Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) agreed to debate his Republican challenger, Herschel Walker, in October but only if Walker accepts his conditions. The two candidates have been going back and forth for months about participating in debates.
On Wednesday, Warnock agreed to debate Walker in Savannah in October, as Walker wants, but only if Walker will agree to a second debate in October. Warnock also wants Walker to agree that the candidates will not be told the topics of the questions in advance. Early voting for the November 8 midterm election begins on Oct. 17 and goes through Nov. 4.
Georgia residents were beginning to doubt that there will be a debate or two with the candidates. Warnock’s campaign thinks Warnock is making a valid point by requiring that the candidates do not know the topics in advance of the debate. He said that senators are not given the topics ahead of time.
“It’s time for Herschel Walker to stop playing games,” said Quentin Fulks, Warnock’s campaign manager. “The job of a U.S. senator isn’t one where you know the topics ahead of time or get a cheat sheet, and Herschel Walker shouldn’t need one to find the courage to walk on a debate stage.”
That’s some odd reasoning, though. Senators usually do know the topics of debate on any given day in the Senate. And, their staff provides background and information pertinent to the debate on the floor. Are we to believe that Warnock just shows up, clueless, in the Senate chamber? That doesn’t speak well of Warnock’s preparedness to do his job. Maybe his campaign manager shouldn’t be pointing a finger at Walker.
Naturally, since it is after Labor Day and political campaigns are in full force, there’s an ad out from Warnock about agreeing to a debate. Warnock tells Walker to “show us if you’re really ready to represent Georgia.”
Walker said on Wednesday, “I’m gonna debate, so I’m ready for him.” He also posted a tweet challenging Warnock to accept his offer to debate.
Let’s lock down Savannah Oct 14th, Senator. I don’t care what the topics are. It’s a fair debate. Open to the public. Televised statewide. And it’s not run by your donors. You in? Let’s do this for the people.
— Herschel Walker (@HerschelWalker) September 7, 2022
As I wrote above, the debate over debates has been going on for months between these two candidates. Warnock accepted invitations from WTOC in Savannah, Mercer University in Macon, and the Atlanta Press Club. Walker refused all those, though. He accepted a fourth invitation, this one from Nexstar affiliate WSAV in Savannah on October 14. Remember, early voting begins in Georgia on October 17 so that debate would give voters time to watch and decide beforehand.
The Nexstar affiliate invitation stipulated that the “topics would be provided” to both campaigns but not the specific questions. It is standard procedure of many of Nexstar’s debates, though not typical in Georgia debates. Walker’s campaign said they didn’t seek pre-debate information on the topics.
.@ReverendWarnock needs to put his big man pants on and join me in a debate for the people in his backyard that will be televised statewide. It doesn’t matter what the topics are because he can’t win on any of them. October the 14th is the debate for the people.
— Herschel Walker (@HerschelWalker) August 26, 2022
Warnock demands that either the Mercer University debate on Oct. 13 or the Atlanta Press Cub debate on Oct. 16 be accepted by Walker as a second showdown. Warnock is open to a live audience. Walker wants a live audience for the October 14 debate. This is odd to me. Isn’t it expected that a debate has a live audience? Maybe that is something they do differently in Georgia. I haven’t lived in Atlanta in decades and I just don’t remember.
Herschel Walker skipped doing any debates before the Republican primary election. He said all along that he would debate the Democrat candidate in the general election. Savannah is Warnock’s hometown and that is why Walker chose that location for a debate.
Warnock sounds confident. After hearing his campaign spokesman’s statement about knowing topics and cheat sheets in the Senate, I question if he should try to sound so bold.
“I’ve been in the Senate for a little while right now, and I can tell you that the Senate floor is a much more challenging space than a debate stage,” Warnock said at a recent campaign stop.
“And if my opponent is not ready to face me on a debate stage,” he said, “I’m not sure why he thinks he is ready to serve in the United States Senate.”
Whether or not Walker accepts Warnock’s conditions, the other debates will go on.
The other debates are moving forward. The Atlanta Press Club this week took the wraps off its debate calendar. Warnock and Libertarian Chase Oliver will take part in the Oct. 16 showdown.
Lauri Strauss of the Atlanta Press Club said the invitation remains open — and if Walker doesn’t show he’ll be represented by an empty podium.
And Warnock and Oliver plan to participate in the Oct. 13 debate at Mercer University’s Center for Collaborative Journalism. Walker has said he wouldn’t participate because it conflicted with Sunday night football — even though it’s on a Thursday.
WMAZ13 president and general manager Jeff Dudley said the debate would go ahead with or without Walker.
The WTOC debate in Savannah, meanwhile, would be kaput if both campaigns agree to Warnock’s challenge. Larry Silberman, WTOC’s vice president and general manager, previously said the station hasn’t figured out what to do if Walker is a no-show.
Now we wait to see if Walker decides to do a second debate with Warnock. He should. An empty place on the stage is never a good look for a campaign. Frankly, Warnock doesn’t come across as a brilliant debater. The current Real Clear Politics average has Warnock up by 1 point. That isn’t good news for the incumbent senator.