Former President Barack Obama described Herschel Walker as a “celebrity wannabe politician” in a speech Friday night in Georgia and praised the Republican Senate candidate as “one of the greatest full-backs of all time,” but one who doesn’t have a gun for it. To be a United States Senator.
Obama lashed out at Walker, calling him “someone who carries around a fake badge and says he’s in law enforcement like a kid playing cops and robbers” and criticized his “character” and “habit of not telling.” reality,” and described him as someone who would be so loyal to former President Donald Trump, “that he doesn’t really care about you or your needs.”
The speech, the former Democratic president’s first full introduction to the 2022 campaign, called the midterms “a choice between politicians who seem willing to do anything to get into power and leaders who share our values, who see you and care about you.” .”
“Every Republican politician seems to be thinking about two things: winning over liberals and winning over Donald Trump,” Obama said. “That’s their agenda, it’s not much, 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 the person to blame. Because you may not notice that they don’t get the answer on their own.”
Obama received a standing ovation at the Gateway Center in College Park, Georgia. At several points he uttered one of his old campaign classics: “Buck up, vote!”
He acknowledged the economic turmoil facing Democrats in November, saying, “Listen, inflation is a real problem right now. It’s not just in America, it’s all over the world. This is one of the legacies of the pandemic.”
But he said that Republicans have not presented their policies or plans: “Republicans talk about this a lot, but what is their response? What is their economic policy?
But Obama’s sharpest comments were aimed at Walker, calling his race with Democrat Sen. Raphael Warnock a “controversial study” that is key to controlling an evenly divided Senate.
The commentary opened with praise for Walker, the legendary University of Georgia football player who won the 1982 Heisman Trophy.
“There are a lot of young people here now, yes, that excites me. “Some of you may not remember, but Herschel Walker was a great football player,” Obama said. “He was amazing in college. One of the greatest runners of all time. But here’s the question: Does that make him the best person to represent you in the US Senate? Does that make him ready to weigh in on important decisions about our economy, our foreign policy and our future?”
Obama then joked that just because Walker won the Heisman doesn’t mean viewers won’t let him fly the plane or perform surgery on them without knowing he’s qualified.
“By the way, there is an opposite. “Maybe you like me as president, but you don’t want me to follow the dogs,” he said. “I mean, can you imagine my slow, skinny old self hitting a 300-pound defensive tackle running a 4.6 40 (yard dash)? You should have killed me off the field. No, I can’t. No, I can’t. I’m good at a lot of things, but it’s not one of my favorite things.’
But then Obama became a Republican.
“There’s very little evidence that he’s ever had any interest, any curiosity, or any desire to do public service or volunteer or help people in any way,” Obama said, later claiming it was Walker in a nod to Trump. “a celebrity who wanted to be a politician and we saw how that turned out.”
Obama then brought up Walker’s “character issues,” an apparent reference to allegations that he paid two women to terminate her pregnancies.
Walker, who has previously advocated for a national abortion ban, denied the allegations.
Obama said Walker “has a habit of not telling the truth, of saying one thing and doing another, of following certain rules for you and your important friends and different rules for everyone else.”
“It tells you what kind of leader you will be,” he added. “If a candidate’s primary qualification is that he’s going to be loyal to Donald Trump, that means he doesn’t really care about you or your needs.”
Walker retracted Obama’s comments in a statement on Saturday.
“President Obama was here last night. He said I am famous. He misunderstood, didn’t he? “I’m not a celebrity, I’m a soldier for God,” the GOP candidate said.
Walker also said he would pray for Obama, who endorsed Warnock and said he picked the “wrong horse.”
“He needs help because he got it under the wrong name. Senator Warnock is a misnomer. “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 ramp up his anti-Walker rhetoric — Warnock also called out his Republican opponent by name in his introduction speech.
Expressing his concern that the race among Democrats is tight, Warnock urged Georgians to think about the consequences of the election: “Vote is your voice, your voice is your human dignity.”
In a speech to a standing ovation from the crowd, Warnock directly challenged his opponent – echoing Obama’s criticism that Walker was unprepared.
“Simply put, Herschel Walker is not ready,” Warnock said. “He’s not ready. He is not ready. Not only was he not ready, he was wrong.’
Warnock, who said his Republican challenger was struggling with 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 jobs? and our future?’
Although Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams spoke at the event, Obama paid less attention to Georgia’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp. Obama pointed to some of the voting laws passed by Kemp and Republicans in Georgia after the 2018 election, but they’re less straightforward.
Instead, the former president spoke more broadly about the midterm elections.
“I understand why people are worried. I understand why you are worried. “I understand why it can be tempting to just tune in, watch football or ‘Dancing with the Stars,'” Obama said. if we all fight for it. The only way to save democracy is if we educate and fight for it together.”
He added: “The main question you’re asking yourself right now is who is going to fight for you? Who cares about you? Who is watching you? Who will believe you? This is a choice in the election.”
Although Obama spent less time in the gubernatorial race, the arena chanted “Stacey! Stacey! Stacey!” Abrams appeared on stage in front of the former president. He pointed to Obama’s re-election history in 2008 and 2012, and called on voters to believe that he can beat Kemp.
“We defied conventional wisdom to replace the joints,” Abrams said, “and we’re going to do it again, Georgia, we’re going to do it again.”
He added: “We’ve defied history time and time again and we’ll do it on November 8 because that’s who we are. We are one Georgia and we believe in ourselves and tomorrow.”
Hours before Obama’s arrival, long lines formed around the Gateway Center Arena in College Park, just outside of Atlanta. Helpers with clipboards and laptop computers made their way through the crowd to sign up for a door-to-door volunteer campaign this weekend.
Most importantly, officials say, the event is an organizational tool.
“Having President Obama here shows that we’re still fighting, we’re moving toward Election Day,” Georgia Democratic Party Chairwoman Nikema Williams told CNN. “It’s about connecting people who are still looking for inspiration and interesting voters in this election cycle.”
More than 1.3 million people had voted in Georgia by Friday, with one week left in the early voting period, according to the secretary of state.
At the arena, a DJ warmed up the crowd of about 6,000 people, who waved to Warnock, Abrams and other state and local candidates on the Democratic ballot.
“Vote early, now before November 4th,” shouted big blue signs across the arena. “Election Day: November 8.”
This story has been updated with additional reaction.