Can Raphael Warnock Go From the Pulpit to the Senate?

Dr. Warnock has already come in for criticism from conservative media for comments critical of the police. “We shouldn’t be surprised when we see police officers act like bullies on the street,” he said, in one of a series of clips highlighted by the Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

All of these positions place him firmly on the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, something Republicans are already planning to focus on should he make it to the runoff. “Raphael Warnock has defended radical Jeremiah Wright while trashing police officers,” Stewart Bragg, executive director of the Georgia Republican Party, said on Thursday.

Republicans have signaled that they plan to make an issue of his private life, too. Before finalizing his divorce this year, Dr. Warnock was accused by his now ex-wife of running over her foot with his car during an argument, an allegation he has denied.

The incident with Dr. Warnock’s ex-wife, Mr. Bragg said, “is merely the tip of the iceberg of what voters will find out” about him.

Still, Dr. Warnock believes he can make converts of some white evangelical voters, given their common faith. He had originally envisioned going to Bible studies on Wednesday nights “with people who don’t share my politics, but we read the same book.” Those plans were stymied by the coronavirus pandemic, but Mr. Warnock remains optimistic. “I would hope they would give me a hearing,” he said.

He is also banking on the idea that people of all races will be receptive to his position that Georgia should expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Georgia is one of a handful of states that have declined to fully expand Medicaid coverage. A partial expansion will roll out in 2021, but advocates for a full expansion, which is opposed by many Republicans, say it would bring coverage to hundreds of thousands of low-income people, and help revive the state’s ailing rural health care system.

The mask-wearing crowd that came to hear Dr. Warnock’s Oct. 25 speech outside of a Dalton recreation center numbered about 200, mostly Black but not exclusively so. The pastor’s mix of policy, bonhomie and righteous anger left them electrified. In church terms, they were moved by the spirit.