Sen. Lindsey Graham on Thursday blasted critics of Georgia Republican Senate nominee Herschel Walker, accusing them of trying to "destroy" the first-time political candidate to "deter young people of color" from joining the GOP.
During an appearance on the Fox News program "Hannity," the South Carolina Republican told host Sean Hannity that if Democratic opponents of Walker were able to derail the former NFL player's Senate Dec. 6 runoff campaign against incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock, then it would discourage younger minorities — who largely back Democrats — from embracing a conservative message.
"Here's the most important point I'm going to make tonight. They're trying to destroy Herschel to deter young men and women of color from being Republicans," Graham said. "If they destroy Herschel, it will deter people of color from wanting to be a conservative Republican because you just have your life ruined. We cannot let that happen. We need to have his back."
Graham's message then took on a more emotional tone, with the four-term senator seeking to make the case that a victory or defeat by Walker would take on a larger meaning than that of a typical politician.
"If Herschel wins, he's going to inspire people all over Georgia of color to become Republicans, and I say all over the United States. Herschel Walker is a nightmare for liberals. He's an African-American conservative. They have belittled him. They have treated him like crap ... his family," he said.
"Stand by Herschel tonight. If you can give, give. If you know somebody that can give, ask them to do it. The conservative movement for people of color is on the ballot in Georgia. We must help people like Herschel for the benefit for our country and the future of conservatism," he added.
Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison, who lost to Graham in the South Carolina Senate election two years ago, on Friday responded to Graham on MSNBC's "The ReidOut" by calling his former opponent "a bit unhinged."
"He's part of the extreme MAGA Republicans that we see right now that are making people lose faith in this process," Harrison said. "I wish Lindsey would go back to the old Lindsey Graham. But this is what we see."
The race between Warnock and Walker is headed to a runoff election since neither candidate hit the 50% threshold of victory mandated by Georgia law. With most precincts in the state reporting, Warnock was ahead 49.4%-48.5%, with the incumbent Democrat receiving 1,941,796 votes to 1,906,392 for Walker, per Insider and DDHQ.
Warnock, the senior pastor of Atlanta's historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, was elected to the Senate in a January 2021 runoff election to fill the remaining term of Republican Johnny Isakson and is seeking a full six-year term.
Walker, a former University of Georgia football standout, is backed by former President Donald Trump
and most of the Republican establishment on Capitol Hill, who are now going all out in an effort to boost his runoff campaign.
While Walker was overwhelmingly embraced by the state's large base of conservative votes, he significantly underperformed Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who were easily reelected on Tuesday. The dropoff was especially significant in Atlanta's populous suburbs, which have fueled Democratic gains in the state in recent years.
Walker during the general election campaign faced allegations that he paid for women to have abortions in the past, which he has vehemently denied.