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Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock holds a slight three-point edge over Republican challenger Herschel Walker, according to a new poll in Georgia’s crucial Senate showdown, one of a handful of races in battleground states that will determine if the GOP wins back the majority in the chamber in November’s midterm elections.
And Republican Gov. Brian Kemp leads Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams 48%-43% in a high-profile rematch of their 2018 contest, according to a survey conducted for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution by the University of Georgia School of Public and International Affairs.
The poll, released Wednesday, indicates Warnock topping Walker 46% to 43%, with roughly 3% of voters saying they’ll back Libertarian candidate Chase Oliver and 8% undecided.
Walker, who won a Heisman Trophy and helped steer the University of Georgia to a college football national championship four decades ago, jumped into the GOP race to face off against Warnock last summer after months of support and encouragement to run for the Senate by former President Donald Trump, his longtime friend. Walker trounced a handful of GOP rivals in May’s Republican Senate primary.
Republicans see Warnock — the senior pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King Jr. used to preach, and who defeated GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler by a razor-thin margin to capture the Senate seat a year and a half ago — as very vulnerable as he runs for re-election to a full six-year term.
Warnock has dramatically out raised Walker, and the senator’s re-election campaign and allied Democratic groups have spent millions to target the GOP nominee the past two months over what they call his “bizarre or false statements.” A TV ad by Warnock’s campaign that launched last month spotlights past comments by Walker saying that he had a “dry mist” that would “kill any COVID on your body.”
Walker’s also taken fire over numerous reports that he overinflated the success of his businesses and has been playing defense regarding a number of personal controversies — from allegations of past abuse to children he fathered out of wedlock.
Thanks to his legendary status among many in Georgia and his immense, favorable name recognition in the Peach State, Walker instantly became the overwhelming front-runner for the GOP Senate nomination and basically ignored the field of lesser-known primary rivals, declining to take part in debates as he focused his campaign on Warnock. Some Republican strategists remain concerned that Walker is unprepared for the incoming fire that he’s now receiving during the general election campaign.
Walker, in a statement following the release of the poll, accused Warnock and the Democrats of “attacking me instead of talking about the issues important to voters. Georgians know that a vote for Warnock is a vote for record-high inflation, crime in our communities, $5 gas, and empty shelves — all of which have hit Georgia families hard. But no matter how much he raises, Sen. Warnock can never hide from his 96% voting record with Joe Biden.”
Trey Hood, the survey’s pollster, and the director of the University of Georgia’s survey research center, told Fox News that the new poll and other recent surveys from other organizations point to a “trend emerging, with Kemp consistently ahead of Abrams and Warnock edging Walker.”
“If some of these Kemp supporters don’t pull the lever for Walker, they just don’t vote in that race, that’s just as damaging for Walker,” Hood said. But he also noted “there a long way to go before the general election.”
Warnock campaign manager Quentin Fulks told Fox News that “there are going to be polls in all directions over the course of this campaign. Here’s what we know: this race will be close, which is why we can’t take anything for granted and are working hard every day to reelect Reverend Warnock, so he can continue fighting in the Senate to protect and save jobs, lower costs for hardworking families and stand up for Georgia servicemembers and veterans.”
In the governor’s race, 7% are undecided, with a Libertarian Shane Hazel and independent candidate Al Bartell each at 1%.
Abrams, a voting rights activist and a former Democratic leader in the state legislature who narrowly lost to Kemp in 2018, and who’s become a rising star in her party, would make history as the nation’s first Black female governor if she wins in November.
Hood noted that “Black support for Stacey Abrams was a little soft,” and that the Democratic nominee currently is “not reaching the target she needs with White voters for a Democrat to win.”
But Abrams spokesperson Alex Floyd told Fox News that “after months of attacking our campaign and lying about Stacey Abrams’ record while trying to cover for his own extreme agenda, Brian Kemp is in a dangerous position for an incumbent governor. His lack of support from a majority of voters shows that Georgians don’t want extreme bans on abortion and reckless gun policies that make it easier for criminals to carry loaded, hidden guns in public. We’ve always known this race would be close, and our campaign is strong, gaining momentum and building a historic multiracial coalition in Georgia.”
The poll indicated that President Biden’s standing among Georgians isn’t doing the Democratic candidates any favors. The president stood at 35% approval and 60% disapproval in the new survey.
Warnock stood at 47% approval and 42% disapproval, with Kemp at 54%-43%.
Half of those questioned in the poll said record inflation and high energy prices were an “extremely important” factor in their vote in the general election, with gun violence and abortion also important issues.
The survey was conducted July 14-22, with 902 likely voters in Georgia questioned. The poll’s sampling error is plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.