The Jolt: Is this the Herschel Walker campaign reset?

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Herschel Walker, the retired football star and Republican senate candidate, holds a campaign event at a car dealership in rural in Ocilla, Georgia on July 19, 2022. The uneventful outing was noteworthy for Walker, whose candidacy has been rocked by a series of damaging reports about his business record and personal life.  (Nicole Craine/The New York Times)..

Herschel Walker, the retired football star and Republican senate candidate, holds a campaign event at a car dealership in rural in Ocilla, Georgia on July 19, 2022. The uneventful outing was noteworthy for Walker, whose candidacy has been rocked by a series of damaging reports about his business record and personal life. (Nicole Craine/The New York Times)..

Are we witnessing the beginning of a new Herschel Walker strategy?

After weeks of private gatherings, closed-press events, and bad headlines, the Republican Senate nominee has reshuffled his calendar with several public appearances.

On Tuesday he trekked to Ocilla, where our AJC colleague Shannon McCaffrey reported he had a tighter - and sharper - campaign message. And he’s set to speak at a livestock barn in Athens later today and swing by Gainesville for an event Thursday.

It’s the first in what his aides say will be a series of events highlighting key themes, starting with agriculture issues. Next up are rallies that will focus on veterans and law enforcement, his spokeswoman Mallory Blount said.

Normally, this stepped-up schedule wouldn’t invite much attention. His opponent, U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, has kept a packed campaign schedule for months. But Walker has been anything but a typical candidate.

His campaign has been rocked by damaging news since before he entered the race last summer. And the last few weeks have brought even more chaos than usual with revelations about unacknowledged children, internal campaign turmoil and campaign gaffes.

Even the upcoming themes of the Republican’s campaign stops expose vulnerabilities: Walker has falsely claimed he was a law enforcement officer in the past and is being pummeled with attack ads from a left-leaning veterans groups for his role in a for-profit program that’s accused of preying on veterans and defrauding taxpayers.

But it’s more than just scheduling that’s changing. The Walker campaign recently announced a string of new hires with deep experience in nationally watched contests, including a former Mitt Romney aide.

And top staffers with the National Republican Senatorial Committee traveled to Georgia last week for face-to-face meetings with Walker’s deputies to chart out a final-stretch strategy.

Tuesday’s event might be the first sign the overhaul is working – or it might be a momentary experiment to see what works-- and what doesn’t. Will it stick? There are plenty of skeptics.

“Things couldn’t go any worse than they have for his campaign these last few weeks. The fundamental problem is the candidate. They’re stuck with Herschel Walker, with all his baggage and his false claims,” said Alan Abramowitz, an Emory University political scientist. “They’ve got a continuing problem here.”


BIG GRAND JURY NEWS. You’ll see national headlines dominated today by news out of the Fulton County special grand jury in Georgia: New court filings indicate all 16 phony Georgia Republican electors in 2020 have been informed they could face criminal charges. That includes GOP chair David Shafer and state Sen. Burt Jones, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor.

It was just the latest signal that Fulton District Attorney Fani Willis’ criminal investigation is expanding to local officials beyond Donald Trump, including the ones who tried to help reverse his 2020 loss in Georgia.

While 11 of the fake electors are pushing to quash their subpoenas after they received the so-called “target” letters, Jones is taking a different tack: He’s said he’s ready to testify, but wants Willis disqualified from the case because she recently hosted a fundraiser for his Democratic rival, Charlie Bailey.

We’re told Jones spoke at a crowded fundraiser last night for state Sen. Brandon Beach, who also received a target letter for apparently helping to orchestrate the fake elector scheme.


LISTEN UP. We’ve got Herschel Walker’s reset, David Perdue’s first post-primary interview, the latest from the Fulton County grand jury, and much more in our midweek edition of the Politically Georgia podcast.

Listen and subscribe at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or Stitcher.

Also, you can now call the 24-hour Politically Georgia Podcast Hotline and ask Greg and Patricia questions about Georgia politics 770-810-5297. We’ll answer your questions during the Listener Mailbag segment of Friday’s episode.


GRAHAM CRACKS. U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis reached an agreement that would pave the way for the South Carolina Republican to challenge his subpoena in an Atlanta-based court.

Our colleague Tamar Hallerman writes that a hearing in South Carolina today was canceled and will instead be held in a yet-to-be-determined Atlanta courtroom.

“I want to go to court and end this thing,” Graham told reporters on Capitol Hill late Tuesday. “They never served me, so today we said ‘ok, let’s go to Georgia and get this thing done.’”


CARTER ON COUNTING. Where could all of the investigations into 2020 be leading other than potential criminal charges?

Former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker III say it should also convince Congress to reform the Electoral Count Act, the 1887 law that lays out the process that the false Georgia electors could have manipulated to install Trump in the White House-- even after Joe Biden won.

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Carter and Baker write that it’s time to reform the law that is, “antiquated, muddled and potentially unconstitutional law that allows uncertainty during a critical step in the peaceful transfer of power.”


PERDUE SPEAKS. We haven’t heard a whisper from former U.S. Sen. David Perdue since he lost his ill-fated primary challenge to Gov. Brian Kemp by more than 50 points in May.

But earlier this week, Ben Burnett nabbed a lengthy interview with Perdue and they covered a lot of territory.

Perdue said he never said anything that wasn’t true about Kemp in his campaign, that he was just trying to unite the GOP with his primary challenge, and that he’s here to help Kemp with the GOP voters who, he says, may not vote for the governor.

Also, “I hate politics. I hated it before, I hate it now. I don’t have a high opinion of most politicians.”


BAR FIGHT. A special master is considering whether Lin Wood, one of the most prominent promoters of false conspiracy theories surrounding the 2020 election, can maintain his ability to practice law in Georgia.

A veteran attorney assigned to the case heard arguments on Monday from Wood’s camp and the State Bar of Georgia, which has sought to suspend his law license since January 2021 after he emerged as one of the most outspoken purveyors of misinformation about election fraud.

Wood has argued he’s being unfairly targeted as part of a “political vendetta” based on claims he made as a private citizen. He’s asking the court to throw out the case.

The Bar counters that several of the incendiary social media posts relate to lawsuits where he served as counsel or as an attorney subject to disciplinary rules.

Wood was once a famed attorney who specialized in representing clients who argued they were wronged by the government, the media and giant corporations.

To many, he’s now known as a far-right Donald Trump supporter who called for a firing squad for former Vice President Mike Pence and accused other officials, including U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts, of conspiring to cheat the former president out of a second term.


WALK OUT. The Republican infighting over Donald Trump’s election fraud lies may not be as front-and-center as they were last year, but they haven’t gone away.

Witness this from a Barrow County GOP event, when ex-chair Ken Young implored activists not to disparage the election-counting process in the deep-red county.

He told the crowd that they should be confident in the integrity of the voting system in the county, and he praised Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and the State Election Board.

As he spoke, a steady exodus of activists staged a walkout. Surveying the crowd, Young warned that undermining faith in the democratic process could hurt Gov. Brian Kemp. He left them with a question:

“Which road will you follow? Do you want to be relevant in politics or do you want to fight your own voters?”


MARRIAGE EQUALITY. Tuesday’s U.S. House vote to create federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriage became a somewhat bipartisan affair.

Every Democrat and 47 Republicans voted in favor of the measure, which passed 267-157. But the bill is not expected to advance in the Senate, where there doesn’t appear to be 10 GOP votes to overcome the filibuster.

In the House vote, Georgia’s delegation split along party lines. All eight of the state’s GOP members opposed the measure.

The proposal was fast-tracked to the House floor in response to last month’s Supreme Court ruling overturning federal protections for abortion under Roe v. Wade.

In his ruling, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that he also wanted to court to re-evaluate other rulings opposed by conservatives, including a landmark 2015 decision that allowed gay marriage.



  • Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska will address members of Congress during a joint session this morning.
  • Nancy Rotering, mayor of Highland Park, Ill., the site of a July Fourth mass shooting, will testify to the Senate Judiciary Committee about assault weapons.


YOUNG GUNS. Chris West, the Republican nominee in Georgia’s only true toss-up congressional race, has received a promotion from within the party’s training program for promising candidates.

First he was designated as an “On the Radar” candidate, but now he has been elevated to full “Young Gun” status. The title indicates the party believes West has a good chance of winning a competitive race and will come with additional tools and support.

West, a Thomasville attorney and developer, is hoping to unseat incumbent Democrat Sanford Bishop in the 2nd District in southwest Georgia by riding a wave of discontent with President Joe Biden’s administration.

But that won’t be an easy task. Bishop is the state’s longest-serving representative in Washington and the only delegation member in either chamber serving on the powerful Appropriations Committee. That has made him indispensable to elected officials across Georgia in both parties.

Bishop also has far surpassed West in fundraising, ending June with $1.1 million in his campaign account compared to West’s $187,297.

Rich McCormick, the Republican nominee in the 6th District, and 10th District candidate Mike Collins are also in the Young Guns program. They are designated as “vanguard” members, a status for candidates running in Republican-leaning open seats.


ATLANTA BOUND. The team of officials from the Democratic National Committee will visit Atlanta next week as it considers cities to host the 2024 presidential nominating convention.

The site visit is scheduled for July 28 and 29.

State party leaders have also formed a nonprofit committee to lead the pitching process. Paperwork creating an organization titled Choose Atlanta 2024 was filed last month.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the DNC site team was in Houston last week, New York City this week and will stop in Chicago to tour proposed venues July 26 and 27 before traveling to Atlanta.


FIRST LADY SUMMER SCHOOL. Look for First Lady Jill Biden and U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona in Athens on Thursday as a part of a three-city trip focused on education issues.

The two will visit Horizons National summer learning program at the University of Georgia, one of hundreds of summer programs supported by the American Rescue Plan to help reverse the learning losses that happened during the COVID pandemic.


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