OCILLA, Georgia — Herschel Walker, Georgia’s Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate, delivered a stupid 10-minute speech Tuesday in which he told no new whoppers, made no obvious mistakes and allowed reporters to witness the whole thing.
That apparent non-story was actually news, given Mr. Walker’s recent candidacy, and it seemed to reflect the work of a team of Republican agents who had flown in to turn his campaign around after a series of casual mistakes were questioned. his readiness for political prime time.
Addressing more than 100 supporters, many in University of Georgia red jerseys or American flag T-shirts, Mr Walker blamed the Biden government for rising inflation, bemoaned the wave of migrants to the southern border of the US and accused President Biden of wasting America’s energy independence. He said the Democrat he is challenging, Senator Raphael Warnock, “wants to vote for Joe Biden more than he wants to vote for Georgia.”
The first reaction of its campaign was to crouch: for several weeks it refused to warn journalists about its public appearances and banned reporters from some events when they did show up.
Key themes of the 2022 midterm elections so far
The status of the midterm exams. We are now half way through the first half of this year and the results are starting to spark some key ideas and questions. Here’s a look at what we’ve learned so far:
Even when Mr. Walker declined coverage, he managed to attract ridicule. In a July 9 performance streamed live on Facebook, he spoke extensively, and not quite intelligibly, about climate change and pollution — suggesting that Georgia’s “good air decides to drift” to China and the “bad air” of Georgia. Displace China going back to Georgia, where “we need to clean that up again.”
Days later, the campaign announced it had recruited a number of longtime political operatives, including a handful of former top associates of Georgia’s Republican Senate candidates, as well as Gail Gitcho, a veteran strategist who served as communications director for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign.
Tuesday’s event in Ocilla, a three-hour drive southeast of Atlanta, suggested the new team was taking effect.
Nodding to the many farm workers in the crowd at a car dealership in rural Irwin County, Mr. Walker — who hosted the event with Republican Agriculture Commissioner nominee — noted higher fuel prices and condemned Mr. Warnock’s support for special financial aid to black farmers, because it was as discriminatory as the problem it set out to solve.
“I’m running to stop Raphael Warnock,” Mr Walker said, applauding.
The event, announced as part of a series of “farmers and rangers” campaign shutdowns, was one of many aimed at enthusiastic Republican voting blocs the campaign aims to organize in the coming weeks. Others will target law enforcement officers and veterans, said Mallory Blount, a campaign spokeswoman.
Mr Walker also seemed to be reviewing how he describes his business career. After talking about his rise from an overweight kid in rural Wrightsville to a soccer hero, he said he lead “one of the largest minority-owned poultry farms.” In the past he has said that his company was the largest of these types of companies – which is not true.
Mr. Walker once ventured into allegorical territory for a tale of heaven and hell in which hell turned out to be the place for some Democrats’ campaigns.
He also invoked the last line of “The Star-Spangled Banner” to plan a roundabout attack on Mr. Warnock: “Every time that flag was ready to hit the ground, a dead patriot put it against it because he loved his freedom,” said Mr. said Walker.
“Right now we have people who have forgotten who and what America really is, what we stand for,” he added. “They want to separate us. That’s one of the guys I run into: Senator Raphael Warnock.’
Mr Warnock’s campaign pointed to the senator’s work with farmers and rural communities and said he had worked to reduce their costs and improve mental health services to cope with stresses such as natural disasters and the pandemic. “Georgians see Rev. Warnock fighting for them in the US Senate and they know they have a clear choice this fall,” said Meredith Brasher, a campaign spokeswoman.
Dominic LaRiccia, a state representative from a district 20 miles from Ocilla, said it was the first time he had seen Mr. Walker saw “live and in action” and praised his explanation of why he ran. (“I love Georgia and I love America,” Mr. Walker had said.)
Mr. LaRiccia acknowledged Mr. Walker so far, adding, “You want to be famous, not infamous.” But he said he believed conservative Georgians would look past the damaging reports about Mr Walker and vote for him as a trusted supporter of conservative policies in the Senate.
Carl Nichols, an agricultural teacher and farmer from Tifton, Georgia, said he heard Mr. Walker speak at a Future Farmers of America conference years ago, where he alluded very obliquely to “the choices he’s made.”
Mr. Nichols said he took that as an admission of his shortcomings, whatever they might be—and that it had endeared Mr. Walker to him.
“All these other things were not news to me,” said Mr. Nichols on the specific disclosures about Mr. Walker who came forward during the Senate campaign. “I’d heard it from him before. I feel like he’s honest – a man to stand up for and say what he says in public.”