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How Herschel Walker’s Risky Bid for the Georgia Senate Race Could Succeed

Herschel Walker: la arriesgada apuesta republicana que podría dar el batacazo en Georgia

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In August 2021, American football athlete Herschel Walker moved his voter registration from Texas to Georgia stoking rumors of a possible Senate run for the Georgian state, a very risky and unusual gamble, but one that could work for the Republicans in the recovery of an important seat that could mean regaining a majority in the U.S. Senate.

Walker was virtually unopposed to win the GOP primary, capturing 68.2% of the vote. Gary Black was the closest challenger, with 13.4%.

herschel walker
Most national polls show a technical tie between Walker and Warnock.

This election race in Georgia is especially important, as it was one of two elections where the GOP lost the Senate majority in November 2020. A win by Herschel Walker would be indispensable for the Republican Party, as it would regain a vital seat for its main objective: to reach the majority in the Upper House.

herschel walker
Screenshot of the New York Times

Herschel Walker, the underestimated candidate

Although Walker now enjoys a certain amount of respect in the press as his electoral campaign progresses, this hasn’t always been the case, as he has been severely questioned.

After the change of electoral registration, Walker’s candidacy, with the support of his old friend Donald Trump, became official to the happiness of the liberal media, who took advantage of the announcement to exploit the political inexperience of the former athlete, his difficult and controversial past, and the alleged doubts of the Republican establishment regarding his candidacy.

On CNN, for example, editor-at-large Chris Cillizza published an analysis titled “A Herschel Walker candidacy is a total nightmare for Senate Republicans.”

In his article, Cillizza lists several of the alleged problems a Herschel Walker GOP candidacy would entail: 1. He hasn’t lived in the state in a long time, so Georgians could accuse him of carpetbagging; 2. The violent past of the former athlete, who once revealed that he suffered from a severe case of dissociative identity disorder; 3. He was never a candidate and will be competing in a close race against Pastor Raphael Warnock (D); 4. The alleged “reservations” (never confirmed) of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Similarly, the Associated Press, in July 2021, published a harsh report against the former athlete compiling the details of his past during one of the most difficult times of his life at the height of his dissociative identity disorder.

AP recalled the complaint of Walker’s ex-wife, Cindy Grossman, who claimed that her ex-husband threatened to kill her by pointing a gun at her head. Likewise, the agency recalled several passages from the book Breaking Free (published by Walker himself in 2008) where the college American football star assures that he played Russian Roulette and had up to 12 “alter” egos, some of whom were dedicated to doing good, and others with violent and extreme behaviors.

It is clear that a candidate with such a past, besides being inexperienced, is a political bet that should generate doubts. However, the pro-Democrat media were once again simplistic, ignoring three details that today position Herschel Walker as the favorite in the national polls to win the close race in Georgia over incumbent Democratic Senator Warnock.

Herschel Walker’s story reaches the public

Yes, Herschel’s past is complicated. However, his story has always been about overcoming adversity. As a young boy, Herschel Walker was passionate about reading and poetry, and suffered from bullying in school because of his overweight and stuttering. In eighth grade, the situation crossed a boundary when Walker was punched by one of his classmates and everyone at school laughed at him.

What would have been a moral and spiritual blow to most youngsters, for young Walker, with the support of his mother, served as a motivation to change the course of his life? The historic athlete did not shrink from the bullying and decided to begin a tough and intense exercise routine that consisted of doing large amounts of push-ups, sit-ups, and jogging sessions that later turned him into an athlete of a privileged physique for his age, making history in high school and college.

Such was Walker’s success that, thanks to his excellent years at the University of Georgia, he won the Heisman Trophy and later was twice selected to the NFL Pro Bowl as one of the most physically powerful running back in American football history.

However, life would bring harder battles for Herschel Walker beyond bullying and sports because, as it usually happens to many athletes. After retirement, everyday problems multiply and existential crises come to light. For Walker, it was much worse, as his dissociative identity disorder flared up endangering himself and his loved ones.

Nevertheless, Herschel Walker, a leading voice in the fight against bullying and the importance of mental health care, recounted in his book that finding faith in Christ and starting therapy was crucial to get his life back on track and overcome the disorder. 

“Most of the things I’ve done after my struggles have shown people that you can be knocked down and you can get back up,” the former athlete told Axios in an interview. “Don’t be ashamed to address your problems. For a man, it’s very hard. For an African-American man, it’s even harder. But I want people to know it. And that’s one of the main reasons I decided to come forward.”

Honestly: How can such a story not connect with Georgia’s conservative electorate? A state where Herschel Walker was a sports star as well. In fact, the numbers are there. According to Politico, 61% of moderate Republican voters support Walker compared to 81% of conservatives.

Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker (R) is greeted on stage by former U.S. President Donald Trump (l) (EFE).

Wasn’t GOP unity in Georgia what the conservative establishment wanted?

After the disaster in the November 2020 elections, where the Republican Party not only lost the presidency, but also the majority in the Senate after practically having it in their hands, the conservative establishment reached the consensus that if they had to put their stakes on a candidate it would be the one who manages to motivate the base and, in addition, reunite the party. And Herschel Walker was the man chosen not only by Donald Trump, but by Mitch McConnell, who said in his endorsement of the former athlete that Walker is “the only one who can unite the party, defeat Senator Warnock and help us win back the Senate.”

Liberal experts were definitely wrong when they said Herschel Walker’s candidacy would be a headache for Republicans, in fact, he is proving to be an unbeatable solution.

Walker’s public appearances

So far, Herschel Walker has made few public appearances in his Senate campaign. Perhaps it is to avoid unforced errors because he is not a seasoned politician, or perhaps to avoid exposure to the Democratic media machine, which could well exploit Walker’s past for political gain. But regardless of the reason, the strategy is working, even if liberals criticize him for it.

Herschel Walker, for example, spoke about his past and the chilling threat against his wife in an interview with Axios in December. His words served to clear up several doubts, among them, that he is now well in terms of his mental faculties and is apparently on good terms with his ex-wife, whom he even called his “best friend.”

As for his policy proposals, Herschel Walker has taken advantage of venues to promote his promises, including pushing for expanded mental health resources in health care, law enforcement, and the military. He has also been critical of the unpopular Critical Race Theory and has said he is entering politics because he wants to fight for the American dream from Washington by saving it from the faulty Democratic policies.

Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker takes the stage at a Donald Trump rally sponsored by “Save America” at the Georgia National Fairgrounds in Perry, Georgia, U.S. September 25, 2021. (EFE)

Without having to run a bustling campaign, Walker has made his profile very clear to the public: He is a man of conservative values—patriotic and religious, above all—who has the support from all strata of the GOP and has been brave enough to own up to his past scandals and fight for his main banner: Mental health.

It may be risky, but the Republican Party is betting on Herschel Walker, who today stands a good chance of winning back an all-important seat in Georgia.

Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón is a journalist at El American specializing in the areas of American politics and media analysis // Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón es periodista de El American especializado en las áreas de política americana y análisis de medios de comunicación.

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