Herschel Walker Is A Messy Candidate, But The Georgia Senate Race Is Still A Toss-Up

by | Jul 21, 2022 | Politics

Herschel Walker’s Senate campaign in Georgia has been mired by scandal over just how many secret children he has fathered, allegations of domestic violence and multiple lies about his credentials. His own campaign reportedly described him as a “pathological liar,” but the race between the former NFL star and Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock isn’t over yet — and Walker could win it all.Walker’s candidacy should have been a long shot. After criticizing absent Black fathers, a racist trope, it was revealed that he has three secret children. He has repeatedly fumbled when discussing major policy issues, including climate change.Advertisement“Since we don’t control the air, our good air decided to float over to China’s bad air, so when China gets our good air, their bad air got to move,” Walker said earlier this month while discussing the Green New Deal. “So it moves over to our good air space. Then, now, we got we to clean that back up.”But poll numbers show that this race isn’t over yet.An AARP Georgia poll from this month saw the two candidates in a close race, with Warnock leading Walker 50% to 47%; a Data for Progress poll, also from this month, had Walker leading 49% to 47%. And even though a June Quinnipiac College poll showed Walker down by double digits, he was still doing well with the traditional Republican base: He led Warnock 52% to 45% among men, 62% to 35% with white voters, and 52% to 45% with those 65 or older. Part of the appeal is his status as a football hero. Walker played on the University of Georgia team that won the national championship in 1980, a feat the university didn’t achieve again until 2021. Whenever Walker would make an appearance at the university’s football stadium, he’d receive a standing ovation. That championship is what many middle-aged Georgians remember — and love — about him. “University of Georgia football is very dominating in the state,” Trey Hood, a political science professor at University of Georgia, told HuffPost. “I don’t want to denigrate religion, but it’s really a quasi-religion down here.” Advertisement“His popularity is really incredible,” he added. Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker and a woman take a selfie during former President Donald Trump’s “Save America” rally in Commerce, Georgia, on March, 26. (Photo by Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)Anadolu Agency via Getty ImagesRepublican political strategists agree that Walker’s star power is a major plus.“Democrats are going to have a hard time in trying to demonize Herschel Walker like they did Kelly Loeffler,” David Johnson, a strategist in Georgia, said in May, referring to a governor-appointed senator who failed to win her campaign last year. “And the reason is in so many people’s minds in Georgia, he’s the great UGA strong. You’re not going to be able to tarnish that.”And of course, in a deeply polarized country, simply having the right letter next to your name will garner a decent amount of votes — especially going into the midterms, which historically work out in favor of the party that isn’t in control of the White House. Georgia is a traditionally red state that went blue in 2020, but President Joe Biden’s approval rating in the state is hovering around 30% now. “There are X number of people where it doesn’t matter, they’re just going to pull the R lever,” Hood said.In June, voters at a campaign event brushed off news coverage of Walker’s many scandals. “He is a man. He’s doing right by his family. He’s doing right by the community,” Ronel Saintvil, a Black Republican voter, told The New York Times. “To me, for somebody just to bad mouth him like this, I don’t believe it’s right. They’re not focusing on the issues at hand that affect the people in Georgia. And I think that’s what’s more important.”AdvertisementWalker also earned some Republican bona fides by defending President Donald Trump during the 2020 Republican National Convention and claiming he was not racist.“​​It hurt my soul to hear the terrible names that people call Donald,” Walker said in a speech. “I take that as a personal insult, that people would think I’ve had a 37-year friendship with a racist.”“Growing up in the Deep South, I’ve seen racism up close. I know what it is. And it isn’t Donald Trump,” he said.After Trump lost the election, he propagated a lie that the election had been rigged, which culminated in an attack on th …

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