New poll shows Herschel Walker has a slight lead over Sen. Raphael Warnock despite the former NFL running back fumbling in the campaign

Though a clear candidate for controversy, Georgia Republican nominee for US Senate Herschel Walker has a slight lead over incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock in a recent poll.

Walker leads Warnock by a two-point lead from 44 percent to 46 percent in the latest Emerson College poll released Aug. 30. With just two months to go before the election, the poll could help candidates focus their efforts.

Republican nominee for US Senate for Georgia Hershel Walker, left, incumbent Senator Raphael Warnock. (Photos: Photo: PBS News Hour/ YouTube screenshot/Getty Images0

“Walker leads Warnock among rural voters at 58 to 24 percent, while Warnock leads Walker among urban voters at 66 to 25 percent. In the suburbs, voters are breaking for Walker by a nine-point margin, 50 percent to 41 percent,” said Spencer Kimball, executive director of Emerson College Polling.

The Emerson poll is the only recent poll of voters that reflects Walker by a margin over the Democratic senator. Other polls show Warnock 3 to 4 percent ahead of his opponent. Another Emerson College poll in April showed Walker leading by 4 percentage points. The pair were tied in the same poll in June.

Still, 53 percent of the 600 Georgia voters surveyed said they believe Warnock, a pastor of Dr. Martin King Jr. in Atlanta, who will win the Nov. 8 election, versus the 47 percent who believe Warnock could fold the seat back to Republican.

Neither candidate has commented publicly on the polls, but Warnock said on Aug. 31 that the pair are voting “neck-to-neck.”

Walker has made himself the prime target of criticism. He was slammed for making untrue statements about his education and career. The former University of Georgia football player said he graduated from school despite leaving his junior year to play in the NFL. He also falsely claimed that he was the top student in his high school and that he had experience as an FBI agent.

The Republican nominee, who is a political novice, has attacked the incumbent’s electoral record and advocates “wasteful spending” and more taxes. Walker has also accused his opponent of doubling his income while in office and voting alongside Democrats on the president’s initiatives.

“A vote for Warnock is a vote for higher taxes, more crime and allowing men to compete in women’s sports,” said Will Kiley, Walker’s campaign spokesman, in a Sept. 2 publication. “Raphael Warnock is in step with Joe Biden when it counts. Unlike Washington Warnock, Herschel will blame Biden for putting this country on the wrong track.”

The Emerson poll shows that 50 percent of voters polled had a favorable opinion of Walker, while 47 percent had a favorable opinion of Warnock. However, 46 percent of voters also said they found each candidate unfavorable. About 4 percent of voters said they would not vote for either candidate in the election.

Walker and Warnock have been embroiled in an ongoing Twitter row over when the couple will debate ahead of the election. After weeks of arguments, Walker agreed to an October 14 debate in Savannah, but it was not one of the three debates Warnock had already agreed to.

Warnock and other critics have accused the Donald Trump-backed candidate of being afraid to fidget onstage after a “series of head-scratching” comments. He must have recently labeled the US Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program funding in the Inflation Reduction Act as wasteful spending on trees.

“It goes to trees. Don’t we have enough trees here?” Walker said during an Aug. 22 performance, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“Every time he opens his mouth on a political issue, it sounds like a jumble of words. It’s very complicated and sometimes doesn’t make sense,” said Trey Hood, a professor of political science at the University of Georgia.

Walker has also been criticized by members of his own party. Polls show he’s less favorable than other Republicans among Georgia voters, which experts say could give Warnock the upper hand.

Both candidates were also faced with ads alleging domestic violence by their ex-wives. Walker’s ex-wife, Cindy DeAngelis Grossman, said in a video ad, “He put the gun to my temple and said he was going to blow my brains out.”

Walker did not deny the allegations, although he said the comments were taken out of context. He took this as an opportunity to speak out against the stigma surrounding mental health.

Warnock’s ex-wife Ouleye Warnock accused the senator of stepping over her foot in police footage used in a video ad released against his campaign in 2020. The incumbent candidate denied the allegations and no charges were brought as a result of the complaint. Ouleye reportedly had no visible injuries.

However, voters in the Emerson poll said their biggest concern is the economy – taxes, inflation and jobs. Warnock met with workers and union leaders at a Labor Day picnic on Monday, and Walker advertised appearances on Conservative TV shows ahead of the weekend. New poll shows Herschel Walker has a slight lead over Sen. Raphael Warnock despite the former NFL running back fumbling in the campaign

James Brien

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