(CNN) — Donald Trump hasn’t won much in Georgia since 2016.
Although the former president won the Peach State (Estado Durazno in Spanish, as it is known) six years ago on his way to the White House, it has been a disastrous scenario for him ever since, rejecting his first re-election nomination and his candidates for the intermediate ones. Meanwhile, his former advisers and allies have been called before a special grand jury in the state investigating his efforts to overthrow President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory there.
This Tuesday, Trump’s streak of futility in Georgia could continue unless Herschel Walker, a former Georgia football player and Heisman Trophy winner, can bring the MAGA movement banner to the goal line.
The Georgia Senate runoff represents Trump’s last chance to reframe a painful midseason in which his election-denying candidates flopped in swing states, casting a shadow over his fledgling 2024 presidential bid. A Walker victory would be a triumph. unusual for one of Trump’s recruits and would potentially boost his lackluster campaign while helping Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell limit Democratic power in Washington.
But Walker’s defeat would add to frustration in the GOP over Trump’s political meddling, after his obsession with false claims of voter fraud was widely blamed for costing the party control of the Senate in a pair of runoffs. in Georgia in 2021.
The former president’s record in Georgia is so poor that he was not wanted in the state as Walker sought to beat Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in recent weeks. Most galling to Trump was that his handpicked candidate spent her time flirting with newly re-elected Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who far outnumbered Walker in November. Kemp defeated a Trump-backed challenger in the primary earlier this year, challenging the former president’s attempt to avenge his refusal to overturn Biden’s narrow 2020 victory in the state.
Trump’s losing streak in 2022
Though he was deemed persona non grata for the Senate runoff, Trump did call a televised rally in Georgia on Monday night, only when it was likely he could do no harm given nearly 2 million Georgians voted early.
“A vote for Raphael Warnock is a vote to give Chuck Schumer and the deranged far-left Democrats full control of the United States Senate. We cannot allow this to happen,” Trump said in the brief appearance.
But if Walker loses on Tuesday, Trump’s poor record in many of the midterm races that matter in 2022 will be rounded out and there will be a strong case that after embracing weak candidates in Georgia, Pennsylvania and Arizona, he once again struggled. to the Republican Party control in the Senate.
Walker, for example, has denied several reports that he pressured or encouraged women to have abortions despite previously saying on the campaign trail that he supported banning the procedure without exception. CNN’s KFile raised new questions about Walker’s residency when she revealed that she will get a tax break earmarked for a primary residence only this year on her home in the Dallas, Texas area. KFile also reported that Walker described himself as living in Texas during a speech during the 2022 campaign. And Walker’s bizarre comments, such as a recent speech about whether it was better to be a werewolf or a vampire, raised questions about his fitness for the job.
Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, another Republican politician in the state who has clashed with Trump, described Walker last week to CNN’s Erin Burnett as “probably the worst Republican candidate in the history of politics.”
But Trump really needs Walker to step up this Tuesday.
The former president’s recent lack of success, along with his increasingly extreme rhetoric and associations, including with anti-Semites, is one reason some Republicans and major donors say now is the time for a fresh perspective. presidential: perhaps the newly re-elected Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Thus, Trump desperately needs a victory for Walker to reset the impressions of his stuttering presidential bid after a low-voltage display.
But a loss would be further proof for any Republican who wants to hear that the former president’s approach and reputation are poisonous among constituencies at home and in the 2024 swing states. And it would suggest that the path forward for the party could being run by true conservatives like Kemp, who are staying away from Trump.
It’s too early to write Trump off in 2024, given his magnetic grip on the Republican base and his strong influence on the incoming Republican majority in the House of Representatives. But if the former president’s political career is on a downward spiral, it’s safe to say it started in Georgia.
Georgia is the epicenter of American politics
Georgia’s Senate runoff culminates two remarkable years in which the state has emerged, somewhat unexpectedly, as the nation’s most competitive battleground.
If he wins, Warnock would receive a full six-year term with relief, after his fourth race (two general elections and two runoffs in two years) and give Democrats an expanded 51-49 majority in the Senate.
However, if Walker wins, the Republican would restore the dangerous 50-50 balance in the House that for the past two years has only tilted in favor of Democrats due to the tie-breaking votes of Vice President Kamala Harris.
Georgia’s political rise epitomizes the multiple forces that define American politics. He is part of a racially diversified nation that is stirring up the presidential map. He has witnessed a duel between a Republican legislature accused of suppressing voting rights and voters who repeatedly show up in large numbers to make sure their voices are heard.
The state’s dying racial history is a constant backdrop, especially in the struggle between Warnock, senior pastor of Martin Luther King Jr. Ebenezer Baptist Church, and Walker, a hero to many in the state after his stellar career in college football.
Georgia has also become the epicenter of a rare Republican resistance to Trump’s attempt to subvert American democracy.
In a call on January 2, 2021, Trump asked Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn Biden’s victory. A transcript of the call shows Raffensperger repeatedly rejecting Trump’s wild fraud conspiracies. “The numbers are the numbers, the numbers don’t lie,” Raffensperger later told the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the United States Capitol.
In December 2020, the then-president had also called Kemp to pressure him to convince state lawmakers to overturn Biden’s victory in the state. But the governor said he did not have the authority to do so, sources told CNN.
In revenge, Trump endorsed the primary challengers against both men. He said choosing her for secretary of state, Georgia Rep. Jody Hice, unlike the incumbent, would “stop the fraud.” The former presidentially-endorsed candidate for Kemp’s job, former Sen. David Perdue, who had lost to Democrat Jon Ossoff in a 2021 runoff, added to Trump’s election denialism, declaring in a debate that “the 2020 election They were tampered with and stolen.”
But both of Trump’s picks fared disastrous in the primaries in a major embarrassment for the former president. Kemp beat Perdue 74% to 22% and Raffensperger dispatched Hice 52% to 33%. Both incumbents were reelected in November.
Trump’s humiliation was becoming a pattern in Georgia. In the state’s 2020 general election, he became the first Republican to lose in the party’s former stronghold in the South since former President George Bush was bested by Bill Clinton in 1992 on his way to the White House.
On the eve of the Senate runoffs in January 2021, Trump returned to Georgia to campaign for then-Senators Kelly Loeffler and Perdue. He criticized Kemp and made false claims of voter fraud, adding to longstanding doubts he had already sown about mail-in voting among Republican voters during the Covid-19 pandemic. Both Republican senators lost quickly.
All of this helps explain why many observers have concluded that during the current runoff election, Trump has actually helped Warnock more than Walker.
In a CNN/SSRS poll released Friday, Trump scored just 39% favorable and 54% unfavorable among likely Georgia voters. (Biden’s approval rating was also underwater, which explains why he hasn’t set foot in Georgia either.)
Walker, however, insists that a strong turnout from the Republicans this Tuesday could give him victory.
“Before a big game, I don’t sleep, because I’m ready,” he said during a final campaign stop in suburban Georgia. “It’s about participation. Now we have to get into the game. We can no longer stay on the sidelines.”