Republicans in Georgia, for the most part, had a great election year. There have been nine statewide contests in Peach State in 2022, and GOP candidates have won eight of them with relative ease. Georgia voters rewarded Republican candidates with the Governor’s Office, State House, and State Senate, while easily re-electing nine Republicans to the U.S. House, each with a landslide victory.
Despite all the talk about Georgia becoming a “purple” state, GOP officials had reason to take stock the day after Election Day last month and feel pretty good about the state’s political landscape.
There was, however, one rather dramatic exception. NBC News reported overnight:
Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock defeated Republican soccer star Herschel Walker in the Georgian Senate election runoff on Tuesday, NBC News projects, handing President Joe Biden and his party a key win. Warnock’s victory will give Democrats an outright majority in the Senate after two years under a 50-50 split, with Vice President Kamala Harris voting in a tie.
Although some votes are still counted, it looks like the incumbent senator will win by about three points, which is in line with expectations set by recent polls.
Likewise, Warnock’s victory is the biggest margin of victory for any Democratic Senate candidate in Georgia since 2000 – when former Gov. Zell Miller won with 58% support. (Miller was a conservative Democrat who ended up endorsing George W. Bush’s Republican re-election campaign four years later. Warnock is a qualitatively different type of Democrat.)
As the dust settles on this dramatic contest, there’s no shortage of angles to keep in mind.
Herschel Walker was a particularly ridiculous candidate
Ahead of yesterday’s poll, Roll Call’s Stuart Rothenberg, who has seen more than a few Senate races in his career, said Walker was ‘the worst candidate I’ve ever seen’. The Guardian’s Jill Filipovic recently came to a similar conclusion: “Herschel Walker may be the worst candidate the modern Republican Party has ever fielded in national elections, and in an age of conspiracy theorists, Christian nationalists and Donald Trump, that says a lot. .”
Even if we put aside the scandals, jaw-dropping dishonesty and cringe-worthy ignorance, it was never quite clear why Walker was showing up or what he intended to do. with the seat of the Senate. He made no promises. He expressed few preferences. He has never shown any real interest in doing meaningful work as a candidate for powerful office. Just last week, he seemed to think he was running for a House seat.
Following his loss, a GOP operative told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Herschel was like a plane crash in a train wreck that turned into a dumpster fire. And an orphanage. Then an animal shelter. You kind of had to watch him squint through an eye between your fingers. Another person close to the Walker campaign told Politico, “He should never have run for that seat.” His loss, the person added, was largely because “Herschel had a ton of baggage that he wasn’t transparent about, and we were constantly behind the eight ball.”
Walker didn’t just lose, Warnock won
The Democratic incumbent had a lot to overcome — including Georgia Republicans’ good year and ugly new voting restrictions — but he ran an extremely impressive run, while proving himself a skilled fundraiser.
There was immediate speculation that Warnock had proven himself as a possible national candidate, and such speculation is hard to dismiss.
Donald Trump will receive a lot of blame – for good reason
On March 10, 2021, the former president released a written statement that garnered a lot of attention. “Wouldn’t it be great if the legendary Herschel Walker ran for the US Senate in Georgia?” said Trump. “He would be unstoppable, just like he was when he played for the Georgia Bulldogs and in the NFL. He is also a GREAT person. Run Herschel, run!
It helped convince Walker to move to Georgia, start a campaign, and keep real candidates out of the race. After similar losses for Trump-backed Senate candidates — in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Hew Hampshire and Alaska — Trump deserves all the blame he’s already getting.
The margin should have been bigger
As impressive as Warnock’s hard-fought victory was, common sense suggests the margin could and should have been even greater given the obvious differences in qualification between the contenders.
As my MSNBC colleague Jarvis DeBerry concluded overnight, “[I]It still says something horrible about our country and our politics that someone as eminently disqualified and dishonest as Walker even won his party’s primary, let alone run so well.
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