Georgia GOP Senate Chaos Continues as “GOP Fears Grow” & Republicans Target Trump’s Hand-Picked Candidate

August 5, 2021

The worry among Georgia Republicans is getting louder by the day as their GOP Senate primary remains in disarray. Herschel Walker — Trump’s hand-picked candidate for the race — continues to loom large over the field, while GOP insiders vent their frustrations with the former president’s influence in Georgia and fellow candidates aggressively take aim at his preferred nominee. 

Notably, CNN reports that Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has been pushing failed former Georgia Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler to consider running again in 2022.

Walker remains unmoved by the GOP criticism and is “acting like he’s in the driver’s seat.” As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote last week, these efforts are unlikely to have the outcome some want: “These sorts of reports exposing more details about [Walker’s] background aren’t likely to factor into his decision.” 

Read about Georgia Republicans’ #GASEN woes below:

CNN: GOP fears grow over Herschel Walker as party leaders seek other candidates in Georgia Senate race
Manu Raju, Alex Rogers, Michael Warren, 8/5/21

  • Republicans from Georgia to Washington, DC, are searching for a viable candidate to mount a Senate bid in the Peach State next year, fearing that former President Donald Trump’s choice, football great Herschel Walker, would implode if he ran and could cost the GOP a winnable seat.
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has suggested to allies that former Georgia senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler should take another look at running again, according to three sources familiar with the matter, after their narrow losses in January flipped the Senate to Democratic control.
  • McConnell, who has privately expressed his deep concerns with Walker’s potential candidacy, met this summer with Loeffler and Perdue.
  • Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a top McConnell ally, seemed skeptical about a Walker candidacy. “All I know is what I read in the paper,” Cornyn said Wednesday. “I want to win that race, and so I want the best nominee. I don’t know whether he’s it.”
  • Walker, a Georgia native who currently lives in Texas, has yet to say whether he will run. But Trump’s public pining for his old friend has been enough to freeze some potential candidates from entering the field, even as there are growing alarms about the former Georgia Bulldog running back’s prospective candidacy.
  • When asked if he would drop out of the race if Walker jumps in, Saddler told CNN on Wednesday: “It doesn’t matter who wants to get into this race. It will have zero effect on our campaign and our strategy.”
  • Some Trump allies are standing firmly behind Walker, saying that having a celebrity, conservative African-American would amount to an ideal candidate against Warnock, a progressive Democrat and one of three Black senators.
  • “He’s not the first person to struggle,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has spoken to Walker about a potential run, told CNN last week. “I’m told he spent the last couple days at a military base helping people through PTSD problems. He’s made that sort of his life’s work.” Asked if he thought he’d still run, the South Carolina Republican said: “I’d be surprised if he didn’t.”
  • Some Republicans are wondering whether one of the two former Georgia senators, Perdue and Loeffler, would reconsider a campaign. Loeffler, whom Warnock defeated by 2 points in January, would likely run for the seat again if Walker doesn’t, according to a person familiar with her thinking. After meeting with McConnell in June, Loeffler told CNN, “I haven’t ruled it out.”
  • Many Georgia Republican strategists privately say they would prefer Perdue, who lost his reelection bid to Democrat Jon Ossoff by about a point in January, to run. At a dinner for Republican donors in Washington last month, Perdue indicated he had nothing to say about whether he would launch another Senate campaign.
  • “I’ve talked to him,” [NRSC Chair Rick] Scott added. “I tell everybody the same thing. If you’re going to get in, you have to be ready to do everything. … You got to go raise money, you got to go to debates, you got to do all these things.”
  • Walker recently told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that he would make an announcement “on my timetable.” But some Georgia Republicans want Walker to make a decision — now — in order to give himself or the other candidates the time to build the strongest possible campaign against Warnock.
  • Rep. Buddy Carter, a Georgia Republican who has previously said he would run for the Senate seat if Walker passes on a bid, dismissed the AP report about the Heisman Trophy-winner’s past. “Herschel is fine. I think Herschel is going to run, and I know he’s going to win,” Carter said. “I don’t think there’s anything new [that] came out that hasn’t already been out there. Herschel is a strong person.”

National Review: Georgia Republican Insiders Bearish on Herschel Walker Senate Run
Isaac Schorr, 8/5/21

  • Trump and Walker have a long-running relationship dating back to Walker’s stint on Trump’s United States Football League team in the 1980s. In both 2016 and 2020, Walker openly supported Trump’s bids for the presidency, even delivering a speech at the 2020 Republican National Convention during which he boasted a “deep, personal friendship” with Trump and analogized the president’s combative style to the way he used to run over opponents on the field. 
  • In March, Trump returned the favor, asking in a statement, “Wouldn’t it be great if the legendary Herschel Walker ran for the United States Senate in Georgia?” Then, in June, Trump joined Clay Travis and Buck Sexton’s radio show, where he all but announced Walker’s candidacy, saying “he told me he’s going to [run], and I think he will.” Walker, despite hinting at a run on Twitter, has yet to confirm this.
  • Opposition research on Walker first surfaced from the Associated Press in mid-July … Erick Erickson, a prominent Georgia radio host and conservative pundit, reacted to the AP piece by pouring cold water on the idea that the damaging stories emerged because of partisan ugliness.
  • “Folks thinking the Democrats dropped that oppo research on Herschel Walker. HAHAHAHA. No. Nope. Wasn’t them,” he tweeted, instead implying that we were all bearing witness to Republican-on-Republican violence.
  • “There is a growing sense that the Herschel Walker candidacy is a vanity project for President Trump and a gold-mining expedition for a few consultants,” worried one such senior Republican strategist.
  • It’s also their opinion that the situation is very much out of the hands of party insiders and strategists.
  • “Trump’s gonna do what he’s gonna do … We’re all just kind of sitting here with this pit in our stomach like, ‘Is he really gonna go through with this?’ We all know about Trump’s infatuation with Georgia, and we all know his ability to engage with the primary electorate here. If he wraps his arms around Herschel Walker, it’s going to be really tough,” the strategist said.
  • The same operative also spoke to how Trump’s unfounded allegations of major voter fraud in the state were not only detrimental to the runoff campaigns of Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, but could be a poison pill for Georgia Republicans moving forward.
  • If Walker does jump in, though, Lake concurs that he’s likely to get the former president’s endorsement and the nomination, though he also submits that Walker would face the challenge of “introducing himself to the electorate” as a serious political figure, rather than an athlete. 
  • Two strategists working with other GOP Senate campaigns were, as expected, more blunt.
  • “I think there’s been a lot of trepidation about another untested candidate,” said one, who compared a prospective Walker campaign with that of Kelly Loeffler’s failed 2020 effort. “Nobody knows what his positions are on things. This pre-announcement period has been a disaster, and folks are worried he’s going to crater and leave the Senate in Democratic control. So there’s quite a bit of hesitancy, I think, throughout the state and also in D.C.” 
  • “The obvious concerns are there,” said another. “His opening day is his high-water mark. Republicans have got to be smart; they cannot just nominate anybody. They don’t have an organic majority here anymore. They gotta have a better candidate,” he continued.
  • In the end, it may all come back down to Trump — a frightening fact of life that Georgia GOP operatives are getting used to.
  • Especially in Georgia, where the sting of a string of losses has left both voters and Trump bitter, and potentially as eager to draw blood from the GOP establishment as they are from Democrats. 


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