Nate Jackson / December 7, 2022

Memo to GOP: Pick Better Candidates

Herschel Walker’s loss to Raphael Warnock in Georgia gives Democrats a huge advantage in the Senate.

Herschel Walker may be trying to turn his life around, but he was a bad candidate, and yesterday’s runoff loss to Raphael Warnock proves it. Democrats now have full control over the Senate with a 51-49 majority instead of a power-sharing 50-50 split. Ouch.

“There are no excuses in life,” Walker said in conceding, “and I’m not going to make any now because we put up one heck of a fight.”

In October, Walker was hit with allegations that he had paid for a previous girlfriend’s abortion. We wondered whether his fumble would cost him the game, and while few games are determined by a single play, it certainly seems to have contributed. The deal-breaker seems to be that he was guilty of other campaign dishonesty, including about his tax-exempt residence in Texas. Voters simply didn’t trust Walker.

The numbers don’t lie. In November, Republican Governor Brian Kemp had no trouble dispatching Democrat Stacey Abrams, who believes all the same radical leftist things Warnock does. Kemp won with 2.1 million votes to Abrams’s 1.8 million. Other statewide Republicans like Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger had no trouble winning, either. Walker, however, couldn’t muster a majority in November and ended up in yesterday’s runoff. He managed only 1.7 million votes, while Warnock received 1.8 million — surpassing Abrams by roughly 4,000. Kemp won by 300,000 votes, while Walker lost by 100,000, worse than the 37,000 votes separating him from Warnock in November because he won 200,000 fewer votes.

Why? As Walker’s adult son Christian put it, “Don’t beat women, hold guns to peoples heads, fund abortions then pretend your pro-life, stalk cheerleaders, leave your multiple minor children alone to chase more fame, lie, lie, lie, say stupid crap, and make a fool of your family… And then maybe you can win a senate seat.” Ouch.

Candidates matter.

Some folks immediately pointed to the (orange) elephant in the room, blaming Donald Trump for the loss with a fair bit of evidence. He did recruit Walker, while the candidates he specifically worked to defeat in primaries (Kemp and Raffensperger) won handily. Trump did lose Georgia in 2020, the first Republican to accomplish that feat since George H.W. Bush in 1992. He did cost the GOP two Peach State Senate seats in the 2020 runoff. He did decline to wait until after the runoff to announce his 2024 bid, to dine with anti-Semites and an actual white nationalist, or to sound off on the Constitution this past weekend.

In the eyes of many folks, Trump can do no wrong. But in Georgia’s test of Trump’s 2024 political brand, he demonstrably failed.

All that said, however, Walker’s loss is Walker’s. His sordid personal history cost him 400,000 votes from Kemp’s total. Trump was largely silent in Georgia over the last few months, and Walker didn’t exactly have any stiff competition for the nomination.

If Trump bears blame for costing the GOP the Senate in 2022, it’s primarily with his endorsement of Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, which was decisive in Oz’s primary win over a much more palatable Republican (again, who actually lived in the state), David McCormick. Oz’s general election loss to the clearly impaired John Fetterman, flipping a previously Republican seat to Democrats, is what kept the Senate under Democrat control.

Walker’s loss means Democrats and their 51 seats control every committee and have a smoother process bringing Joe Biden’s nominees to the floor. It means Joe Manchin is no longer the most powerful man in the Senate, and Democrats have more flexibility with legislation in the chamber. Legislation like their bid to nationalize bulk-mail balloting and remove voter ID requirements.

Speaking of blame, Democrats spent at least $43 million helping certain Republicans win primaries this year. The Democrat super PAC known as the mainstream media faithfully labeled those Republicans “election deniers” and helped Democrats defeat nearly all of them in the general election. It turns out that picking your opponent is a winning strategy.

As for Georgia, it seems pretty clear that Walker bears most of the blame for his own loss. “No excuses,” he said. Still, nationally speaking, Democrats played their hand masterfully and Republicans, well, didn’t. Walker’s race shouldn’t have been for a 50-50 tie, and the much-ballyhooed red wave should have materialized. The GOP has some soul-searching to do.

(Updated)

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