Although we’re a year and a half from the 2022 elections, both parties are working hard behind the scenes to ready themselves for one of the most crucial midterms in U.S history.
In the past 30 years, the party out of presidential power has usually made substantial gains in midterm elections during a president’s first term. And given Democrats’ extremely slim margins of control, the assumption that they will lose at least one if not both chambers of Congress seems like a safe bet at the moment (although I’m not at all convinced).
One of the most-watched races will take place in Georgia as newly-elected Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock is likely to face a strong challenge from a Republican opponent.
Although then-candidate Joe Biden edged former President Donald Trump there, and Warnock and fellow Democrat Jon Ossoff subsequently won their Senate runoffs 2 months later, Georgia isn’t blue yet and any Democrat is vulnerable in a statewide race in the Peach State.
It’s safe to say the 2022 Georgia Senate election will be relatively close with the margin of victory less than 3 percentage points, regardless of the outcome.
At this moment, three candidates are being floated as possible challengers to Warnock: Former football star Herschel Walker, former state representative Doug Collins, and former U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler who lost her seat to Warnock in January.
The biggest threat to Warnock?
According to right-leaning pollster Trafalgar Group, Walker is the biggest threat to Warnock’s reign thus far.
Results from Trafalgar Group polls released on March 12 have Walker defeating Warnock 48-46 percent. Keep in mind, Trafalgar has a Republican bias. Nevertheless, they’ve accurately called a number of upsets the past 5 years so their polling shouldn’t be taken lightly.
The same pollster had Collins and Loeffler finishing 1 and 5 percentage points, respectively, behind Warnock. And in head-to-head Republican primary races, Walker polled well ahead of Collins and Loeffler, defeating them by 14 and 36 percentage points, respectively.
Herschel Walker: Pros and cons
There are definite upsides to running Walker against Warnock. For starters, he’s a celebrity and boasts mainstream name recognition. A native Georgian who now lives in Texas, Herschel played for the University of Georgia Bulldogs and won the Heisman Trophy, college football’s supreme accolade, in 1982.
Widely considered the greatest college football player of all time, Walker began his professional football career with the New Jersey Generals of the United States Football League (USFL) before joining the Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League (NFL). He also played for the Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles, and New York Giants.
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He’s a familiar name and an icon of sorts.
Second, Herschel is mild-mannered, seems likable, and doesn’t have the personal skeletons a lot of pro athletes – and politicians – tend to acquire over the years.
And third, he, like Sen. Warnock, is Black. As a result, he, more easily than Collins or Loeffler, could attract Black voters who aren’t thrilled with Sen. Warnock but would otherwise be hesitant to vote Republican.
Blacks comprise 32 percent of Georgia’s population so just 15 percent of the Black vote could conceivably carry a Republican to victory in a statewide race.
And rest assured, there will be a few Blacks, especially men, who’ll like the idea of having Walker as their senator.
Of course, the football legend isn’t without cons. Despite being the Co-Chair of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition, Walker has no substantive political experience and hasn’t appeared politically astute or issue-acclimated when making political statements.
Moreover, his low-key demeanor probably wouldn’t serve him well in a debate against Warnock, the charismatic reverend who, despite lacking political experience upon his entry into politics, had been an engaged activist and was well adept at speaking in front of large crowds, in and out of church settings.
Also, Walker’s living in Texas would be a solid talking point for Warnock who will insist Herschel sold out to the Lonestar State and is not in touch with today’s Georgians. Nevertheless, Hillary Clinton moved to New York and won a U.S. Senate seat soon thereafter so Walker’s current residence isn’t something that can’t be overcome.
Lastly, after Joe Biden won the 2020 election and Trump refused to concede while making claims of fraud, Walker supported the defeated president’s failed efforts to overturn the election results.
It wasn’t a good look for the football star and may come back to haunt him should he run.
In an April 2021 interview with Fox News, Walker confirmed that he was considering a 2022 U.S. Senate run in Georgia.