Polling from a society in decline
Herschel Walker might ultimately lose to Raphael Warnock. But we really shouldn't have to sweat it.
It hit me while watching Republican US Senate candidate Herschel Walker’s appearance on yesterday’s Fox News Sunday: The football-star-turned-politician from Georgia is probably the closest thing American politics has seen to Trump since, well, Trump. I don’t mean that as a compliment.
Like Trump, Walker has tons of personal baggage. As the AP detailed last summer, his ex-wife once secured a protective order against him. She said Walker once pointed a gun at her and threatened to shoot her. Two other women have also accused him of threatening behavior.
Walker is also a serial fabulist. CNN did a big piece earlier this month about how he spent years lying about his educational background. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently detailed Walker’s pattern of egregious exaggerations about his business successes. Sound familiar?
Both Trump and Walker have a hard time understanding basic science, but if anything, Walker seems to have even less of a grasp on policy than Trump does. Case in point was his showing on Fox News Sunday. Maria Bartiromo did her best to avoid substantial topics with Walker, but at one point, he tried to criticize the Biden administration’s energy policies. The result was so nonsensical that it’s unclear what Walker was even talking about, or whether he knew himself.
To me, the most striking similarly between Trump and Walker is that it doesn’t seem to really matter what either man says or does. Their celebrity and charisma have won them the staunch loyalty of the MAGA Republican base, which primarily cares about owning the libs. Personality and stoking grievances are much more important than plans, which are for losers anyway.
Walker is on track to demolish the other Republican contenders in Georgia’s May primary, and he’s polling well against Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock. Like most first-term senators, Warnock has kept a low profile during his first year-plus in office. But he’s already given some of the most eloquent speeches on behalf of voting rights ever heard on the Senate floor.
Warnock played a key role in passing the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan and the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill. The latter included an amendment he championed for a highway “that will help connect some of Georgia’s midsize cities and military bases,” as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution put it.
But perhaps most importantly, Warnock — who is the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where Martin Luther King, Jr. was co-pastor until his assassination in 1968 — is arguably the Senate’s strongest voice on racial injustices and what can be done to address them.
As the polling at the top of this post indicates, it hasn’t been enough for Warnock to solidify his hold on his seat. That Hill/Emerson poll showing Walker ahead by four points isn’t an outlier — every major poll conducted this year on a potential Walker-Warnock has shown Walker ahead, albeit within the margin of error in most cases.
And what has Walker done to earn the support of Georgians, exactly? He was endorsed by Trump, but that wasn’t a surprise given Walker’s devotion to the former president over the years. He won’t debate his Republican primary opponents or appear at events where he might face opposition, but regularly goes on Fox News for fawning interviews. He’s a celebrity with lots of baggage and no interest in policy who has an R next to his name. Sound familiar?
One major — and potentially hopeful — caveat: Walker may have a narrow lead right now, but there’s a case to be made that his scandal-plagued background and inability to discuss any of the issues will be a sizable gift to Warnock in a general election. I’d counter, however, that reporters have broken one Walker scandal story after another since he first announced his candidacy last summer and it hasn’t yet eroded his support among Republicans (sound familiar?). And if Walker can continue to campaign from within a Fox News bubble, where his celebrity is more important than his obvious incompetence, he might be able to make it to November without being totally exposed.
Given the headwinds Democrats face this year, Warnock was always going to have a tough time holding a Senate seat in a reddish-purple state like Georgia, no matter who ran against him. But going from Warnock to Walker would be like one of those Idiocracy montages illustrating the rapid decline of society, only a lot less humorous.
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