Former president Donald Trump dropped some potentially major political news on Tuesday. As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, Trump said during a talk-radio appearance that Georgia football legend Herschel Walker was going to run for Senate:
Trump said Georgia Bulldog football great Herschel Walker told him he was going to run for U.S. Senate, a decision that would make him the front-runner in the chaotic race against Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock. “He told me he’s going to, and I think he will,” Trump said Tuesday on the Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show. “I had dinner with him a week ago. He’s a great guy. He’s a patriot. He’s a very loyal person.”
The “Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show,” in case you have successfully avoided knowledge of it until now, is a right-wing radio gabfest occupying Rush Limbaugh’s old time slot. Travis has a background as a politicized sports gabber, so it would be an appropriate place for Trump to dish some Herschel Walker gossip. And there’s no question Trump and Walker are tight; their relationship goes back to the former Heisman Trophy winner’s first pro gig with Trump’s New Jersey Generals, a USFL franchise. Walker has endorsed all of Trump’s political ventures (along with some other Republican pols in his native state of Georgia, where he was the most famous and beloved University of Georgia Bulldog player of all time) and was recently photographed at the 45th president’s 75th-birthday party, sitting between the birthday boy and the terrifying Kimberly Guilfoyle.
It’s unlikely Walker would have misled Trump about a campaign that has been much hoped for and anticipated at Mar-a-Lago. And while Trump has been known to exaggerate things a few hundred thousand times, it would be somewhat humiliating for him to get this one wrong.
If he got it right, a Walker Senate run against the recently elected Democrat Raphael Warnock (who won only the last two years of the term Johnny Isakson cut short with a health-driven resignation) would be exciting news for Georgia Republicans, who understand what an icon the former running back has been since he led the Dawgs to a national championship in 1981. And it would be a stone bummer for the Georgia Republican pols with their own Senate ambitions, including one announced candidate, Agriculture commissioner Gary Black; at least two U.S. House members, Buddy Carter and Drew Ferguson, who have reportedly been testing the waters; and possibly the insanely rich former appointed senator Kelly Loeffler, whom Warnock defeated in a January 2021 runoff.
Walker, though, has some issues beyond being a first-time candidate and a Black man in a very white Georgia Republican Party. For starters, he lives in Texas and would have to speedily reestablish Georgia residency. And he may have some baggage, known and unknown, as the Journal-Constitution’s Greg Bluestein noted Tuesday:
[E]ven with Trump’s backing, Walker would have to clear a number of other obstacles, starting with a move to Georgia. He also must win over conservatives unfamiliar with his political leanings, hone policy stances, court donors and brace for scrutiny into a past that includes struggles with mental illness.
There’s also the potential distraction posed by the football legend’s son, Christian Walker, a controversial MAGA social-media activist who led a Gays for Trump march in West Hollywood last year.
Walker would not have a problem with name ID, however; he’s known in Georgia simply as “Herschel,” much as Elvis Presley was known as “Elvis.” He could raise plenty of money for a race that will be a key Republican target next year (he’ll need it, since Warnock is off to a very strong start in 2022 fundraising, registering nearly $6 million in donations in the first quarter of this year). For Trump, a Walker candidacy may have the ancillary benefit of convincing one of Walker’s would-be GOP primary competitors to instead take on Governor Brian Kemp, whom the former president loathes for his role in certifying Joe Biden’s 2020 Georgia victory. If not, though, Trump may be in the curious position (for the man often considered the most racist — or at least the most racism-promoting — president since Woodrow Wilson) of backing Black Republicans (Walker and another MAGA favorite, ex-Democrat Vernon Jones, who is already challenging Kemp) in the top two statewide races in Georgia.
Suffice it to say that Walker, assuming he runs, isn’t a sure thing in the primary (unless other major players just get out of his way) or in the general election. But he would add some heft and star power to Team Trump in a midterm election year when the mogul would very much like to prove he’s still the Man.