Should Trump help Herschel Walker? Georgia Republicans are leery.

Television coverage of the midterm elections is shown on a video monitor at a bar in Washington on Election Day, November 8, 2022.

Television coverage of the midterm elections is shown on a video monitor at a bar in Washington on Election Day, November 8, 2022.

ATLANTA — The final weeks of Georgia’s Senate runoff will coincide with the opening weeks of former President Donald Trump’s 2024 reelection bid. The overlap has left some Republicans with a lingering question: Will Trump visit the peach state to campaign for Republican Senate nominee Herschel Walker?

Trump held rallies for candidates he backed in several key states ahead of the midterm elections, but did not visit Georgia in the final months of his campaign, where most of the candidates he backed lost in their primaries. His presidential announcement on Tuesday has caused some in the Georgia GOP to speculate with great concern whether he would campaign for Walker and, in turn, for himself.

“I hope President Trump is having a great time in Mar-a-Lago. And I believe it will stay there, and I believe it should stay there,” said Cole Muzio, president of the Georgia-based conservative political advocacy group Frontline Policy Council.

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A Trump rally in Georgia could further complicate an already difficult Senate campaign season for the party. Republicans have lost control of the chamber, and much of the energy they could expend to support Walker in his runoff against Sen. Raphael Warnock has instead gone to an internal struggle between Senate Republicans in Washington — namely, between Senators Rick Scott and Mitch McConnell – on how this cycle was managed.

Republicans also weigh in on Georgia’s demographic shifts, which have brought the state into play for both parties. The presence of the former president is a guaranteed energizing force for Georgia’s ultra-conservative voters, which Walker must field en masse on December 6th. But she could also anger swing voters and moderates in the Atlanta suburbs, who have been put off by the candidate’s little political experience amid countless personal scandals.

For this reason, many Georgia Republicans have long tried to keep Trump in check, lest his rhetoric hurt their Senate seat prospects.

“In an ideal world, he would have waited until after the runoff,” said Stephen Lawson, a Republican adviser in Georgia who runs Walker’s PAC and co-led Kelly Loeffler’s 2020 Senate campaign.

Trump has already begun raising funds for Walker, although his email requests to supporters on Walker’s behalf now point to his own fundraising website for the 2024 campaign. But on Tuesday night, in his speech announcing his presidential nomination, Trump implored Republicans to support Walker, calling him “an amazing human being who loves our country.”

“He was an incredible athlete. He’s going to be an even better senator,” Trump said, citing Walker’s fame as a University of Georgia football player. “Go out and vote for Herschel Walker.”

Democrats immediately took up Trump’s announcement, and Warnock allies took the opportunity to raise money for his runoff.

“We know he is well versed in the politics of division,” Warnock said of Trump on Tuesday. “And my opponent is his acolyte.”

Walker rarely names Trump in his campaign speeches and ads, instead focusing on condemning Warnock and President Joe Biden. A spokesman for Walker did not respond to a request for comment.

Additionally, two of the former President’s biggest enemies in the state, Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, are among his most popular figures. Both men decisively defeated Trump-backed challengers during the primary and secured resounding victories on Election Day.

Walker’s allies have been louder in their calls for Kemp to join him on the campaign trail than they have for the former president, arguing that the governor’s strong performance on Nov. 8 would boost Walker’s standing among more than 200,000 voters , who cast ballots for re-election, but Kemp did not vote for Walker.

Muzio, for example, said he would prefer Walker to get help from Kemp and Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida.

Still, some Republicans in the state see Trump as a figure who could revitalize GOP voters demoralized by last Tuesday’s results, and may be reluctant to return in December.

Cobb County Republican Party leader Salleigh Grubbs said she believes Trump will inspire his supporters to vote. But she also acknowledged the number of Conservative voters who might be put off by his visit.

“There are people who never liked Trump to begin with,” she said. “They liked living in his politics, but they just didn’t like his personality. And I say his personality made his policies effective.”

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