Their messaging was distinctly different, too. Kemp was more likely to focus on an economic argument, blaming Abrams and President Joe Biden for decades-high inflation. Walker more regularly leans into culture wars issues, such as transgender sports policies, to fire up conservatives.
Though Kemp never disparaged Walker on the campaign trail, he was adamant about his plan to use his fundraising network to boost the entire GOP ticket rather than form a tandem with the former football player.
Walker, too, had an icy relationship with Kemp. He wouldn’t say whether he backed the governor in the May primary against former U.S. Sen. David Perdue. And he said he was “mad” at both for competing against each other.
Now, Kemp could be pivotal to Walker’s election quest. He directed his prized get-out-the-vote machine to help Walker, who finished the general election trailing Warnock by less than 1 percentage point, or roughly 35,000 votes out of more than 3.9 million cast.
And senior GOP strategists hope the governor, fresh off a rematch victory over Abrams, can help convince wary Republicans concerned about Walker’s personal baggage and fitness for the job to swallow their misgivings. They see the governor as a uniquely powerful messenger to those skeptical voters.
In all, Walker received roughly 200,000 fewer votes than Kemp. Walker’s drop-off was particularly pronounced in metro Atlanta, a nexus of mainstream Republicans where Donald Trump also struggled. But Walker also fared surprisingly poorly in deep-red areas of North Georgia.
In eight counties, Walker ran at least 6 percentage points behind Kemp. And in 47 others, his totals were 4 to 6 points lower than Kemp’s tally. If Walker had matched Kemp’s vote total just in Fulton County, he would have won the election outright.
The governor has said he’s willing to take other steps to help Walker, too.
“We will do what they want us to do,” Kemp told Channel 2′s Fred Blankenship shortly after his election victory. “And we are already putting our heads together to see how we can help.”
Staff Writers Alan Judd and Isaac Sabetai contributed to this report.