Premium

Coming soon to Georgia: Senator Herschel Walker?

If Alabama can send a mediocre college football coach to the Senate, surely Georgia can send a bona fide college football legend.

Lotta buzz about drafting Walker in Georgia political circles lately, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The question is, draft him for what? There are two marquee races on the ballot next year, remember, not one.

Georgia Republicans have been buzzing with the rumor that the Georgia football legend — and close friend of former President Donald Trump — could challenge U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock next year.

We’ve heard the talk for days, mostly from the pundit class and others trying to egg on Number 34. Our attempts to reach Walker have so far gone unanswered…

We’re doubtful he’ll get into the race, just as we were super skeptical about Perdue’s brief flirtation with a run last week. One problem: He lives in Texas, though we’ve heard rumblings he’s planning to make Georgia his primary home.

He has everything you could want in a statewide Republican candidate. He’s a household name in Georgia, of course, thanks to his heroics at UGA. He’s a Trump buddy of longstanding, having famously been drafted by the Trump-owned New Jersey Generals of the USFL out of college. He’s built a minor political profile in recent years as an outspoken Trump supporter, even getting some airtime at last year’s Republican National Convention. And he’s African-American, an important asset in a cycle when Democrats will be running two of the most prominent black pols in America on the same ballot. Not only that, says lefty Ed Kilgore, but having Walker running for office while help shield the GOP from accusations that their attempts to tighten voting requirements in Georgia are a racially motivated ploy to suppress black turnout.

Newsmax, an outlet Trump pays attention to, has a splashy piece today floating the Walker-for-Senate trial balloon:

“But there are two words you’ll soon be hearing a lot — ‘Herschel Walker,'” veteran Georgia GOP consultant Matt Towery told Newsmax…

At 58, he has long signaled he is a conservative Republican and recently testified before Congress against proposed reparations for slavery to American blacks.

If the athlete has any problem with a Senate bid, it is that he lives out of state. But supporters say, given his heroic status, Walker would be accepted if he simply bought a house and moved back. As veteran Georgia public relations man Phil Kent put it, “He could move back to his hometown of Athens on ‘Herschel Walker Drive.'”

There are three candidates in the mix in Georgia who might conceivably earn Trump’s endorsement in 2022. One, Kelly Loeffler, isn’t a true-blue populist and lost to Raphael Warnock last month. The second, Marjorie Taylor Greene, is as Trumpy as Trumpy gets but every major figure in the GOP would privately counsel Trump not to support her for fear that she’ll be poison to suburban voters. The third, Doug Collins, is a Trump ally of several years’ standing (and was Trump’s preferred choice for the Senate appointment that eventually went to Loeffler) but he may be a little too Trumpy for comfort for swing voters as well. And even if he isn’t, there’s the small matter that he finished behind Loeffler in last year’s jungle primary.

Possible solution, then: Bring in Herschel Walker. Not only does he have high positive name recognition locally and solid MAGA credentials, as a political amateur he could run on the same “outsider going to Washington to clean things up” platform that Trump did in 2016. Too bad there’s not two of him because, as I say, the GOP has a dual challenge in Georgia in 2022. Warnock is running for a full six-year term, having defeated Loeffler in a special election to finish Johnny Isakson’s term. And Stacey Abrams will be looking for a rematch with Brian Kemp in the gubernatorial race, assuming Kemp somehow survives a Trump-backed primary challenge. Which candidate would Trump and Walker rather match up with? If Republicans decide that Abrams is the more formidable of the two (which I believe she is, as Georgia Dems will be eager to reward her organizational efforts for Biden, Warnock, and Jon Ossoff with an office of her own) then Walker would have to first primary Kemp and then beat Abrams in the general to win. No small task — and Walker might not want to do it, as he’s been a Kemp supporter himself in the past.

So maybe we’re headed for a “Walker versus Warnock” race for Senate, with Collins primarying Kemp for the right to face Abrams. Republicans could do worse, especially with David Perdue apparently having decided he’s done with the Trump-era GOP.

Here’s Walker’s short convention speech as a preview of how he’d look on the campaign trail. Part of me wonders if the reason Georgia Republicans are pushing “Walker for Senate” rumors is because they have an inkling that Trump, in his dopey affinity for blind loyalty, will decide he’s all-in on Marjorie Taylor Greene for Senate unless he’s presented with a similarly palatable MAGA alternative. Greene has the potential to wreck the party’s chances in multiple races if she’s in a prominent spot on the ballot, and Georgia GOP leaders surely realize that Trump wouldn’t care if she does. They may be calculating that only by getting him excited about Walker can they steer him away from the Greene trainwreck.