Former President Barack Obama described Herschel Walker as “a wannabe politician” in a speech Friday night in Georgia, praising the Republican Senate candidate as “one of the best running backs ever.” One,” but he wasn’t equipped to be a U.S. senator.
Obama points to Walker, calling him “a guy with a fake badge, saying he’s like a kid playing cops and robbers in law enforcement,” attacking his “character issues” and “habit of not telling people” truth,” and described him as someone so loyal to former President Donald Trump, “meaning he doesn’t really think about you or your needs. ”
The speech, the former Democratic president’s first full-scale foray into the campaign in 2022, framed the midterms as “a choice between politicians who seem willing to do whatever it takes to gain power and leaders who share our values, see you and care about you.” election”. ”
“Almost every Republican politician seems obsessed with two things — owning a library and getting Donald Trump’s approval,” Obama said. “It’s their agenda, it’s not long, it’s not complicated, at least to me, it’s not very inspiring. They’re not interested in actually solving the problem. They’re interested in making you angry and finding someone to blame. Because then you might not will notice that they don’t have their own answers.”
Obama was greeted with applause inside the Gateway Center Arena in College Park, Georgia. On several occasions, he delivered one of his campaign classics: “Don’t boo, vote!”
Acknowledging the economic headwinds facing Democrats in November, he said: “Listen, inflation is a real problem right now. It’s not just in the U.S., it’s around the world. It’s one of the legacy of the pandemic.”
But he hinted that Republicans are not coming up with their own policies or plans, saying: “Republicans talk a lot about it, but what’s their answer? What’s their economic policy?”
Obama’s most pointed comments, however, were directed at Walker, calling his rivalry with Democratic Sen. Rafael Warnock a “contrastive study” key to taking control of the Senate.
The review opened with praise from Walker, the legendary University of Georgia football player who won the Heisman Trophy in 1982.
“There’s a lot of young people here right now, and yes, that excites me. Some of you may not remember, but Herschel Walker was a football player,” Obama said. “In college, he was great. One of the best running backs ever. But the question is: Does that make him the best person to represent you in the U.S. Senate? Key decisions in foreign policy and the future?”
Obama then joked that just because Walker won the Heisman, that doesn’t mean audiences will let him fly the plane they’re on or perform surgery on them without knowing if he’s eligible.
“And vice versa, by the way. You might like me as president, but you don’t want me to start on a dog’s tail,” he said. “I mean, can you imagine my slow, skinny guy getting hit in the back by a defensive tackle of about 300 pounds and he ran 4.6 40 (dashing yards)? You gotta scrape me off the court. Nope. , I can’t. No, I can’t. I’m good at a lot of things, but it’s not one of the things I’m good at.”
But then Obama attacked the Republican Party.
“There’s very little evidence that he’s interested in public service or volunteer work or helping people in any way, doesn’t bother to know anything, or shows any kind of inclination,” Obama said, before nodding to Trump, arguing Walker appears to be becoming “a celebrity who wants to be a politician, and we’ve seen that happen.”
Obama then brought up Walker’s “character issue,” an apparent reference to allegations that he paid two women to terminate their pregnancies.
Walker has previously advocated for a nationwide ban on abortion without exception, but he has denied those claims.
Walker, Obama said, “is used to not telling the truth, to saying one thing and doing another, to making certain rules for you and your significant other, and other rules for everyone else.”
“It speaks to what kind of leader you’re going to be,” he added. “If a candidate’s primary qualification is that he’s going to be loyal to Donald Trump, that means he’s not really thinking about you or your needs.”
Walker rebutted Obama’s comments in a statement Saturday.
“President Obama was here last night. He said I was a celebrity. He got it wrong, didn’t he? I’m not a celebrity, I’m a warrior of God,” the Republican candidate said.
Walker also said he would pray for Obama, who he said had chosen the “wrong horse” for Warnock.
“He needs some help because he picked the wrong horse. Senator Warnock went the wrong way. You know he’s not up to the job and it’s time for him to leave,” Walker said.
Obama wasn’t the only Democrat stepping up his rhetoric against Walker — Warnock also used his speech introducing the former president to name his Republican opponent.
Reflecting Democrats’ concerns about campaign tensions, Warnock urged Georgians to consider the consequences of the election, saying: “Vote is your voice, and your voice is your human dignity.”
In a speech to the crowd’s applause, Warnock faced his opponent head-on – echoing Obama’s criticism of Walker’s unreadiness.
“Simply put, Herschel Walker wasn’t ready,” Warnock said. “He’s not ready. He’s not ready. Not only is he not ready, he’s not healthy enough.”
Warnock, who has said his Republican opponents fought the truth, later added: “If we can’t trust him to tell the truth about his life, how can we trust him to protect our lives, our families, our children. And our work? And our future?”
While Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams spoke during the event, Obama spent less time focusing on Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. Obama noted some voting laws passed by Kemp and Georgia Republicans after the 2018 election, but they were far less straightforward.
Instead, the former president offered broader ideas about the midterm elections.
“I understand why people are anxious. I understand why you are worried. I understand why it can be tempting to just not watch TV or football or ‘Dancing with the Stars,'” Obama said. “But I’m here to tell you that quitting is not an option. Despair is not an option. The only way to make this economy fairer is if we all fight for it. The only way to save democracy is if we all work together To nurture and fight for democracy.”
He added: “A fundamental question you should be asking yourself now is, who is going to fight for you? Who cares about you? Who looks at you? Who believes in you? It’s a choice for this election.”
Although Obama spent less time on the gubernatorial race, the stage erupted with “Stacy! Stacy! Stacy!” Abrams took the stage in front of the former president. She cited Obama’s own electoral history in 2008 — and his 2012 re-election — and implored voters to believe she could overtake Kemp, who polls show has an edge in the race.
“We defy conventional wisdom to achieve generational change, and we will do it again, Georgia, we will do it again,” Abrams said.
She added, “We challenge history time and time again, and we will do it on Nov. 8 because that is who we are. We are a Georgia, we believe in ourselves, we believe in tomorrow.”
Hours before Obama’s arrival, long lines formed around the Gateway Center arena in College Park outside Atlanta. Helpers with clipboards and laptops made their way through the crowd to sign up people for this weekend’s door-to-door volunteering shift.
Most importantly, the event is intended to be an organizational tool, officials said.
“Let President Obama show here that we’re still fighting, we’re pushing Election Day,” Rep. Nikema Williams, who is also chair of the Georgia Democratic Party, told CNN. “It’s about bringing people together and exciting voters who are still looking for inspiration during this election cycle.”
As of Friday, more than 1.3 million people in Georgia had voted, with one week left in the early voting period, according to the secretary of state’s office.
Inside the arena, a DJ warmed up to a capacity crowd of about 6,000, and Democrats waved signs in support of votes for Warnock, Abrams and other state and local candidates.
“Vote early, now until Nov. 4,” screamed the big blue sign in the arena. “Election Day: November 8.”
This story has been updated with additional responses.