Wednesday, December 07, 2022


I'm happy about the outcome in the Georgia Senate race, but it shouldn't have been close. I keep hearing that Herschel Walker was a terrible candidate, but he won 48.5% of the vote in November and 48.6% in the runoff despite all that terribleness. Let's compare him to another terrible candidate: In 2014, after he said that a "legitimate rape" is unlikely to lead to pregnancy, Republican Todd Akin lost his Senate race to incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill by a 55% to 39% margin, despite the fact that Missouri was transforming itself from a purple to a red state.

By any objective measure, Walker was a much worse candidate than Akin -- the abortion hypocrisy, the unacknowledged children, the allegation of abuse, the campaign-trail babble about vampires and werewolves, the near-disappearance in the home stretch of the runoff. But this inept, morally flawed man, or at least the organization around him, motivated large numbers of voters to turn out a second time for him, even though the Senate was no longer up for grabs. It took a great campaign by Raphael Warnock and the Democrats to beat him.

If I understand the conventional wisdom correctly, this outcome proves that Donald Trump is a loser and that Brian Kemp is a winner. Here's Politico:
Trump keeps losing

Of all the candidates Trump elevated in this year’s midterms, few resembled Trump as closely as Walker — a scandal-plagued, celebrity-turned-politician and early adopter of Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was rigged.

... it was Trump who hand-picked Walker for the Georgia Senate run, just as he had chosen GOP nominees in other high-profile contests this year, and the result was one more blemish on Trump’s record — and a fitting coda to his demoralizing fall from power....

Brian Kemp is the real winner in Georgia

There’s a reason Gov. Brian Kemp’s name is being floated as a potential presidential contender. He may be one of the savviest Republican politicians in the country.

First, Kemp survived Trump’s wrath for his resistance to Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election, easily winning re-election. Then he went all in for Walker, a win-win for Kemp. Had Walker won, Kemp would have gotten all the credit — as former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie joked — for being “the first human being who ever dragged Herschel Walker over the goal line.

But no one was blaming Kemp for Walker’s defeat.
I don't get it. Kemp kept his distance from Walker during the general election and Walker got 48.5% of the vote. He campaigned for Walker in the runoff and Walker got 48.6%. Maybe he had no impact? And sure, Trump gave his endorsement to this morally dubious, incurious, inarticulate, and unqualified candidate -- but Walker did about as well as another Trump endorsee, Adam Laxalt in Nevada, who had all the right qualifications.

And I know that Kemp won the general election easily, as did Secretary of State Brad Raffensprger, which suggests that a generic Republican would have won this race. But Kemp and Raffensperger were incumbents. Walker was running against an incumbent. We don't know how a different Republican candidate would have fared.

The national campaign for Walker helped keep him in the race. Mitch McConnell spent millions and a lot of nationally prominent Republicans appeared with Walker, in person and on Fox News. Beyond that, the scandals and mockery seemed to motivate many Republican voters -- if Herschel Walker was being attacked by the evil libs because he paid for abortions (allegedly, they'd say) or flashed a fake police badge in a debate, then he must be worth voting for. The scandals cost him more votes than they won him, but it was close.

Grievances still motivate Republican voters. That's why Walker kept it close. Imagine this race plus a GOP that didn't disdain early voting. Imagine this race plus a Walker endorsement from Saint Ron DeSantis. He could have won. A round of applause for the Warnock campaign, because beating Walker wasn't easy.

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