The Jolt: Internal GOP memo testing attacks on Raphael Warnock

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker

Credit: AJC

Credit: AJC

Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker

We’ve long since established that Herschel Walker is on cruise control headed to the May 24 primary, and his commanding lead in the AJC poll over his Senate GOP rivals only reinforced his strategy.

But about his general election approach? An internal memo we obtained from Blaise Hazelwood of Grassroots Targeting and conducted for 34n22, the PAC supporting Herschel Walker, offered some insight.

Hazelwood is a nationally known, longtime GOP strategist, so her firm’s work is significant. And the work was commissioned by the pro-Walker 34N22 outside group.

First, the memo documents a poll of 2,500 registered Georgia voters that showed President Joe Biden’s approval ratings on the decline and U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock’s approval at 45%. It also had the Democrat exactly tracking the “generic Senate ballot,” meaning voters’ attitudes about any Senate Democrat or Republican, leaving Warnock lagging Walker by 10 points in a hypothetical November matchup.

What was most interesting, however, was a message tested by the firm involving a Democratic vote to reject a GOP amendment that would have barred incarcerated people from receiving $1,400 coronavirus stimulus checks.

At the time, Democrats said the plan would have made it harder for the families of prisoners to make ends meet, and noted that lawmakers from both parties supported similar past stimulus measures.

But it also opened Warnock and other Democrats to new attacks, like the one outlined in the memo.

When voters were targeted with a sharp message about a vote to give “convicted criminals serving time in prison Covid relief funds,” Warnock’s standing plummeted while Walker’s support soared.

From the Democrats’ perspective, they’re confident that Walker’s past domestic violence allegations, multiple police reports about his erratic behavior, exaggerated or false claims about his background, lengthy social media feed, and limited exposure to reporters’ questions or debate stages will give them more than enough to work with to get Warnock reelected.

Read the Republican memo here, and keep in mind it’s just a preview of what’s to come from both sides.


We have a full breakdown of this week’s AJC poll, including what the results could mean for the upcoming May primaries, in today’s edition of the Politically Georgia podcast.

Listen below or on Apple, Google, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.


With early voting days away, Herschel Walker’s campaign snapped up roughly $1 million worth of airtime for his first volley of TV ads over the next month meant to position himself against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock.


And sticking with the Herschel Walker theme, he answered a longstanding question at a grassroots meet-and-greet event over the weekend, telling the audience he wouldn’t get the coronavirus vaccine.

“I don’t get one because I don’t think the government should be telling you to get one,” he said. “That’s the way I feel.”

Walker had previously refused to disclose his vaccine status and spread misinformation about the virus. He’s also touted what the Daily Beast described as “unproven mystery treatments” to combat the spread of the disease.

In another GOP gathering this month, he also answered a question about immigration.

“We got to stop the border right now,” he said, also suggesting that anyone who has committed a crime should be deported immediately.

Interestingly, Walker offered a solution for the so-called “Dreamers,” undocumented children brought to the United States by their parents.

“Any kid that’s in school who is not a citizen right now, we’ve got to have a path to citizenship for him if we can.”


“That’s not a question I’m prepared to answer today.”

That’s what former Gov. Sonny Perdue – now the chancellor of Georgia’s higher education system – said when asked whether he’d vote for Gov. Brian Kemp or back his first-cousin former U.S. Sen. David Perdue in the May 24 primary.

Sonny Perdue joined Kemp on a day when the governor traveled to David Perdue’s hometown and held a press event at one of David Perdue’s favorite restaurants.

Kemp was in Houston County to sign the recently passed $1 billion state income tax cut. Our James Salzer has the details on what it means for you and your future tax bills.


POSTED: An Athens man convicted of allowing his pool hall to be used as a marijuana distribution point is among the first three people to receive pardons under President Joe Biden.

Dexter Eugene Jackson pleaded guilty in 2002, served time and returned home to start a cellphone repair business, where he now provides job-training opportunities to local high school students. Jackson, 52, also builds and renovates properties in an effort to increase affordable housing in his community.

Seven Georgians, all of them convicted of nonviolent drug offenses, also had their sentences commuted by Biden. These residents of Adel, Augusta, Duluth, Glennville, Villa Rica and Warner Robins were among 75 people whose confinement terms were shortened by Tuesday’s announcement.


The procedural vote necessary to advance the nomination of Georgia native Lisa Cook to the Federal Reserve Board failed on Monday because two Democratic senators tested positive for COVID-19 and were forced to miss the vote.

Every Republican in the chamber voted “no” in the 47-51 vote. Senate Leader Schumer also changed his vote to “no” so that he can bring the nomination up again when all Democrats are back in the chamber.

Cook is still expected to be confirmed to become the first Black woman to serve on the Fed, just maybe not this week.

Along with two missing senators, Democrats will likely need Vice President Kamala Harris’ presence to cast a deciding tie-breaker vote. But Harris announced Tuesday that she had also tested positive for COVID-19 and would be isolating for several days.


Today in Washington:

  • U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock is scheduled to deliver remarks at today’s Commerce Committee meeting touching on the China competition bill that lawmakers from both chambers will begin negotiating in the coming days. Warnock was selected for the conference committee along with Georgia Reps. Buddy Carter and David Scott.
  • Georgia Teacher of the Year Cherie Bonder Goldman, a Savannah English-as-a-second-language instructor, will join the nation’s other teachers of the year for an event at the White House this afternoon.
  • More than a dozen U.S. House committees meet today to discuss President Joe Biden’s fiscal year 2023 budget proposal. We’ll be paying attention to the Budget Committee’s review of the Department of Defense spending plan to see if there is any discussion about the proposal to close a military training center in Savannah.
  • U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson will chair a meeting of the Judiciary subcommittee hearing examining whether Supreme Court justices should recuse themselves from cases where they have a personal interest. That’s in response to reports that Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife was involved in efforts to overturn the 2020 election.


The U.S. Supreme Court heard testimony Monday on a case involving a Georgia death row inmate who wants to die by a firing squad.

Bloomberg Law reported that Justice Brett Kavanaugh seemed to be ready to side with inmate Michael Nance who said he preferred being shot to death over lethal injection.

Lower courts denied Nance’s firing squad request, and he appealed all the way to the High Court. Although arguments are being held this week, justices aren’t expected to render a decision until late June.

Nance was sentenced to death by a Gwinnett County jury in 2002 after fatally shooting a man during a carjacking. Nance had just robbed a Lilburn bank and was looking for a getaway car.


In endorsement news:

  • Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr announced endorsements from a group of more than 100 Georgia sheriffs, district attorneys, and local solicitors Monday.
  • The Georgia AFL-CIO is backing U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath in Georgia’s 7th District Congressional race. The group has also endorsed state Rep. William Boddie in the labor commissioner contest.
  • The Democratic Association of Secretaries of State announced it’s backing state Rep. Bee Nguyen in Democratic primary over four other Democrats running.


We spotted Leah Aldridge Monday night at a Women for Latham Saddler event in Buckhead.

Aldridge ran for the state Senate in 2018, but lost that race to state Sen. Jen Jordan. She’s back in politics this cycle, but tangentially, with her newly launched Women Lead Right. She said it’s an effort to re-engage formerly reliable Republican women in four suburban Atlanta counties and turn them out in 2022.

“It’s really an opportunity for Georgia women who are right of center, all the way to very conservative, to have our voices heard,” she said.

Among the donors of note to the group: Kelly Loeffler.


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