The Friday debate in Savannah between Republican Herschel Walker and Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock will be the most important one yet in Georgia’s already acrimonious Senate contest.
News reports that Walker, a conservative who supports a full federal abortion ban with no exceptions, allegedly paid for a woman to terminate her pregnancy and then, two years later, encouraged the same woman to have the procedure a second time have shook up the Senate race, one of the most competitive in the nation and crucial to winning control of the chamber. The claims, which Walker has refuted, have not been independent.
Democrats and Republicans alike see the discussion as a potentially pivotal hour in the Senate campaign as a result of those claims because it will give both candidates an opportunity to influence the tiny minority of still-undecided voters.
The stakes really could not be greater since both candidates are well aware that this discussion might make or break the outcome of the entire election. Republican strategist Randy Evans co-authored a book on how to win political discussions in 2020.
Walker, a political novice who has never appeared on a debate stage, is under a lot of pressure. According to a Quinnipiac University survey issued this week, Warnock has 52% of the support of likely voters, compared to Walker’s 45%. The Republican may have one final opportunity to address the fresh allegations against him in front of a primetime audience on Friday night’s showdown, the only debate in which both candidates agreed to participate.
Several campaign-related sources claim that Walker and his campaign have prioritized the debate in the last weeks of the election, with one source claiming that the candidate has devoted a large amount of time to preparation for his discussion with Warnock.
According to a second source familiar with the campaign, Walker has sought assistance from prominent Republicans including Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Walker and his staff have spent time acquainting the candidate with Warnock’s prior debate performances against then-Sen. Kelly Loeffler during the 2020 Senate race. He has also participated in mock question-and-answer sessions with campaign aides to prepare for the debate.
The rationale, according to the source, is that voters have been inundated with advertisements and news stories about Walker’s personal life; therefore, the debate presents a chance for the Republican to “show he is knowledgeable on the issues” and enable him to respond in greater detail than is possible in 30-second advertisements.
However, Republicans, including Walker himself, have also tried to temper expectations as he gets ready to square off against Warnock by praising the Georgia Democrat’s debating skills and his prominent position as senior pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church.
“I’m not that intelligent. He is a pastor. (Warnock) dresses well and is intelligent. Therefore, he will appear and humiliate me at the debate on October 14th, and I’m simply waiting to appear and I will try my best,” Walker reportedly said.
One of the insiders with knowledge of Walker’s campaign suggested Warnock’s pulpit experience may have both advantages and disadvantages. The insider acknowledged that the Democrat had an advantage in public speaking, but said that, should Warnock try to attack his character, Walker would try to corner his rival with inquiries about “redemption” and pastoral care.