ATLANTA ( Associated Press) — Ted Budd has skipped four Republican primary debates In his bid for a US Senate seat in North Carolina. GOP candidates for governor in Ohio, Nevada and Nebraska have also refused to engage on the debate stage with their opponents.
And on Tuesday, Herschel Walker He is expected to miss the second debate after dropping the first debate against his Republican rivals for a crucial US Senate seat.
As the most competitive phase of the mid-term primary season Many candidates for leading positions – often Republicans – are abandoning the time-honored tradition of debating their rivals before election day.
For some gaffle-prone candidates like Walker, avoiding the debate phase reduces the chances of an embarrassing moment. For others, it’s an opportunity to snatch away a media ecosystem they find elitist and cast themselves into the mold of former President Donald Trump, who made a show of recounting some of the debates during the 2016 campaign.
The Republican National Committee is already on its way to withdraw from the 2024 presidential debateHowever, the final decision is likely to fall on whoever emerges as the party’s candidate.
But some Republicans who are still involved in the process say skipping the debate could ultimately undermine potential candidates in the general election, unprepared to answer tough questions or engage with rivals that way. that can appeal to voters beyond the base of the party.
“If you can’t come on stage and argue with fellow Republicans, how are you going to argue with Rafael Warnock in the general election?” Navy veteran and former Trump administration official Latham Sadler, who is among five Republicans challenging Walker, referring to the Democratic incumbent.
“Usually if you’re hiding, you’re hiding for a reason,” Sadler said in an interview.
Walker maintains a commanding lead over his rivals in the primaries on May 24. His campaign has not allowed the Associated Press an interview, despite repeated requests, including this story. But after facing criticism from rivals at the first Georgia Republican Senate debate in April about his absence, Walker told North Georgia radio station Access WDUN that his opponents were jealous.
“Because right now Herschel is going to win that seat,” he said during an April 20 appearance at the “Newsroom” event. “They cannot win it, so they are going into old politics where people are tired of it. They want what people are going to do for their Georgia state, and they can do nothing but complain. ,
Although many of those shying away from the debate are Republicans, some Democrats have followed a similar strategy. In Pennsylvania, where the primary elections are held on May 17, Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman skipped a debate last month, saying he chose to participate in three other debates because television would have a wider reach.
A spokesman for Budd, Jonathan Felts, has said that rather than participate in the debate, Budd was focused on finishing his tour of the North Carolina county so that he could speak directly to voters.
In Walker’s case, his frugality is beyond debate. He does not publicize his campaign widely and mostly limits appearances to conservative news outlets and friendly audiences. Campaign spokeswoman Mallory Blount said in an email last week that Walker had conducted more than 105 interviews.
“The suggestion that Herschel is not accessible is a lie,” she said. “He interviews and takes questions from thousands of Georgians as he travels across the state every week.”
But when Walkers speaks, awkward moments can happen.
He has incorrectly referred to the late Congressman John Lewis as a senator and said that the voting rights activist’s nominated election bill – John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act – “John does not stand for Lewis.”
Walker cast doubt on evolution at a recent church meeting, questioning why apes still exist if humans originated from them. And he told a reporter in January that asking whether he would have voted for a bipartisan infrastructure bill was “inappropriate” because he was not “privileged” to get all the facts about the measure. The bill was signed into law in November.
“You must be a fan of Alabama because you asked that question there,” Walker, a college football star at the University of Georgia, told a reporter for the right-wing news site The Daily Caller.
Walker did not graduate from the University of Georgia, but he has said he did — a lie that was initially repeated by his campaign on a website promoting his Senate bid. After Trump’s defeat to Democrat Joe Biden in the presidential election, he repeatedly made false claims of voting fraud on his Twitter account. In a tweet, he suggested that people from several battlefield states should be given a chance to vote again.
He also posted strange video messages, one of which he said from reading the Constitution last night that “the people in Washington work for the American people, and we can demand and hold them accountable if We count all legal votes.” “But if we start counting illegal votes, we start working and are dependent on the government,” he added.
In another video, he said that whoever wants to change the constitution should be impeached because the constitution has to stand. But then he said, “Maybe modify it a bit. But we should all enjoy who the Lord Jesus Christ is.”
Walker led the University of Georgia football team to the national title in 1981 and won the Heisman Trophy a year later. His status as a Georgia sports legend, coupled with Trump’s endorsement, made him a GOP favorite as he entered the race in August.
Still, questioning and limiting access can help avoid discussion about his troubled past., Officers responded to a 2001 report that Walker was armed and intimidating his estranged wife at a suburban Dallas home, later noting that Walker “talked about having a shoot-out with the police,” According to a police report surfaced by the Associated Press in February. In a protective order sought by his then-ex-wife in 2005, Walker was accused of repeatedly threatening to kill her.
Walker has been open about her long struggle with mental illness and admits to the violent urges. His campaign dismissed reports of the shoot out and blamed the media for uncovering it.
Skipping the GOP debates is unlikely to hurt Walker in the primary, a no-show tactic in the general election—when he faces Warnock, a skilled orator who serves as pastor of one of Georgia’s most prominent churches. In the works — may be a different story, said Andra Gillespie, a professor of political science at Emory University.
He may need to persuade Walker to win some voters, which will likely be a tough race, and will require him to “perform” and answer questions, she said.
Asked on WDUN whether he would debate Warnock, Walker said he was committed to doing whatever it took to win.
“So Rev. Warnock better get ready because I’m getting ready,” he said.
Associated Press writer Russ Bynum in Savannah, Georgia, contributed to this report.