Walker wants to focus on issues - but offers few specifics

As Herschel Walker weathered wave after wave of personal controversies, his U.S. Senate campaign has tried to pivot to issues it says Georgia voters care about.

Inflation. High gas prices. Violent crime. Polls show they are definitely concerns on voters’ minds.

But Walker has laid out few details on what he would do to combat those and other problems if elected to the U.S. Senate.

He’s instead relied on attacking his Democratic opponent, Sen. Raphael Warnock, linking him whenever possible with President Joe Biden, who is mired in historically low approval ratings. The message: He would be a reliable Republican vote against the Biden agenda.

And Walker has done it from a tightly controlled bubble — tweets, news releases and restricted gatherings that bar the media. A 30-second digital ad from his campaign concludes with a flash of bold letters on the screen: “If this campaign is about the issues, Warnock will lose.”

Will the strategy work?

Amanda Pruitt, a Republican from Alpharetta who is undecided in the Senate race, said she’s bothered by Walker’s lack of specifics, coupled with his failure, so far, in the race to debate.

“I will not stand in Georgia for any more politicians who do not state their agenda and how they will execute on it,” she said.

But Jeff Myre of Cumming was dismissive and said he votes for a person, not a policy.

“Politicians never say what they mean anyway, so that really doesn’t matter much to me,” Myre said.

No solutions?

On Monday, Walker’s campaign sent out a statement assailing Warnock, who sits on the Senate Agriculture Committee, for failing to help farmers who are reeling from rising fertilizer and gas costs.

“Instead of working to lower fertilizer prices and input costs, Washington Warnock has supported Joe Biden’s reckless and inflation-inducing spending at every turn,” Walker spokeswoman Mallory Blount said.

But the release offered no solution. Asked for more details, Blount pointed out that Walker had met recently with farmers and was doing so again with a rally in Ocilla, Ga. Tuesday. She also noted that he works with the agriculture industry through his food services company.

“He will work to remove burdensome regulations, cut back on reckless spending, and make sure the United States is energy independent again,” she said.

Warnock’s campaign fired back that the first-term senator was pushing initiatives helping farmers’ wallets. He is involved in a bipartisan effort with U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., to get a better trade deal for peanut farmers, supported the expansion of rural broadband and has backed the suspension of a federal tax on gasoline.

Warnock spokeswoman Meredith Brasher said voters will have “a clear choice between Rev. Warnock’s record of fighting for all Georgians, including lowering costs, supporting Georgia farmers and expanding access to rural broadband, and Herschel Walker’s record of lies, exaggerations and bizarre claims.”

Walker is far from the only political candidate to avoid specifics.

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has yet to outline specific policy proposals for a second term in office. But Kemp can point to his first-term record, including his decision to reopen Georgia’s economy during the coronavirus pandemic and his moves to secure $5,000 raises for teachers. He’s planning to unveil a raft of proposals later this year.

And in 2020, while Democrat Jon Ossoff’s Senate campaign rolled out a seven-page health care proposal, Warnock was far lighter on specifics. He pledged to expand Medicaid and protect the Affordable Care Act.

But after a year-and-a-half in the Senate, Warnock now has a record to judge. His campaign website leaves out some details but also lays out specific legislation he supports. He is also peppered with questions at events open to the media — and in the hallways of the U.S. Capitol.

Still, he isn’t always forthcoming. At a campaign event in Dalton soon after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, Warnock didn’t say whether he would support any restrictions on abortion.

On that issue, Walker has said he opposes abortion with no exceptions for rape, incest or the life of the mother. But his spokeswoman said he believed the matter should be left up to the states, suggesting he might not support a federal abortion ban.

‘Which team are you on?’

Complicating matters for Walker is that when he does discuss issues his statements often lack clarity.

Take his recent remark about what he said are the perils of the Democratic-backed efforts aimed at reining in climate change.

“We don’t control the air,” Walker told a group of supporters. “Our good air decided to float over to China’s bad air so when China gets our good air, their bad air has got to move. So it moves over to our good air space. Then, now, we’ve got to clean that back up.”

Or his answer on Fox News when asked about gun control in the aftermath of the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting.

“What about looking at getting a department that can look at young men that’s looking at women that’s looking at their social media?” Walker asked.

Walker eventually said he supported mental health funding, but he wasn’t specific.

Ultimately, experts say Walker’s lack of clarity may not matter.

“Politics today is about teams. Which team are you on? Which tribe are you in?” veteran Democratic campaign strategist Rick Dent said.

“No matter what kind of baggage my candidate may have, he’s on my team and he’s better then the guy on the other team,” Dent said.