connectedness to Georgia’s Black community, but not a ton of policy, particularly on more controversial issues specifically aimed at Black people. Both Senate candidates frequently tout their connections to the civil rights-era hero they are associated with (Lewis for Ossoff, King for Warnock). Both candidates are prominently featuring Obama in their campaigns — the former president praised Ossoff in a new TV commercial and appeared in a recent virtual rally for Ossoff and Warnock. And both men emphasize their support for the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, a measure that would essentially restore requirements that some states pre-clear with the U.S. Justice Department any changes in their voting procedures.