Warnock and Walker get personal in Georgia closing arguments

ATLANTA (AP) — After spending months arguing that Republican Senate nominee Herschel Walker is “not ready” for high elected office, Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia is stepping up his criticism ahead of Election Day to say that the celebrity athlete is fundamentally unfit on Capitol Hill.

From a rally with former President Barack Obama to a statewide bus tour happening Tuesday on the eve of Election Day, Warnock hammered Walker as a “pathological liar” who exaggerated his business accomplishments, academic, professional, and philanthropic interests and has been accused of violence against family members and paying for his girlfriends’ abortions despite his public opposition to the proceedings.

“He’s a man who lies about the most basic facts of his life,” Warnock said on a scene he shared with Obama. “And now he wants the rest of us to… sort of imagine now that he’s a United States Senator. … Herschel Walker is not ready. He is not ready. Not only is he not ready. He’s not in good shape.

Walker, who denies ever paying for abortions, sticks to an argument he’s been making for months: that Warnock is a rubber stamp for President Joe Biden and a Democratic majority in Congress that Walker blames for the inflation, rising crime and a steady stream of immigrants across the US border into Mexico.

“He said I’m not ready. No, you’re not ready,” Walker replied Thursday in suburban Atlanta. “Because you either voted with Joe Biden 96% of the time or you had no idea what you were doing. You choose whoever you want – no idea what you’re doing or you’ve voted with them 96% of the time, which is going in the wrong direction.

These competing closing arguments reflect the increasingly personal nature of the Georgia contest and the larger national battle for control of Congress. Warnock and most Senate Democrats shunned Biden and the National Party brand amid generationally high inflation, urging voters to consider their choices between individual candidates instead. Republicans, in turn, have sought to nationalize Tuesday’s midterm elections into a referendum on Biden and his policies.

The Georgia game could help determine which party controls the Senate for the final two years of Biden’s term. The chamber is now split 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris giving Democrats the deciding vote.

Throughout the summer and early fall, the 53-year-old Warnock generally avoided directly attacking the 60-year-old Walker. Instead, he suggested the celebrity athlete just wasn’t prepared for the Senate. Warnock has spent more time touting his record in the Senate, particularly the infrastructure and economic development measures he has worked on with Republicans, as well as Democratic measures to cap insulin and drug costs. other medications for older Americans using Medicare.

But Warnock has stepped up his attacks since two women came forward in October to accuse Walker of encouraging and paying for their abortions when they dated the former professional football star. Walker, who supports a nationwide abortion ban, called the claims “nonsense.”

The senator’s changes accompanied polls suggesting a close end, with the possibility of a runoff; Georgia law requires a majority to win statewide office, and a third-party candidate in the Senate contest could keep Warnock and Walker below that threshold.

“This man says he’s law enforcement. He’s not. In the FBI. He wasn’t,” Warnock told supporters last week on his bus tour, making referring to some of Walker’s inaccurate claims.” He said he graduated from the University of Georgia. He does not have. He said he was valedictorian (of his high school class). He wasn’t. … He said he had 800 employees. He was only eight.

In DeKalb County, outside Atlanta, Warnock mocked Walker for wearing an honorary badge, apparently given to him by a Georgia sheriff, as proof of his claims he worked for years in law enforcement. “He wears his lies literally like a badge of honor,” Warnock told voters.

Warnock continued to take an aggressive approach Sunday in his hometown of Savannah, and he has stops scheduled Monday for Macon and Columbus, hitting Georgia’s largest metro areas beyond Atlanta. When asked why he waited so late to attack Walker directly, Warnock said it was partly because Walker’s second accuser said in an interview that she “felt threatened” by Walker, who admitted to some violent tendencies in his past but said they were the result of a mental illness he now has under control.

Walker dismissed Warnock’s criticism in a speech Thursday in Smyrna, north of Atlanta. He presented himself as the most honest candidate and said his debate with Warnock proved he was up to it.

“I took that man to school, I was the adult in that room,” said Walker, who will close his campaign on Monday in the GOP-leaning suburb of Atlanta.

“He talked about me. He even brought in a former president to talk about me,” Walker said, referring to Obama’s Oct. 28 visit.

Walker said Warnock, who is the pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, should not claim to have a Christian ethic while implying that Walker does not.

“He said I’m the liar. I said, ‘No, senator, you’re the liar,'” said Walker, who makes faith a big part of his pitch. “You went to Washington saying you were going to represent Georgia and you decided to represent Joe Biden.”

Walker also dismissed Biden’s Wednesday speech warning of threats to democracy. “The fact that he’s in Washington is the biggest threat to democracy,” Walker said of Biden. “The greatest threat to democracy is that Senator Warnock is in Washington representing the great people of Georgia. He is a big threat.

Walker has not responded to questions from reporters and has not held an open press release since the second abortion allegation, another point Warnock sought to capitalize on ahead of Tuesday.

“There’s nothing stopping him from standing in front of a microphone like I’m standing right now,” Warnock told reporters. “The people of Georgia deserve to know what kind of man, what kind of person is he?”

More than 2.5 million Georgian voters cast their ballots, about 20% more than the number who cast ballots for the 2018 midterm elections.

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