Former President Barack Obama described Herschel Walker as a “celebrity who wants to be a politician” during a speech in Georgia on Friday night, praising the Republican Senate candidate as “one of the best running backs ever” but one who is not equipped. to become a US senator.
Obama took a point-by-point attack on Walker, calling him “someone who carries around a fake badge and says he’s in law enforcement like a kid playing cops and robbers,” attacking his “character issues” and “habit of not telling.” truth” and describing him as someone who will be so loyal to former President Donald Trump, “that means he’s not really going to think about you or your needs.”
The speech, the former Democratic president’s first full foray into the 2022 campaign, framed the midterms as a choice between politicians who seem willing to do anything to win power and leaders who share our values, who see you and takes care of you. “.
“Almost every Republican politician seems to be obsessed with two things – being a Lib Dem and getting Donald Trump’s endorsement,” Obama said. “That’s their agenda, it’s not long, it’s not complicated and, at least for me, it’s not very inspiring. They are not interested in solving problems. They are interested in making you angry and finding someone to blame. Because that way you can overlook that they don’t have their own answer.
Obama was greeted with thunderous applause at the Gateway Center Arena in College Park, Georgia. At several points he delivered one of his old campaign classics: “Don’t be sad, vote!”
He acknowledged that Democrats faced economic headwinds in November, saying, “Listen, inflation is a real problem right now. It’s not just in America, it’s happening all over the world. It’s one of the legacies of the pandemic.”
But he pointed out that Republicans have not offered their own policies or plans, saying: “Republicans are talking about this a lot, but what is their response? What is their economic policy?
Obama’s most notable comments, however, were aimed at Walker, calling his race against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, the key for control of the evenly divided Senate, “an adversarial study.”
The commentary opened with a compliment from Walker, the legendary University of Georgia football player who won the Heisman Trophy in 1982.
“There are a lot of new people here now, yes, that excites me. Some of you may not remember, but Herschel Walker was a real football player,” Obama said. “He was amazing in college. One of the best quarterbacks of all time. But here’s the question: Does that make him the best person to represent you in the U.S. Senate? Does that allow him to make critical decisions about our economy, our foreign policy, our future?
Obama then joked that just because Walker won the Heisman, that doesn’t mean viewers will let him fly a plane or perform surgery without knowing if he’s qualified.
“By the way, the opposite is also true. You may have liked me as president, but you don’t want me to start with the dogs in the back,” he said. “I mean, can you imagine my slow, lanky old self getting hit from behind by a 300-pound defensive tackle who runs a 4.6 40 (yard)? You’d have to scratch me off the field. No, I can’t. No, I I can’t. I’m good at a lot of things, but that wouldn’t be one of the things I’m good at.
But then Obama fell into the Republican Party.
“There’s very little evidence that he’s been interested in, trying to learn about, or showing any kind of inclination toward public service or volunteering or helping people in any way,” Obama said, later nodding to Trump, arguing that Walker appeared to be “a celebrity , who wants to be a politician, and we’ve seen it happen.”
Obama then raised “character questions” about Walker, an apparent reference to allegations that he paid two women to terminate their pregnancies.
Walker, who has previously advocated banning abortion in the country without exceptions, has denied the claims.
Obama said Walker has “a habit of not telling the truth, he has a habit of saying one thing and doing another, he has a habit of applying certain rules to you and your important friends and different rules to everyone else.”
“It says something about the kind of leader you will be,” he added. “And if a candidate’s primary qualification is that he’s going to be loyal to Donald Trump, that means he’s not really going to think about you or your needs.”
Volcker rejected Obama’s comments in a statement on Saturday.
“President Obama was here last night. He said I’m a celebrity. He got it wrong, didn’t he? I’m not a celebrity, I’m a warrior for God,” the GOP nominee said.
Walker also said he would pray for Obama, who he said picked the “wrong horse” in endorsing Warnock.
“He needs help because he got on the wrong horse. Senator Warnock is the wrong horse. You know he can’t do the job and it’s time for him to go,” Walker said.
Obama wasn’t the only Democrat to step up his rhetoric against Walker — Warnock also used his speech introducing the former president to name his Republican opponent.
Reflecting Democrats’ concerns about the tight race, Warnock urged Georgians to consider the consequences of the election, saying, “The vote is your vote, your vote is your human dignity.”
In his remarks, which drew applause from the crowd, Warnock directly confronted his rival, echoing Obama’s criticism that Walker was not ready.
“Put simply, Herschel Walker is not ready,” Warnock said. “He’s not ready. He’s not ready. Not only is he not ready, he’s not fit.
Warnock, who has said his Republican opponent fights 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 and our families, our children and our work. and our future?”
Obama spent less time focusing on Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, despite Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams speaking at the event. Obama noted some of the voting laws that Kemp and Republicans in Georgia passed after the 2018 election, but was much less direct.
Instead, the former president offered broader thoughts on the midterms.
“I understand why people are worried. I understand why you might be worried. I understand why it might be tempting to just tune in and watch football or ‘Dancing with the Stars,'” Obama said. “But I’m here to say that tuning is not the solution. Despair is not an option. The only way to make this economy fairer is if we, all of us, fight for it. The only way to save democracy is if we nurture it together and fight for it.
He added: “The fundamental question you should be asking yourself right now is who is going to fight for you? Who cares about you? Who sees you? Who believes in you? That is the choice in this election.”
Even though Obama spent less time in the governor’s race, chants of “Stacey! Stacey! Stacey!” as Abrams took the stage before the former president. She referred to Obama’s own record of election in 2008 and re-election in 2012 and urged voters to believe that she can overtake Kemp, who according to polls has an advantage in the race.
“We ignored conventional wisdom to ensure a generational change,” Abrams said, “and we’re going to do it again, Georgia, we’re going to do it again.”
She added: “We have defied history time and time again and we will do so on November 8 because that is who we are. We are one Georgia, we believe in ourselves and we believe in tomorrow.
Hours before Obama’s arrival, long lines stretched around the Gateway Center arena in College Park, near Atlanta. Helpers with clipboards and laptops made their way through the crowd, signing up people for volunteer campaign shifts to go door-to-door this weekend.
Above all, officials said, the event was intended as an organizing tool.
“President Obama being here shows that we’re still fighting, we’re moving toward Election Day,” rapper Nikem Williams, who is also the chairwoman of the Georgia Democratic Party, told CNN. “It’s about bringing people together and exciting voters who are still looking for inspiration in this election cycle.”
More than 1.3 million people had already voted in Georgia by Friday, with one week left in the early voting period, according to the secretary of state.
A DJ warmed up the crowd of about 6,000 inside the arena as Democrats waved signs for Warnock, Abrams and other state and local candidates on the ballot.
“Vote early, now through November 4th,” large blue signs shouted across the arena. “Election Day: November 8.”
This story has been updated with additional reaction.