The Jolt: Still not in, but Herschel Walker tops GOP in new Senate poll

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

As Herschel Walker continues to flirt with a race for U.S. Senate, a survey by left-leaning Public Policy Polling shows why the Republican can bide his time.

The poll shows roughly three-quarters of Republican voters give him a favorable rating with just 7% unfavorability, putting the football icon in a better position than either of the other two Republicans tested in the poll, former U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black.

Thanks to his lofty name recognition, Walker also has the highest net favorability rating of the three among all voters, with 41% giving him positive reviews compared to a 28% negative rating. Loeffler, by contrast, is underwater.

Former President Donald Trump has teased Walker over and over for the race, calling the former pro-ballers “unstoppable.”

In a head-to-head matchup against Democrat Raphael Warnock, both Loeffler and Walker are in a statistical tie. The lesser-known Black, meanwhile, trails the incumbent 46-38.

Among the other findings:

  • Georgians are split on President Joe Biden’s performance, with 46% approving and 48% disapproving. Warnock is viewed similarly, as 43% approve and 42% disapprove. That’s within the margin of error of 3.9 percentage points.
  • Donald Trump fares worse than Biden, with 43% of the electorate giving him a positive rating compared to 48% negative. Among Republicans, Trump’s positive rating is still up at 83% -- with just 11% that view him unfavorably.
  • And an only-in-these-times metric: Biden’s approval among those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 is 62% positive/ 33% negative, but just 3% positive and 94% negative among those who say they will not get the shots.


Gary Black narrowly led a straw poll among attendees over military veteran Latham Saddler as the preferred GOP candidate at a large GOP event in Rome over the weekend. Herschel Walker trailed in third place in the straw poll, while Kelvin King was in fourth.

The same event showed Gov. Brian Kemp with a hefty lead over Vernon Jones in a primary match-up, while state Sen. Butch Miller led state Sen. Burt Jones among GOP locals in the race for lieutenant governor.


POSTED: Republican state Sen. Burt Jones, a vocal supporter of former President Donald Trump, filed paperwork Saturday to launch his campaign for lieutenant governor, the AJC’s Maya T. Prabhu reports.

Jones doesn’t yet have the former president’s endorsement. But Trump said previously that he will not endorse another state senator running for the job, Senate Pro Tem Butch Miller. Jones has been among the highest profile backers of Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud after the 2020 general election, despite multiple state counts, recounts, and court decisions that prove otherwise.

Republican activist and Trump supporter Jeanne Seaver is also running for the job on the GOP side. Democrats have four candidates so far: Bryan Miller, grandson of Zell Miller, state Reps. Erick Allen and Derrick Jackson and political consultant Kolbey Gardner.


The Bipartisan Infrastructure bill championed by President Joe Biden passed a key procedural hurdle Sunday night when the Senate voted to end debate on the bill and move to final passage.

Eighteen Republican senators joined all 50 Senate Democrats on the vote despite vocal opposition from former president Donald Trump.


We reported last week that one of the many projects that could see an infusion of federal funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure bill is I-14, a proposed new interstate that would connect El Paso, Texas to Augusta through Columbus.

We’ve been following the proposal for a Southeast connector for years, but the federal spending package is the closest it’s gotten to reality after U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock reached out to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz to get the road included in the bill.

The Macon Telegraph details the hopes local leaders have for the highway, which would connect major military installations, as well as smaller Georgia towns:

The new interstate would be based at least in part on existing roads, including the Fall Line Freeway in Georgia, which snakes through most of Middle Georgia including Jones, Twiggs, Baldwin, Wilkinson, Crawford, Peach and Bibb counties, hitting Fort Valley, Macon and running south of Milledgeville.

Warnock told reporters Wednesday that the interstate would be an “important part of the puzzle" in efforts to spur economic growth across portions of the state that have been “forgotten and neglected."

- The Macon Telegraph


All eight GOP members of Georgia’s congressional delegation are among the 57 members of Congress who signed an amicus brief asking a federal court to uphold Georgia’s new election law in the lawsuit filed by the U.S. Justice Department.

The brief was submitted by the American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative law firm whose attorneys include Jay Sekulow. Sekulow was among former President Donald Trump’s defense attorneys during his first impeachment trial.

Sekulow also knows his way around a Georgia law. The Lakeside High School alum graduated from Mercer University and Mercer Law School before his Washington days and is still a member of the Georgia Bar.

In the amicus brief, the conservative lawmakers say that Congress, not the executive branch or courts, has the authority to override state laws regulating elections.

They also argue that any inconveniences Georgia’s new election law might create are not burdensome enough to invalidate state lawmakers’ attempts to create rules that they contend will prevent voter fraud and intimidation.


Gov. Brian Kemp’s hometown of Athens-Clarke County has taken one of the state’s most aggressive approaches toward containing the pandemic, most recently by joining the growing ranks of local governments to revive a mask mandate.

But the city’s lawmakers took another step that didn’t get as much attention: The commission unanimously passed a resolution calling for the county manager to draft a plan by Sept. 1 to require all local employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

According to the Athens Banner-Herald, commissioner Melissa Link said that the consolidated city-county commission is “simply following in the footsteps of major employers across the state and across the nation.” Critics, including a county employee who spoke at a recent commission meeting, worried that already under-staffed departments could lose more workers.

County lawmakers said Athens will be one of the first local governments in the South to require its employees to be vaccinated when it takes effect in the fall.


The rising coronavirus caseload is clearly having an impact on governments and politics across Georgia. Some more examples:

  • Candidates for Atlanta mayor are retooling how they campaign and may curb in-person events, the AJC’s Wilborn Nobles and J.D. Capelouto report.
  • Georgia Supreme Court hearings will be held remotely until mid-September at the soonest, Bill Rankin writes.
  • As kids head back to school, parents are faced with mask mandates and quarantine policies that vary by district. Hundreds of COVID cases were reported as students came to the first days of school in Gwinnett and Cobb counties. Gwinnett County Schools require mask wearing, while masks are optional in Cobb.


South Carolina U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman has contracted a breakthrough case of COVID-19.

The South Carolina case is of interest to your Insiders because Norman was one of several House members fined earlier this year for refusing to wear a mask on the House floor despite a House rule requiring them.

Along with Georgia’s U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Norman is now suing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the $500 fines.


WALB-TV in Albany has this alarming statement on the spread of COVID-19 in Southwest Georgia from the head of Phoebe Putney Health System:

“The virus we are dealing with now is more contagious and is spreading much faster than anything we have previously seen during this pandemic. A month ago, we had eight COVID patients in our hospitals. Today, we're caring for 97. That's a staggering 1,126% increase in just over four weeks," said Scott Steiner, Phoebe Putney Health System president and CEO Friday.

“Our current challenges are exacerbated by a lack of available contract staff to support the Phoebe family. Every hospital in our region is stretched to its limit."



Lithonia, one of metro Atlanta’s smallest and oldest cities, has plans to quadruple in size via annexation of portions of unincorporated Dekalb County. The AJC’s Zachary Hansen writes about the first phase of that growth plan, which will be up for a vote in a local referendum on November ballots.


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