Warnock Vs. Walker: Five Big Takeaways From Their Only Debate

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“Herschel did a good job of keeping expectations low.”

On Friday night, incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, a Baptist pastor, and Republican challenger Herschel Walker, a former football star, convened for a debate in Savannah, Georgia to answer questions about the policy issues Americans routinely rank as most important: Things like Abortion. Healthcare. Crime.

Warnock’s assignment was to prove he should keep the job. Walker’s mandate was proving he was fit for it. Friday was the only chance they would get to make their respective cases on the same stage, their first and only face-to-face debate before the election. And with the polls showing a less than 4-point margin in a state where Warnock won his last election by just 2 percentage points, the stakes of the candidates’ answers to questions about these issues couldn’t have been higher.

Walker has been characterized as sounding incoherent at times. Just this week at a rally, he shared a strange story about a bull who abandoned three pregnant cows to visit cows on the other side of the fence. Apparently, Walker was trying to explain that the grass is not always greener on the other side, because the cows across the fence ended up being male bulls. But the metaphor unintentionally evoked the recent bombshell allegations against Walker—that the staunch anti-abortion advocate has been credibly accused of pressuring a woman to get an abortion and paying for it. He’s also been accused of being an absentee father, not unlike the bull who leapt the fence.

Walker’s showing on Friday included a few head-scratchers, but was overall less bizarre than even his supporters were anticipating. “Herschel did a good job of keeping expectations low,” Walker surrogate Ralph Reed told reporters after the debate. “People said he can’t string three sentences together, [and that] he doesn’t know the issues. But that’s not what you saw on the stage.”

Based on crowd reaction, Warnock also had a strong showing, replete with several jabs.

Warnock was questioned about his ex-wife’s request for a child support increase because she felt Warnock’s Senate duties have left her on the hook for high child care expenses. Warnock used the opportunity to subtly dig at accusations that Walker has not been present in his children’s lives. “My children know that I’m with them and for them, and then I support them in every single way,” he said. 

Here are five other takeaways from the show-down.

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