AUGUSTA, Georgia — Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) is questioning Republican challenger Herschel Walker’s fitness for office as he barnstorms the state in an uncertain bid to withstand the red wave building ahead of Tuesday’s midterm elections.
“The man is running without an agenda. He’s literally running and hasn’t offered a single solution. Maybe he’s confused about what field he’s on. He was a great football player. You’re on a different field now. Georgia needs a different kind of champion, and you’re looking at him,” Warnock told grassroots volunteers Saturday afternoon before they headed out to knock on doors in Richmond County, a Democratic stronghold.
“I wasn’t much good at football. I played in the band. I knew my lane,” Warnock added. “Herschel Walker needs to stay in his lane — and leave this work to somebody who’s been championing the concerns of working people.”
Walker has been equally tough on Warnock, calling him “a wolf in sheep’s clothing and a hypocrite.”
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Walker held one campaign event Saturday, a rally for supporters in Athens, the home of the University of Georgia, ahead of the Bulldogs’ highly anticipated football matchup with the No. 1 ranked University of Tennessee Volunteers. It was the obvious choice for Walker on the final weekend before Election Day. He rose to folk-hero status in Georgia as a Heisman Trophy-winning running back for the Bulldogs, leading the team to a national championship in 1980.
Walker’s schedule also presented a sharp contrast with Warnock’s.
The senator stumped across Georgia, visiting two majority-Democratic counties, Gwinnett and Richmond, where he needs maximum voter turnout to win reelection in this key swing state, plus tiny Grovetown, an exurban community in majority-Republican Columbia County. The candidates’ competing strategies in the final hours of this bitter campaign reflect Walker’s momentum. He now has the edge in the polls after trailing Warnock for much of the contest. But don’t tell that to Warnock.
“I feel great. I feel good — in the words of James Brown, that great Augusta resident,” he told the Washington Examiner in brief comments after rallying the roughly 45 grassroots volunteers who packed a cramped Democratic field office in downtown Augusta to hear from the senator.
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Warnock bristled when he was asked to explain tightening public opinion polls that now give Walker a margin-of-error lead in the RealClearPolitics average in a race that could decide the Senate majority. “That’s what the pundits are saying. We’ll see. The only poll that matters is the one we see on Tuesday night,” he said.
Warnock, a Christian pastor, was elected to the Senate in a Jan. 5, 2021, special election runoff. He ousted Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), who was appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA) in January 2020 after Republican Johnny Isakson, who has since died, resigned from the Senate for health reasons. If Warnock defeats Walker, he will earn his first full six-year term. The Democrat is polished and likable, but he is struggling to resist political gravity.
Dissatisfaction with President Joe Biden is running high in Georgia, where his job approval ratings are worse than an already weak national average. The reasons are the same as elsewhere across the country: skyrocketing inflation, rising crime, and general unease with the direction of the country. Kemp is Warnock’s other problem. He’s on track to beat Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams, possibly quite comfortably, an outcome that could sink the senator’s reelection bid.
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But at the Augusta field office, optimism was abundant as some volunteers returned from neighborhood canvassing and others prepared to depart. They are convinced their voter turnout activities are contributing to a Warnock victory. Indeed, Addie Pennamon, a retired educator who lives in Richmond County, questioned the recent surveys showing Walker pulling even with, or ahead of, Warnock, saying neither she nor any of her friends have been called by pollsters.
“I’m canvassing and doing everything that I possibly can do,” Pennamon said. “We’re planning on getting it done.”