In the wake of Herschel Walker’s Senate loss, aides say his campaign was as flawed as the candidate.
When Herschel Walker entered the U.S. Senate race with the backing of his longtime friend Donald Trump, Georgia Republicans were not naive about the challenges ahead. The retired football star had no prior political experience. He had a messy personal life, only some of which he had publicly acknowledged.
But as scandals involving domestic violence and abortion dribbled out over the summer and into the fall, something unexpected happened. Walker remained viable despite his flaws, his brand equity pulling him nearly even on Election Day in November.
“That image helped him survive the punishing onslaught that he received,” said Steven Law, head of the Senate Leadership Fund, a conservative super PAC. “I mean, I think a lot of other candidates would have been out of the running.”
But on Tuesday evening, Walker’s ability to stay afloat politically ended. He became the latest GOP candidate to fail to secure a Senate bid, falling to Democratic incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock in the state’s runoff election.
“He should have never run for this seat,” said a person close to the campaign. His campaign loss, the person said, is largely because “Herschel had a ton of baggage he was not transparent about, and we were constantly behind the eight ball.”
In the end, Walker remained a strong and viable challenger, losing to Warnock by what is likely to be just a couple percentage points when the final votes are tallied. The margin was close enough that the quality of Walker’s campaign mattered.
Interviews with a dozen campaign staff members and Republican operatives working with the Walker campaign suggest that it wasn’t just the candidate who had flaws — the campaign itself was hampered by poor decision-making.
Some said that Walker and his wife, Julie Blanchard Walker, never fully empowered his team to make decisions, frequently questioning suggestions and plans by veteran campaign operatives. The pair insisted on spending what aides described as an “excessive” amount of time poring over proposals for every campaign stop, bottlenecking planning. That included wanting to spend significant time in heavily Democratic areas to woo Black voters, a problem that worsened in the runoff when staff wanted Walker to focus exclusively on mobilizing Republicans who had just voted for him in the general election.
Staffers said Blanchard Walker even suggested her husband should be winning as much as 50 percent of the Black vote in Georgia, regularly commenting that the campaign needed “to be getting him in front of his people, in front of his community,” as one person working on the campaign recalled.
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