2 min read July 2022— Georgia’s Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, Herschel Walker, said opens in a new windowWednesday he’s ready to debate his incumbent Democrat opponent, Sen. Raphael Warnock — a critical moment for one of the nation’s most intense midterm election battles.
opens in a new windowFox5 Atlanta reports that Walker would take the stage against Warnock for the Oct. 16 debate, hosted by the Atlanta Press Club. Prior to Wednesday’s comments, Walker had not responded to Warnock’s challenge to three debates between now and the November election. The Warnock campaign has disputed Walker’s comments, saying they do not constitute a commitment.
Walker and Warnock have not faced each other in a debate at all during the campaign, but the willingness to meet the cum laude Moorehouse college grad may herald a wider shift for the Heisman trophy winner’s campaign. Walker recently brought on four veteran GOP consultants and communications strategists including opens in a new windowBrett O’Donnel, who helped secure Republican control of the Senate in 2016, opens in a new windowGail Gitcho, who served Mitt Romney’s communications director in 2012, as well as Georgia Republican strategists Chip Lake and Scott Paradise, who have previous experience together working on former Rep. Doug Collins unsuccessful 2020 Senate bid. The move may have been driven after a opens in a new windowseries of miscues and gaffes over the last few months and have led to an overall opens in a new windowlack of enthusiasm for the Republican candidate, who trails Warnock by anywhere from opens in a new windowthree opens PDF file to opens in a new window10 points, depending on the poll.
The Walker campaign says the new hires, which include new finance, political and communications directors, is the result of the campaign’s expansion after an uncompetitive primary. “This is not atypical, to have a bunch of people come in at this time on a campaign,” opens in a new windowGitcho told CNN.
The question remains whether Georgians will see Walker opposite Warnock on the debate stage in October. While speaking to the press at his campaign event in Athens, Walker asked the press if they had asked Warnock to commit to a date. Reporters responded that he had, Oct. 16. Walker said in return, “Oct. 16 – if we negotiate, and we’ve got everything right, we’ll be debating on Oct. 16,” Walker said. “I’ll be ready to go.”
During the Republican primary Walker opens in a new windowskipped the debates, having been boosted by former President Donald Trump’s endorsement, saying at the time that his opponents hadn’t done the work they were supposed to, opens in a new windowreports Fox5 Atlanta
The Georgia senate election is shaping up to once again be the most critical of the 2022 midterms, likely deciding control of the Senate. As it stands, it’s Warnock’s to lose. While the senator remains popular amongst Georgia voters, Walker is opens in a new windowpushing to link national issues such as inflation and the lack of a big legislative win for the Biden Administration to the Georgia Democrat. Nevertheless, Warnock’s approval rating remains favorable, with opens in a new windowQuinnipiac noting a 49% approval rating for Warnock compared to Biden’s 33%. Nevertheless, if fundraising hauls are anything to go by, Warnock holds a commanding lead over Walker, with the senator having raised opens in a new window$17.2 million to Walkers’s $6.2 million.
Despite the favorables Warnock holds, the election will be a tight race. Republicans need to flip a single Senate seat this coming November in order to achieve partisan control of the upper chamber. Other battleground states include Arizona and Pennsylvania, which have seemingly turned into uphill battles for Republicans due in part to the popularity of Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly, with a opens in a new windowcommanding lead in the polls, and Pennsylvania Democrat John Fetterman who continues to highlight Republican candidate and TV personality Mehmet Oz as a transplant from NJ to PA.
Despite the ongoing fight for the Senate however, Republicans are anticipated to host a clean sweep of the House of Representatives, likely winning 87 of 100 seats up for grabs, according to polling-data aggregator opens in a new windowFiveThirtyEight.