With control of the U.S. Senate potentially on the line, Georgia Republican candidate Herschel Walker has less than four weeks to convince voters in the Peach State to once again head to the polls in numbers great enough to beat his opponent, Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), and to do so, he will have to overcome some challenges, including an expected announcement from former President Donald Trump.
Walker survived months of hit pieces, scandals, and smear campaigns to force Warnock into a December 6 runoff after Tuesday’s election ended in a near tie, but, as Fox News Digital notes, the incumbent Warnock has some experience with winning these kinds of showdowns. And according to Charles Bullock, a professor of political science at the University of Georgia, an announcement of Trump’s 2024 run for President may not help the candidate he endorsed.
“If Trump does announce, that would on balance help Raphael Warnock,” Bullock said. “It would remind those Republican voters who didn’t like Trump and who wouldn’t vote for Trump – we’re talking about mainly white, college-educated voters, probably living in the suburbs – it would remind them what they didn’t like about Trump.”
It’s well known that the mere mention of Trump’s name triggers the left, but in recent days, the former president has been a polarizing figure among Republicans, after repeated attacks on Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, whose overwhelming victory in the Sunshine State provided one of the few bright spots in an otherwise disappointing midterm cycle for conservatives.
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) November 6, 2022
At a time when the GOP must be united, many are wondering if it is time to embrace a new leader for the MAGA message — and, ultimately, it could be Walker who suffers the fallout.
“They can’t vote against him [Trump],” Bullock said, “but they can vote against his stand-in in the form of Herschel Walker.”
When asked about Trump’s potential impact on the Georgia runoff, Stephen Lawson, spokesman for the pro-Walker PAC 34N22, responded with a politically-safe non-answer: “We need everybody lifting Herschel up and pushing him toward the finish line in a positive, constructive way.”
Over in 45’s camp, Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich said the former president is “invested” in a win for Walker.
“President Trump endorsed Herschel Walker early and invested in his success,” he said. “Now, after forcing a runoff, President Trump remains committed to his success and his support will be critical on Election Day.”
But Walker isn’t the only one with a potential presidential problem.
If President Joe Biden turns up in Georgia, he could pose a similar threat to Warnock’s campaign efforts.
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) October 30, 2022
“I think it’s going to be very telling to see if Joe Biden comes to Georgia,” Lawson said. “If he’s not, I think that is a reflection of how poorly Georgians view him and, by extension, Raphael Warnock.”
Both candidates will have to contend with a change to Georgia’s election law that shortens the runoff time by five weeks and reduces early voting to roughly one week.
“This get-out-the-vote effort will be all hands [on] deck,” said Will Kiley, campaign communication director for Walker.
According to both Bullock and Lawson, the race will be won or lost on the ground.
“The most important element here is … going to be what kind of ground game can each party put together,” Bullock said. “Rule No. 1 going into a runoff is try to get those people who voted for your candidate to come back for a second round.”
The key to winning, said Lawson, will lie with “direct voter contact … in terms of door-knockers, grassroots mobilizers.
And Gov. Brian Kemp, who handily won his re-election, will also play a role in Walker’s campaign.
“I think you’re going to see a lot of synergy with us, with our organization and with the governor’s operation,” Lawson said. “And I think you’re going to see the governor come out and be very supportive of Herschel.”
Despite negative coverage, media forced to admit Walker held his own against Warnock in debate https://t.co/bI9KsZSFX0
— American Wire News (@americanwire_) October 15, 2022
But, reminds one former 2020 Democratic runoff staffer, this isn’t Warnock’s first rodeo.
“Rev. Warnock has built a formidable and successful turnout operation ready to kick into high gear, while Walker has a big challenge ahead to motivate skeptical voters – especially without Kemp on the ballot,” the staffer said. “Early voting is cut down from three weeks to one. … This makes a strong ground game even more vital.”
Money will be a huge factor in this battle, with outside groups expected to make it rain for Warnock.
The Progressive Turnout Project, which, according to Influence Watch “uses ActBlue, a fundraising platform that caters specifically to left-of-center candidates and organizations” for funding, has told Fox News Digital that it will be spending at least $1 million on the Democratic Senator and already boasts nearly 1,400 volunteers.
Still, says the Democratic staffer, runoffs are impossible to predict.
“The electorate is unknown and fluid,” the staffer said. “Anyone who pretends to know what it will look like on Dec. 6 is lying.”
Perhaps, but Walker has already had the kitchen sink thrown at him, so his team is feeling optimistic.
“A sitting senator spent $100 million attacking Herschel,” said Kiley, “and the best they could do was a runoff.”
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