I’ve got a confession to make. When I saw that Republican Herschel Walker had accepted a debate with Democrat incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock, I wasn’t exactly enthused. Yes, to some extent, Walker’s communication issues have been overstated, but no one was ever going to confuse him for a charismatic speaker, and certainly, no one thought he would be a good debater.
The running assumption for the month leading up to the event has been simple: Walker would be lucky to get out alive, and absolutely no one was entertaining the possibility that he could excel.
In a shocking twist, though, that’s exactly what Walker did. It wasn’t a perfect performance, but far from bombing, people are actually suggesting that the Republican candidate may have won the debate. That’s a far cry from the predictions of total meltdown being made just prior to showtime.
We’ll go through some of the highlights and then I’ll give my thoughts on where I think this leaves the race. But first, if you want to know how well Walker did, here’s a columnist from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a leftwing outlet, giving his thoughts.
You know he did what he needed to do when someone who writes for the AJC and The Daily Beast (an outlet currently producing non-stop stories trying to take Walker out) can only muster up that “some of those answers won’t play well, but no catastrophes.”
Anyway, let’s dive into it.
With a story breaking recently that Walker paid for a girlfriend’s abortion back in 2009 (a story he denies), it’s actually surprising that he was willing to go that hard on the topic. Having seen him do it, though, I’m convinced it was the right move. Walker did not need to give up on the chief way to paint Warnock as an extremist, especially when the Democrat is limited in how he can respond because he has his own skeletons in the closet he doesn’t want to be brought up. All in all, it was a good strategy.
On the economy and other policy questions, Walker pressed Warnock on his support for Joe Biden and his inability to make positive change for Georgians. It was another good segment for the Republican candidate.
The common theme with Walker’s approach tonight was aggression. He did not show up to play defense, and I think that played to his advantage. Instead of sitting back and waiting for the moderator and Warnock to hit him on his scandals, he kept pressing Democrat policy failures at every turn. It completely shifted the debate in Walker’s favor, again, something almost no one thought was possible.
Things got so bad that Warnock actually refused to answer whether he’d support Joe Biden in 2024.
That’s what a man on defense looks like. Warnock has obviously gotten way too used to not being challenged, with his re-election chances constantly rated high. He was ready for much of what he faced at this debate. That includes questions about a report that his church pays him over $7,000 a month for a “housing allowance” while they evict people over a few hundred dollars in late rent.
Moving to something a bit lighter, Warnock even muffed his answer on the Atlanta Braves, Georgia’s beloved MLB team.
It’d be easy to assume that a disastrous non-answer like that won’t amount to anything, but never underestimate how shallow voters can be. There’s a non-zero number of people in Georgia who will see that and see Warnock as a coward, so warped by Washington politics that he can’t even support the hometown baseball team.
In the end, Walker’s closing argument came down to the same point many have been making about this race: That Warnock is a ward of Joe Biden and both have helped diminsh the country to its current, sad state. All The Daily Beast hit pieces in the world won’t change that reality.
And that’s really what this campaign comes down to. Do Georgians want to re-elect another “yes” vote for inflation, illegal immigration, abortion until birth, and a crumbling foreign policy? If they do, they’ll vote for Warnock. If they don’t, they’ll vote for Walker.
So where do I think this leaves the race? I think Walker’s unexpected performance might have just guaranteed a run-off, and possibly puts an outright win back on the table. That’s a far cry from where things stood just a week ago. I guess the lesson here is to never doubt a candidate who puts in the time to prepare. Warnock showed up with his tired, canned lines and Walker showed up ready to do battle. For that, the latter will likely be rewarded.