Former President Donald Trump coaxed Herschel Walker into the U.S. Senate race in Georgia, but it could be Gov. Brian Kemp that ends up lifting the former football star to victory next week.
Mr. Walker is leaning on Mr. Kemp — not Mr. Trump — in the homestretch of his runoff race against Democratic incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock, viewing the popular governor as the strongest possible ally in his final push to win over moderate Republicans and independent voters.
Mr. Kemp headlined a fundraiser Tuesday for Mr. Walker and a recent rally on Mr. Walker’s behalf. He also is starring in a new statewide television ad that Mr. Walker started in the one-week sprint to the Dec. 6 runoff election.
Brian Robinson, a Georgia-based Republican consultant, said Mr. Kemp is the most powerful politician in the state.
“It is not even close,” he said. “Brian Kemp is like the Monopoly man, walking around with bags of political capital. Go ahead and put a monocle on that guy and a top hat. He is trusted. He is liked.”
Mr. Trump, meanwhile, has been missing in action — and Mr. Walker isn’t complaining, having determined he’s better off keeping the former president at arm’s length.
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The Warnock campaign hammered home that point by releasing a recent television spot featuring a video clip from Mr. Trump’s 2024 campaign launch where he says Mr. Walker is “a fabulous human being who loves our country and will be a great United States senator.”
Mr. Trump is not expected to hold one of his signature campaign rallies with Mr. Walker before the election. The former president instead plans to hold a call with supporters in the state and to drum up donations for Mr. Walker.
Mr. Trump lost Georgia to President Biden in 2020. He then waged an all-out war against Mr. Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, also a Republican, because they refused to support his stolen election claims.
Mr. Kemp and Mr. Raffensperger easily discarded Trump-backed rivals in the GOP primary in May and then cruised to reelection in the Nov. 8 elections.
Mr. Kemp defeated Democrat Stacey Abrams 53.4% to 45.9% or roughly 298,000 votes, clearing the 50% threshold needed to win the race.
Mr. Walker failed to close the deal with voters. He finished behind Mr. Warnock 49.44% to 48.49%, triggering a runoff when neither broke 50%.
Before the Nov. 8 election, Mr. Kemp shied away from Mr. Walker. Now, he’s at Mr. Walker’s side.
“You’re going to decide who our Senator is, this is going to be a turnout election,” Mr. Kemp said at a recent campaign stop, which the Walker camp turned into a statewide television ad. “Who is more motivated? Is it them or us?”
“That is why it is time to retire Raphael Warnock and send Herschel Walker to the United States Senate,” Mr. Kemp said.
On Tuesday, Mr. Kemp was featured in a Republican National Committee fundraising blast sent out on behalf of Mr. Walker.
“Herschel Walker will be a CHAMPION of conservative values in Congress, but he can’t get there without YOU,” Mr. Kemp said in the fundraising plea. “If we want to ensure that America remains the BEST place to live, work, and raise a family, then we need to say NO to the RADICAL Warnock agenda by sending him PACKING in December.”