The Georgia Senate debate between Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and his challenger, NFL legend Herschel Walker, was a highly anticipated affair, and it did not disappoint. The two candidates sparred over a myriad of issues, including crime, healthcare, foreign policy, and several others.
The less-polished Walker was the clear underdog coming into the proceedings, having acknowledged that Warnock was the superior rhetorician. However, the former athlete turned in a surprisingly adequate performance. However, neither candidate delivered a knockout blow that will significantly change the numbers in the lead-up to the approaching midterm elections.
The Georgia Senate Debate
The verbal donnybrook began with a focus on inflation, an issue that voters have identified as top of mind for November. Sen. Warnock touted his role in passing the Inflation Reduction Act, which critics have characterized as a climate change agenda disguised as legislation to ease the country’s economic pain. Walker, in turn, argued that moving toward energy independence would help to address the problem.
The conversation then turned toward voting rights and election integrity. When one of the moderators pointed out that despite Democrats’ claims of voter suppression of minorities, black voter turnout increased by 50% over the past four years. Warnock responded by parroting the usual line on the matter.
“The fact that many of our voters are overcoming this hardship doesn’t undermine that reality,” the senator said. “They’ve made it harder for folks to use the drop boxes. They’ve shortened the registration times. Folks are saying you should be able to get food or water in a line.” Warnock’s last remark referenced a provision in Georgia’s election integrity law that was passed last year forbidding people to give out food and water at the polls.
Walker reiterated the increased turnout among black voters and argued that these laws made it easier to vote and “harder to cheat.”
The moderator asked whether the former football star believed President Joe Biden won the 2020 election. In a move that likely disappointed Democrats, Walker answered in the affirmative.
Abortion was next on the docket. The issue has become important since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade earlier this year. The discussion on the matter began when one of the moderators asked about allegations that Walker had paid for a girlfriend’s abortion in 2009 and urged her to have another. The candidate denied the allegations. The Republican challenger responded, “I said that’s a lie, and on abortion, I’m a Christian. I believe in life. And I tell people this. Georgia is a state that respects life, and I’ll be a senator that protects life. And I said that was a lie. And I’m not backing down.” Warnock was asked whether he believes there should be any limits on abortion. He answered:
“I think that the women of this country and the women of this state woke up one summer morning and a court protection that they’ve known for 50 years was taken from them by an extremist Supreme Court. And I stand where I said I stand in the past that a patient’s room is too narrow and small and cramped a space for a woman, her doctor, and the United States government. We are witnessing right now what happens when politicians, most of them men, pile into patient’s rooms. You get what you’re seeing right now, and the women of Georgia deserve a senator who will stand with them. I trust women more than I trust politicians.”
In case you’re wondering if Warnock ever answered the question about restrictions on abortion, the answer is no.
Smelling blood in the water, Walker went on the offensive, saying, “[Warnock] told me black lives matter,” and pointed out that “there’s more black babies that are aborted than anything, so if black lives matter, why are you not protecting those babies?” He added: “And instead of aborting those babies, why are you not baptizing those babies?”
Warnock, who is also a pastor, responded, insisting that God “gave us a choice.” In a further effort to avoid clarifying his position, the senator continued, “These are medical decisions. They are deeply personal when they find themselves in a range of circumstances. And this issue has been far too politicized.”
Walker didn’t let that slide. He preached a mini-sermon. While acknowledging that “God gave us a choice,” he said, “But also within the Bible. If you read the Bible more, God said, choose life. In the Bible, it said, I give you a choice. Just like Adam and Eve had a choice, but they chose death.”
Later in the debate, crime became the topic of discussion. One of the moderators asked Warnock about the issue of gun violence. The senator touted the federal gun legislation that was passed earlier this year in the wake of three mass shootings. “I believe that this law will indeed save lives, and I’d like to see us work and see what we can achieve beyond that on a bipartisan basis,” he said.
When it was Walker’s turn, he stressed that he would not “stand for” any law that would attack the Second Amendment. He pointed out that police have been demoralized because Warnock and others on the left have demonized law enforcement. “He’s empowered criminals to think they’re better than the police and because he believes in no-cash bail and releasing prisoners,” he said. Warnock responded, claiming he supports police and attacked Walker for allegedly claiming he was an officer. “One thing I have not done, I’ve never pretended to be a police officer, and I’ve never threatened a shootout with the police,” he said.
At this point, Walker pulled out a badge to support his questionable claim and was quickly scolded by one of the moderators for using a prop, which was against the rules laid out at the beginning of the debate.
Warnock did about as well as expected. Having been a preacher for decades, he clearly articulated his arguments despite dodging some of the questions he was asked. But the big surprise of the evening was Walker, who turned in a shockingly decent performance. While badgegate might make him the butt of jokes, he didn’t make any fatal gaffes during the rest of the evening.
It is unlikely that the Georgia Senate debate will change the polling numbers drastically. But one thing is clear: Walker did just well enough to keep himself in the running, which is likely what his team was shooting for in the first place. Now, it is up to voters in the Peach State to decide who they want representing them in the upper chamber – and their decision will play a major role in determining which party controls the US Senate, come November.
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