ATLANTA — In his 1980s prime, Herschel Walker, the Georgia school soccer legend, ran the ball with the downhill ferocity of a runaway switch truck. There was no query about which means he was headed.
But that was not the case this week, as Mr. Walker tweeted out a cryptic 21-second video that despatched the state’s political gamers right into a frenzy of decoding and guesswork.
Did the video quantity to an announcement that the Heisman-winning Mr. Walker — spurred on by the sis-boom-bah urging of his outdated pal Donald J. Trump — plans to enter the Republican major for an opportunity to run subsequent yr towards the Democratic senator the Rev. Raphael G. Warnock?
That was one believable interpretation of the clip, by which a smiling Mr. Walker, who lives in Texas, revs the motor of a sports activities automobile.
“I’m getting ready,” Mr. Walker says, because the digital camera pans to the automobile’s Georgia license plate. “And we can run with the big dogs.”
If Mr. Walker certainly jumps into the Senate race, it’ll go a great distance towards firming up the 2022 pro-Trump roster in Georgia, the place the previous president has vowed to handpick G.O.P. candidates to actual revenge on the Republicans who declined to assist his false competition that he was the true winner of the 2020 election within the state, which he in reality misplaced by about 12,000 votes.
Mr. Walker, who as soon as performed for Mr. Trump’s skilled workforce, the New Jersey Generals, within the short-lived United States Football League, urged Republicans to stick by Mr. Trump within the weeks after Election Day as departing president pressed his unfounded claims of voter fraud. In March, Mr. Trump, in an announcement, mentioned it might be “fantastic” if Mr. Walker ran for Senate.
“He would be unstoppable, just like he was when he played for the Georgia Bulldogs, and in the NFL,” Mr. Trump mentioned. “He is also a GREAT person. Run Herschel, run!”
But a Walker candidacy may additionally show to be probably the most high-stakes take a look at of whether or not Mr. Trump’s fervent want to play kingmaker will serve his social gathering’s finest pursuits in a hotly contested swing state that would decide which social gathering controls the U.S. Senate.
Though Mr. Walker is probably the most revered participant within the fashionable historical past of the football-crazy state — Bulldog followers nonetheless discuss the place they have been once they noticed his jaw-dropping efficiency within the 1981 Sugar Bowl, the best way different Americans discuss in regards to the moon touchdown — the previous working again additionally brings an advanced post-football story.
Mr. Walker, 59, says that he suffers from dissociative identification dysfunction, an affliction previously often known as a number of persona dysfunction. His forthrightness on the subject of psychological sickness, outlined in his 2008 ebook, “Breaking Free: My Life With Dissociative Identity Disorder,” has earned him reward in some quarters. But others have doubted the prognosis, calling it a handy technique to excuse unhealthy habits.
In a 2005 software for a protecting order, Mr. Walker’s ex-wife, Cindy Grossman, alleged that Mr. Walker had a historical past of “extremely threatening behavior” towards her. In one occasion, she has mentioned, he put a gun to her temple. In his ebook, Mr. Walker admitted to quite a few cases of taking part in Russian roulette.
Mr. Walker couldn’t reached for remark for this text, however in a 2008 interview with The New York Times, he mentioned he had the dysfunction underneath management with the assistance of remedy.
Leo Smith, a Republican political marketing consultant in Georgia, mentioned that he hopes Mr. Walker will stay on the sidelines. “As a political consultant, I’d recommend that Mr. Walker influence politics through fund-raising and donations, not as a candidate,” he mentioned.
But Randy Evans, a former ambassador to Luxembourg appointed by Mr. Trump, mentioned that Mr. Walker might show to be a “transformational” candidate who crosses boundaries of social gathering and race (Mr. Walker is Black). “He’s got the demeanor to do it,” Mr. Evans mentioned. “I recognize fully the difficulties of brand-new people who run who’ve never run before, but I thought Senator Tuberville did a pretty good job in Alabama, and that Herschel Walker would do a great job in Georgia.”
Mr. Evans was referring to Tommy Tuberville, the staunchly pro-Trump Republican and big-time school soccer coach who simply gained election to the Senate in November. But whereas Mr. Trump stays standard amongst Republicans in each Alabama and Georgia, the latter has seen Democrats make huge inroads partially due to demographic change and a distaste for Trumpism in some necessary areas, together with the suburbs north of Atlanta.
Mr. Trump has already endorsed Representative Jody Hice, a hard-right conservative and Baptist preacher who plans to run for Secretary of State in Georgia towards the incumbent Brad Raffensperger. Like Mr. Walker, Mr. Hice helps Mr. Trump’s bogus claims of a rigged election, and a Trump endorsement could also be sufficient handy him a major victory.
But various Republicans are quietly involved that each Mr. Hice and Mr. Walker might wither within the scrutiny of a basic election. Suburban, centrist girls are more likely to be aware of Mr. Walker’s ex-wife’s story, in addition to Mr. Hice’s remark that he accredited of ladies in politics, as long as “the woman’s within the authority of her husband.”
If Mr. Walker does enter the race, he would be the finest recognized amongst a Republican subject that already contains Kelvin King, a building government; Latham Saddler, a former Navy SEAL; and Gary Black, the state agriculture commissioner. There can be a chance that former Senator Kelly Loeffler, who misplaced the seat to Mr. Warnock within the January runoff election, may strive for a rematch.
Mr. Warnock is the pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church — the house church of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His victory in January, in addition to the victory of his fellow Georgia Democrat, Senator Jon Ossoff, served as a stinging rebuke to Mr. Trump a number of weeks after his personal loss within the state.
Mr. Warnock should defend his seat so quickly after his election as a result of he’s serving out the rest of a time period begun by former Senator Johnny Isakson, a Republican who stepped down due to poor well being. Mr. Warnock is more likely to run emphasizing his assist for social packages and assist for Georgia companies.
“Whether it’s Trump’s handpicked candidate Herschel Walker, failed former Senator Kelly Loeffler, or any other candidate in this chaotic Republican field, not one of them is focused on what matters to Georgians,” mentioned Dan Gottlieb, a spokesman for the Democratic Party of Georgia, in an announcement.
Debbie Dooley, the president of the Atlanta Tea Party, mentioned that she is hoping that Georgia may see a basic election by which all 4 candidates for the 2 high places of work, senator and governor, are Black, permitting voters to take racial issues out of the decision-making course of and as an alternative have a transparent alternative between “competing ideologies.”
In the governor’s race, Ms. Dooley is hoping that Vernon Jones, a Black, pro-Trump candidate not endorsed by Mr. Trump, will defeat Gov. Brian Kemp within the Republican major. And she is assuming, like many different Georgians, that Stacey Abrams will run for governor on the Democratic facet.
In the Senate race, Ms. Dooley mentioned she needs to see Mr. Walker soar into the first and win it. “That’s who Trump wants,” she mentioned, though she added that doing so would betray one loyalty: She is a die-hard Alabama fan.
“Roll Tide,” she mentioned.