Senate Republicans expressed no surprise the day after Herschel Walker’s loss in Georgia and blamed both lack of a unifying agenda and a missed opportunity to drum up early votes.
The knives came out for the former NFL star – plagued by domestic violence accusations and claims that he paid for multiple women’s abortions despite staking out a pro-life position – after his loss to incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock by about three points.
‘Candidate quality does count,’ Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., who is leaving the Senate to run for governor in 2024, said in a news briefing Wednesday.
But he didn’t just blame Walker – he also cited a lack of a policy plan to rally voters.
‘If there’s not a clear plan of what you’re for — we are basically for nothing and we complain about it along the way. And then we say, “Well, maybe we’ll tell you after we’re elected.” It’s not going to work. Democrats are political enterprisers,’ Braun said.
While the loss did not shock, some Republicans descended into finger pointing both at Walker and former President Trump. Others defended Walker and blamed the broader party’s strategy.
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., placed blame squarely on Trump’s influence.
‘His obsession with the 2020 election became an albatross and a real liability,’ Thune told reporters.
Asked by DailyMail.com if he was surprised his party lost in Georgia on Tuesday, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said: ‘No. It was a hard-fought campaign.’ Still, he called Walker a ‘superb candidate.’
Asked if the results took him by surprise, Sen. Marco Rubio shrugged and said, ‘I don’t know.’
‘We should be asking ourselves both politically and from a policy standpoint [what happened],’ Rubio said.
‘I think [the loss] was factored in,’ retiring Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., told DailyMail.com. ‘There was no surprise.’
Asked for his post-election analysis on Walker, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, quipped: ‘I think it was, he got less votes than Warnock.’
Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., said that he was ‘not surprised but disappointed’ with the results, though he said Trump bared no blame for the loss.
Tuberville said his party was behind the curve on early and mail-in voting, which led to record Democratic turnout in Georgia.
‘We’ve got to have a better game plan,’ Tuberville said.
‘The cat’s out of the bag with early voting. We’ve got to get involved – if we don’t we’re going to have the same [outcome].’
Some 1.85 million votes were cast in the early voting period ahead of Tuesday’s election, breaking per-day records. Democrats had a 13 point lead over Republicans in mail-in and early in-person voting. A new election law shortened the early voting period from 13 days to five days.
Asked if there should be a leadership shakeup at the RNC or the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), Tuberville said Republicans need to ‘look at the people up top see if they’re doing the right thing, if they don’t want to make changes then we get rid of them.’
Sen. Rick Scott chaired the NRSC for the 2022 cycle, though Senator Steve Daines will take his place for the 2024 cycle. RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel is seeking a fourth term in her job, but a number of GOP heavyweights are believed to be eyeing a challenge.
Scott, for his part, called Walker a ‘great candidate.’ He said Republicans needed to a better job at selling a unified agenda and pushing for early and mail-in voting.
‘We’ve got to have an agenda,’ Scott said. ‘We’ve got to we’ve got to show the American public that there’s a reason to vote for us.’
Scott had put forth his own ’12 Point Plan to Rescue America,’ though the party never fully unified behind it and Democrats used provisions on Medicare and Social Security as a political cudgel.
He told DailyMail.com that Democrats did a ‘really great job’ turning out early voters and encouraging mail-in voting. ‘We’ve got to constantly figure out how to do a better job with that.’
The message from Senate Republicans on mail-in voting stands in stark contrast to the message still being pushed out by former President Trump.
‘YOU CAN NEVER HAVE FAIR & FREE ELECTIONS WITH MAIL-IN BALLOTS — NEVER, NEVER, NEVER,’ Trump posted on Truth Social last week.
Asked if he was shocked by Tuesday night’s results, Sen. Lindsey Graham replied: ‘I was disappointed.’
‘I was disappointed. I thought the runoff was a pretty good environment for us but, hats off to them. You can say what we did wrong but somebody needs to give them credit for what they did right.’