And that is a MAJOR problem for Republicans.
While it’s impossible to predict exactly how a campaign between Warnock and Walker would play out, what is clear is that the former NFL star would enter the race from that starting point. That reality has already led some Republican strategists close to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to speak out about the dangers of nominating Walker.
The problem for McConnell is that — as I noted above — if Walker is a candidate, he has a very high likelihood of being the party’s nominee given his celebrity and the likely strong backing he will have from the former president. (In March, Trump put out a statement that read in part: “He would be unstoppable, just like he was when he played for the Georgia Bulldogs, and in the NFL. He is also a GREAT person. Run Herschel, run!”)
Given the current power dynamic in the Republican Party, it’s not at all clear that a McConnell-backed candidate like Loeffler or Perdue could overcome Walker — even with the various issues I documented above surrounding him.
Which would then mean that in one of the GOP’s best pickup opportunities in the country, the party would put forward a candidate who is an opposition researcher’s dream — not to mention someone who has never run for any office prior to 2022.
If that scenario does come to pass, it has implications well beyond Georgia. Republicans need to net just a single seat to retake control of the Senate in 2023. And Georgia, with the narrow victory margin for both Warnock and President Joe Biden in 2020, is at the top of the list of potential pickups. Lose Georgia, and Republicans need to find a pickup elsewhere — in places like Arizona, where Sen. Mark Kelly looks very strong, or New Hampshire, where essentially all GOP hopes lie with the potential candidacy of Gov. Chris Sununu.
In short, Senate Republicans are not in a place where they can simply write off one of their best pickup chances without feeling the impact elsewhere in the country. And while no one should say conclusively that Walker would lose to Warnock, it is quite clear that the former running back would have major challenges if he was the Republican nominee.
The worst thing for McConnell and his fellow establishment Republicans? They know all of this. They just might not be able to stop it.