Walker leads Washington’s Outsider Playbook to bring down Georgia’s Warnock

Popular Republican Herschel Walker is using decades of goodwill in Georgia to unseat Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) in a December runoff, but faces the same obstacles that caused him to gasp in second place on Nov. 8 .

A former professional football player, Walker is popular in Peach State for leading the University of Georgia to a national championship in 1980. However, in the midterm election, he ended up behind Warnock in the first round of voting as voters focused on a Democratic incumbent on kitchen table issues and avoided the GOP challenger who fought as a “warrior for God.”

Republican activists in Georgia fear Walker is headed for a second and final loss on December 6th. Their biggest concern is voter turnout. Will Republicans emerge after a disappointing November and Democrats have already secured the Senate majority? They also fear Warnock Walker will smoke with money and manpower while the GOP points fingers at midterm election losses.

“It’s not looking good for Herschel,” said a Republican insider in Georgia. “The fact that Senate control is not involved has made this race boring for voters. Most of my non-political friends have moved on completely. will not vote. I do not care.”

“People don’t have as much reason to hold their noses this time,” added a Georgia GOP strategist. “If he can narrow the disparity in spending, he has a chance.”

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Walker vowed on the eve of the midterms to defeat Warnock by more than 50% of the vote, avoid a runoff and help Republicans win the Senate majority. But those rosy predictions, like projections that the GOP would gain control of the Senate, lagged behind. Despite long coattails from Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) beating Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams 53.4% ​​to 45.9%, Walker finished second, losing to Walker 49.4% to 48.5%.

Doubts about Walker among swing voters and soft-spoken Republicans stemming from the candidate’s checkered past clearly hampered his Senate campaign — despite his fame in Georgia for his football exploits. Walker’s association with former President Donald Trump, who recruited him to challenge Warnock, also threw a cloud over his Senate bid, as has happened with congressional and gubernatorial contests in other states.

Walker does his best to turn things around, running campaigns across Georgia and raising a staggering amount of money. The Walker campaign did not respond to a request for comment. But in interviews, mostly with friendly conservative media figures, the 60-year-old frontrunner cast the runoff as a choice between Warnock, a political insider who is doing President Joe Biden’s bidding, and himself, a politician in touch with the majority of Georgian voters .

“I’m stepping out to try and get people behind me because we need new leadership,” Walker said in a Fox News interview with Laura Ingraham. “He is [with] Washington and represent no one but Joe Biden. He went to Washington; He forgot the people of Georgia. That’s why I decided to run.”

Republicans in Washington are also helping, although they’re not necessarily rowing in the same direction, like the National Republican Senatorial Committee led by Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) and the Senate Leadership Fund, which aligns with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R -KY), blame the GOP midterm election failures. The feud threatens to drag Walker into the abyss, despite both organizations investing significant resources in the race, as well as the Pro Walker Super PAC 34N22.

The Senate Leadership Fund confirmed it has allocated $16.2 million for the runoff, of which the group is investing $14.2 million in advertising on television, radio and digital platforms. The rest goes to voter turnout. The NRSC declined to disclose its runoff investments. But the committee has sent key staff to Georgia and is coordinating communications, fundraising, opposition research and voter turnout with the Walker campaign.

“Herschel draws huge crowds across the state of Georgia. There’s clearly a lot of energy out there to get Herschel across the finish line,” said Chris Hartline, the NRSC communications director, who is in Georgia to support the Walker campaign.

Walker is charismatic and dedicated to the stump. Having never run for office before, he can run against Washington, which is often a winning strategy. Biden’s unpopularity and voter anxiety, fueled by inflation, crime and border security, are advantages in his attempt to oust Warnock, who advanced into the Senate by defeating nominee Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) in a Jan. 5 runoff 2021 defeated. But Walker had the same advantages on November 8 and still came up short.

Independents and some pro-Kemp Republicans had doubts about Walker, as polls showed for much of the campaign.

His previous mental health issues, allegations about his treatment of women, and his struggle to project competence on fundamental issues caused problems for his campaign. Allegations that he paid ex-girlfriends to have abortions years ago added to voter uncertainty about Walker. He denied the allegations, but as a staunch anti-abortionist, the allegations undermine his authenticity and credibility. Walker’s campaign message also missed the mark.

At every campaign stop, he talks about inflation, crime, border security—he mentions that Warnock voted 96% of the time in the Senate for the Biden agenda. But where Warnock, a Christian pastor by profession, focused primarily on how his voices on Capitol Hill addressed the issues that matter most to voters, Walker has fought as a culture warrior, delivering speeches brimming with religious allegory and testimonies of his Christian faith were dominated.

Democrats, more than any other criticism of Walker, argue that he “simply isn’t ready for the job the Georgians want him to get.” That’s what Veronica Yoo, spokeswoman for the Senate Majority PAC, the super PAC allied with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), said in a press release announcing the group’s $13.5 million investment announced in the runoff.

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But Republicans remain hopeful. Fourteen years ago, after the Republicans suffered a defeat in the election that put Barack Obama in the White House, then-Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) was forced into a runoff. Although the GOP had lost eight Senate seats just weeks earlier and voters chose Obama, then a popular figure, as the next president, Chambliss won a December runoff.

“This race is about turnout,” said a Republican strategist in Georgia. “The work of persuasion is over. Walker has a slight advantage for two reasons: Republicans are still upset with the national results. Second, the vaunted Abrams turnout machine has collapsed from infighting and finger-pointing over its loss. Kemp’s machine was reloaded as part of the Senate Leadership Fund.

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