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New Poll Shows Herschel Walker Has a Slight Lead Over Sen. Raphael Warnock Despite Former NFL Running Back’s Campaign Fumbles

Despite being a clear shot for controversy, Georgia Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Herschel Walker has a slight lead over incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock in a recent poll.

Walker leads Warnock by two points, 44 percent to 46 percent, in the latest Emerson College Polling survey released on Aug. 30. With just two months to the election, the poll could help the candidates laser focus their efforts.

Republican candidate for U.S. Senate for Georgia Hershel Walker, left, Incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock. (Photos: Photo: PBS News Hour/ YouTube screenshot/Getty Images0

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

The Emerson poll is the only recent survey of voters that reflects Walker with a lead against the Democratic senator. Other polls show Warnock with a 3 percent to 4 percent advantage over 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 at Dr. Martin King Jr.’s church in Atlanta, will win the Nov. 8 election, over the 47 percent who think Warnock could flip the seat back to Republican.

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

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

The Republican candidate, who is a political novice, has attacked the incumbent’s voting record, favoring “wasteful spending” and more taxes. Walker has also accused his opponent of doubling his income while in office and voting in unison with Democrats for the president’s initiatives.

“A vote for Warnock is a vote for higher taxes, higher crime, and allowing men to compete in women’s sports,” Walker’s campaign spokesperson, Will Kiley, said in Sept. 2 release. “Raphael Warnock is in lock-step with Joe Biden when it matters most. Unlike Washington Warnock, Herschel will hold Biden accountable for putting this country on the wrong track.”

The Emerson poll shows that 50 percent of the voters surveyed had a favorable view of Walker, while 47 percent had a favorable view 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 engaged in an ongoing Twitter squabble over when the pair will debate before the election. After weeks of exchanging words, Walker agreed to a debate on Oct. 14 in Savannah, but it was not one of the three debates Warnock had already agreed to do.

Warnock and other critics have accused the Donald Trump-backed candidate of being afraid of floundering on stage after a “series of head-scratching” comments. He must recently referred to funding in the Inflation Reduction Act for U.S. Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry Program as wasteful spending on trees.

“It’s going to trees. Don’t we have enough trees around here?” Walker said during an Aug. 22 appearance according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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

Members of his own party have also criticized Walker. Polls show that he is less favorable among Georgia voters than other Republicans, which pundits predict could give Warnock the upper hand.

Both candidates have also faced ads with their ex-wives making claims of domestic violence. Walker’s ex-wife Cindy DeAngelis Grossman said, “he held the gun to my temple and said he was going to blow my brains out in,” in one video ad.

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

Warnock’s ex-wife, Ouleye Warnock, accused the senator of running over her foot in 2020 in police footage used in a video ad released against his campaign. The incumbent candidate denied the allegations, and no charges were filed because of the complaint. Reports show Ouleye had no visible injuries.

However, voters in the Emerson poll said their biggest concern was the economy — taxes, inflation and jobs. Warnock met with workers and union leaders at a Labor Day picnic on Monday, and Walker campaigned with appearances on conservative TV shows leading up to the weekend.

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