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EXCLUSIVE: After facing a barrage of ads the past two months portraying him as unqualified to represent Georgia in the Senate, Republican nominee Herschel Walker is pushing back against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and allied groups backing the incumbent senator.
Walker on Thursday went up with his first general election contrast ad in the Peach State showdown, which is one of a handful of races in battleground states that will determine if the GOP wins back the majority in the chamber in November’s midterms.
“I’m used to hard hits. Getting knocked down and cheap shots,” the former college football legend and former professional football star says under clips from his gridiron career at the top of his spot, which was shared nationally first with Fox News.
Walker then charges that “so far Warnock and his allies have lied about me, my business, and my work with veterans. I can take the hits, but it won’t change the facts. Warnock votes with Joe Biden 96% of the time. Votes that gave us high gas prices, open borders, and men competing in women’s sports. When Raphael Warnock votes with Joe Biden, he’s not with Georgia.”
The Walker campaign tells Fox News that it’s spending seven-figures to run the commercial statewide on TV and digital in Georgia
Walker, who won a Heisman Trophy and helped steer the University of Georgia to a college football national championship four decades ago, jumped into the GOP race to face off against Warnock last summer after months of support and encouragement to run for the Senate by former President Donald Trump, his longtime friend.
Thanks to his legendary status among many in Georgia and his immense, favorable, name recognition in the Peach State, Walker instantly became the overwhelming front-runner for the GOP Senate nomination and basically ignored the field of lesser-known primary rivals, declining to take part in debates as he focused his campaign on Warnock.
Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga. (Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images)
Walker ended up trouncing his rivals in the May primary. But Republican strategists remain concerned that Walker is unprepared for the incoming fire that he’s now receiving during the general election campaign.
Republicans see Warnock — the senior pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King Jr. used to preach, and who defeated GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler by a razor-thin margin to capture the seat a year and a half ago — as very vulnerable as he runs for re-election to a full six-year term.
But Warnock has dramatically out raised Walker to date, and the senator’s re-election campaign and allied Democratic groups have spent tens of millions to target the GOP nominee the past two months over what they call his “bizarre or false statements.” A TV ad by Warnock’s campaign that launched last month highlighted past comments by Walker saying that he had a “dry mist” that would “kill any COVID on your body.”
Walker’s also taken incoming fire over numerous reports that he overinflated the success of his businesses and academic record, and has been playing defense regarding a number of personal controversies — from allegations of past abuse and threats against his first wife to acknowledging children he fathered out of wedlock that he hadn’t previously publicly mentioned despite for decades criticizing absent fathers.
Herschel Walker, the Republican Senate nominee in Georgia, speaks during a campaign rally in Macon, Georgia, on Wednesday, May 18, 2022. Photographer: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images (Photographer: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
“Let’s be clear: we are making sure Georgians see and hear what Herschel Walker has said in his own words—and the only lies here are the ones he has told,” Warnock campaign communications director Meredith Brasher told Fox News.
And Georgia Democratic Party spokesperson Dan Gottlieb emphasized in a recent statement that “every one of Walker’s lies, scandals and bizarre statements proves that he isn’t ready to represent the people of Georgia and can’t be trusted to serve in the U.S. Senate.”
Walker’s new ad is part of his newly bolstered campaign’s strategy of taking the fight to Warnock, after mostly playing defense following the May primary.
The race between the Democratic senator and the GOP challenger remains close. Warnock held a narrow three-point 46% to 43% edge over Walker, according to a survey conducted for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution by the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs. Roughly 3% of voters questioned said they’d back Libertarian candidate Chase Oliver with 8% undecided.
Paul Steinhauser is a politics reporter based in New Hampshire.