Days after he launched his campaign, a Trafalgar Group poll in early September put him at an astonishing 76% of the vote among GOP primary voters. Within five weeks after that, he’d raised $3.7 million.
Trump’s endorsement, coupled with a well of preexisting affection from his days playing football at the University of Georgia, has meant that state Republicans are already on board without him saying much of anything.
That’s given Walker the freedom to skip the traditional campaign speeches and meet-and-greets, and it’s let his team instead put him at small-group, invitation-only round tables that he calls “listening sessions.” Last week he was at the Cracker Barrel in Dublin and the Red Eyed Mule in Marietta. Later, he stopped by a Lee Greenwood concert in Hiawassee and rode in a car show show across the county.
While some other GOP candidates in Georgia are running into the fire on the polarizing politics of immigration, abortion, critical race theory and the 2020 election to get Trump voters’ approval, Walker is wading in only when asked.
Days after the Texas abortion law went into effect, Walker’s camp put out a statement saying only that he’s “strongly pro-life” and would support constitutional conservatives for judges.
On immigration, he’s spoken frequently on Fox News about the need for “a strong border.” But when asked this week about a 2015 interview when he also supported a path to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally, his team pivoted back to the “strong border” concept without addressing the larger policy question.
But for as mild-mannered as Walker has been in his limited campaign statements, it was a different story in recent interviews with Fox News and on his Twitter feed, especially when it comes to the 2020 election.
On Nov. 6, after Joe Biden was declared the winner in Georgia, Walker tweeted that seven states that Trump lost, including Georgia, should vote again. “We can have it done within a week, and maintain our democracy,” he wrote.
A few weeks later, he tweeted with the hashtag #stopthesteal and suggested that anyone who “turned a blind eye” to voter fraud should “go to JAIL ASAP.”
And on Jan. 3, he recorded a video with a message to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger telling him that the recorded call that Trump placed to him was the then-president giving him a chance to “keep you out of jail, because more than half of your citizens say that something is wrong, they smell a rat.”
Asked about those tweets Tuesday, Walker spokeswoman Mallory Blount said: “Like many voters, Herschel had real concerns about the election in 2020. He is hopeful that SB 202 answered many of those questions. Herschel is focused on 2022 and winning back the Senate for all Georgians.”
Along those lines, Walker told ”The Brian Kilmeade Show” this week that Trump’s warning that GOP voters might not go to the polls is the wrong thing to tell Republicans.
“That is not the right message,” he said. “I think everyone’s got to get out and vote and we can’t look at the past.”
He added that he’s honored to have Trump’s endorsement, “But he also knows Herschel Walker is going to do this Herschel Walker’s way.”
In a Donald Trump, post-policy primary, “Herschel Walker’s way” of staying light on details and long on Trump will probably be more than enough to win the GOP nomination if no major event upsets the current dynamics.
But it won’t be enough for a general election. U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock has already proved himself to be a strategic campaigner, a prolific fundraiser and a high-profile liberal who can still strike a deal with Ted Cruz if he wants to.
But more than the political dynamics, Georgia voters will want more answers — and they’ll deserve more answers, too. Where does Walker stand on the details of immigration? What about abortion? How would he cover Georgia’s uninsured population? Who won the last election?
The work in Washington is too important, and the stakes for voters are too high, not to say exactly where you stand on issues you know you’ll be voting on in the future. It’s the very least we should be able to ask from a person who wants to lead the state into the future.