Having Herschel Walker in the U.S. Senate is the vision of one man-- and it isn't anyone in Georgia and it isn't anyone in Texas (and that includes Herschel Walker himself). The vision is Señor Donald J Trumpanzee's... and, basically, his alone. Maybe it's been a joke from the time it popped into his head. But-- while Democrats keep their fingers crossed that Trump pulls it off-- Republicans who hope to win the Georgia seat back for the GOP, are shuddering... and walking on eggshells.
There were 3 big statewide races last year in Georgia-- one for president and two for the Senate (one of which was a special election). All 3 races seemed like they would go red-- but, astoundingly, all 3 went blue... with one candidate, Raphael Warnock, doing better than the other two. Biden beat Trump in Georgia 49.5% to 49.2%. Jon Ossoff beat Republican incumbent David Perdue 50.6% to 49.4%. And Warnock beat Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler 51.0% to 49.0%. These were the margins in each race:
Biden won by 11,779 votes
Ossoff won by 54,944 votes
Warnock won by 93,272 votes
Loeffler, it should be noted, wrote a $23,678,492 personal check to her campaign. She doesn't appear to be convinced a rematch next year is in her best interests and Trump and rushed in and endorsed a random Black ex-football player he knows, Herschel Walker. Georgia's Agriculture Commissioner, Gary Black, is also in the race and two far right congressmen-- Buddy Carter and Drew Ferguson-- and the Speaker of Georgia's state House, David Ralston, have all said they might run if Walker doesn't. In fact, even Loeffler said she might jump in again except for the heavy-handed Trump endorsement of Walker. Trump now routinely calls anyone who opposes a candidate he endorses a "RINO" even if that person is a Trump supporter.
Burgess Everett and Marianne Levine covered the Republican Party's Walker problem for Politico yesterday. It won't matter to rural Trump zombies, but Walker is a piss-poor candidate for the suburban voters the GOP is desperate to win back. For one thing, he's a crook and a notorious wife-beater.
“Some of it’s pretty bad, obviously: physical abuse and pulling a gun on his wife, if that’s true,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), a former chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee who is close to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. “I want to win that race. And to the extent that he’s handicapped by some of these things that would make that unlikely, I’d prefer to have somebody else.”
Walker’s potential candidacy offers another test case for the former president's influence over the GOP, as Trump tries to play kingmaker in Senate races that will determine whether Republicans can win back the majority. Trump has already backed Rep. Ted Budd in North Carolina and Rep. Mo Brooks in Alabama in open primaries, breaking with the endorsements of the Senate Republicans vacating those seats.
But Walker has hesitated to enter the Georgia race despite Trump’s entreaties, and with good reason. Should Walker proceed to run, he is all but guaranteed to face questions about his personal and financial decisions. While the former football star has been open about his struggles with dissociative identity disorder, recent news reports, including a lengthy AP examination, have resurfaced past allegations from his ex-wife that he threatened to kill her. In addition, his claims about his business success are also coming under scrutiny.
As Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD) put it: “He’s got the wow factor, the celebrity factor … But some of these issues he’s going to have to figure out how to answer."
“As a candidate you have to be able to respond to hard questions. And your background becomes an issue, your experience becomes an issue,” Thune said. “Sometimes people who have success in one area of life and translate it to politics, it’s not as easy as it looks.”
Walker did not respond to a request for comment for this story. But earlier this week, he told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that he will make his decision on his own timeline. And he dismissed the recent news reports, saying “little articles like that ain’t going to scare me.”
Thune said he has a personal relationship with Walker but has not discussed the Senate race with him. And Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a Trump ally, is encouraging the former running back to go for the Senate seat, describing the reports as “bullshit.”
“He represents Georgia better than Warnock, he’s conservative with people’s money, he’s fiscally and socially conservative,” Graham said. “He’s been successful, he’s struggled, he’s a real person.”
...Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) said that he’d like to see his former colleague Perdue run for the Senate again; Perdue has declined entreaties to enter the race but also met with McConnell last week. Cramer did not weigh in on whether Walker should run, but said that the potential candidate is already getting an early dose of how tough his Senate campaign would be.
“Obviously on the surface, you’re starting to have to explain something that’s difficult and not necessarily favorable,” Cramer said. “But he’s running against somebody who is amassing a voting record as well, and Sen. Warnock will have to explain that to voters.”
While Walker seems to be in no rush to announce a decision, some senators are taking that as a sign that the possible recruit is having second thoughts. And they’re warning him to be ready for an onslaught, if he does decide to take on Warnock.
“Don’t do it if you don’t want to do it, if you don’t have it in your belly, if you’re not prepared to take the spears and the arrows,” said Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-LA). “Because I’ve been in this business for a while. And it takes a big heart, a lot of wind and thick skin. My observation … he seems to be having a hard time making up his mind.”
So far, Warnock has been an excellent senator and has definitely earned reelection. ProgressivePunch rates him a solid "A" and his lifetime crucial vote score is 99.04, quite the contrast to Democratic senators in safer seats. (Remember Georgia's PVI is R+3.)
Dianne Feinstein (CA)- 79.67 (D+14)
Tim Kaine (VA)- 79.40 (D+2)
Chris Coons (DE)- 79.31 (D+6)
Michael Bennet (CO)- 79.10 (D+3)
Jeanne Shaheen (NH)- 78.99 (PVI is even)
Maggie Hassan (NH)- 76.92 (PVI is even)
Wark Warner (VA)- 72.42 (D+2)
Tom Carper (DE)- 71.66 (D+6)
Angus King (I-ME)- 70.22 (D+1)
Kyrsten Sinema (AZ)- 63.97 (R+3)