After months of avoiding his ticket-mate Herschel Walker, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, fresh off his resounding victory, took on the role of obedient Republican soldier on Saturday as he campaigned for the first time with Walker.
The two candidates’ combined appearance highlights the significance of Kemp’s wide-ranging alliance in determining if Walker can defeat Sen. Raphael Warnock in a runoff on December 6. Because of the overwhelming attention on his troubled history, Walker, a famous athlete turned politician, has had difficulty winning over many independents and moderate Republicans.
In a disappointing midterm election year for Republicans nationwide, Kemp urged his supporters to cast one more ballot, saying, “We cannot rest on our laurels, everyone.” Kemp was speaking to a small crowd of supporters gathered in the parking lot of a gun store in a suburb of Atlanta.
In the general election in Georgia, Kemp received 200,000 more votes than Walker when he ran against Warnock and faced Democratic opponent Stacey Abrams. The outcome: Walker fell behind Warnock by about 36,000 votes, or nearly one percentage point, while Kemp defeated Abrams by a margin of 7.5 percentage points. However, Warnock came up just short of a majority, setting off the four-week runoff campaign.
The governor made appearances with many GOP candidates for various statewide seats during the autumn, but his primary focus was on his reelection. Without using runoffs, they all triumphed. Walker was consistently absent, and Kemp occasionally avoided mentioning him by name when reporters inquired about the gap between the two campaigns. Kemp frequently limited his statements to supporting “the complete ticket.”
Great to have @BrianKempGA and @GAFirstLady join Julie and I today with a great crowd in Smyrna! The people are ready to evict Raphael Warnock on December 6th! #gasen #gapol #gasenrunoff pic.twitter.com/YqJzd13WC7
— Herschel Walker (@HerschelWalker) November 19, 2022
Kemp has increased his support level since winning a second term, yet he is still calculated. In recent interviews, he reiterated his support for Walker after handing over control of his voter turnout effort to a Republican political action organisation allied with Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell.
On Saturday, he reiterated Republicans’ main criticism of Warnock—that he votes with President Joe Biden “96% of the time”—and painted Walker as a fiscal and cultural conservative who would support tax cuts, law enforcement, and the military. Kemp remarked, “I’m confident Herschel Walker would stand up for us. “He will defend the principles that our state holds dear.”
However, Kemp also used his brief appearance on stage as a chance to do a victory lap for himself. He hinted at his upcoming second term and mentioned Abrams before speaking of Walker or Warnock. We’re going to keep our state moving in the right path because we stopped Stacey and saved Georgia, he said. “I’ve never been more excited about the future of our state.”
The Georgia runoff is now more regionally focused because Democrats have already won 50 seats and hold Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote. Hence, Republicans see Kemp as a crucial Walker validator.
Walker and Republicans pushed to nationalise the race for much of the year because Georgia, where Democrat Warnock and Republican Sen. Jon Ossoff won simultaneous Senate runoff elections two years earlier, was one of the key states that would determine Senate control.
In part, the effort aimed to link Warnock to Biden due to the president’s dismal support ratings and significant generational inflation. But some of Walker’s flaws were also considered, making it a necessity.
Walker has repeatedly inflated his professional success, charitable endeavours, and academic accomplishments. He has been charged with assaulting his first wife. He revealed the presence of many kids throughout the campaign, something he had never done before in front of the public. Despite his support for a nationwide, no-exemptions abortion ban, two women Walker once dated claimed in October that he pushed and paid for their abortions.
Walker has responded to his denial that he ever paid for an abortion by attacking Warnock viciously, lately focusing on the dire living conditions at an Atlanta apartment complex owned by a foundation of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Warnock is senior pastor. Walker has portrayed Warnock as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and a “hypocrite” by using apparent eviction letters given to some renters and complaints from its residents.
Walker is far less famous than Kemp, especially among independents and moderate Republicans, due to the cumulative effect, which has fueled Warnock’s attempts to paint Walker as “not ready” and “not fit” for the Senate. That’s especially troubling given that the GOP isn’t able to use Senate control as a carrot to get sceptical GOP-leaning people to support Walker.
In suburban Atlanta, Walker’s electoral failings were particularly severe. Walker trailed Kemp by almost 5 points overall, but in Cobb County, the site of the event on Saturday, the deficit was nearly 7 points. Other metro area counties crucial to the Republican party’s statewide coalition also had comparable gaps.
According to an AP VoteCast poll of the general electorate, 7 out of 10 supporters of Kemp claimed they did so with enthusiasm, but just nearly half of Walker’s supporters made the same claim. Four out of ten Walker supporters indicated they were backing him with concerns, while one out of ten said they were against the other candidates.
Additionally, it appears that Kemp benefited from his opposition to former President Donald Trump’s efforts to have the results of the 2020 elections in Georgia and the rest of the country annulled. According to AP VoteCast, only 29% of Georgia voters believe Kemp favours former President Trump too much, whereas Walker, a Trump ally running for office, received 43% of those votes.
Josh Holmes, a sizeable Republican strategist in Washington and a former chief of staff to McConnell, stated that Brian Kemp is unquestionably the most well-liked Republican in Georgia and has the most substantial organisation. Even Democrats admit the truth, holding a press conference earlier on Saturday with Kemp and Warnock supporters.