McConnell, who has privately expressed his deep considerations with Walker’s potential candidacy, met this summer time with Loeffler and Perdue. He can also be assembly this week with one other potential candidate — former Trump nationwide safety official Latham Saddler — in line with a supply accustomed to the scenario. The supply mentioned that McConnell is more likely to meet with other candidates as effectively.

Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a prime McConnell ally, appeared skeptical a few Walker candidacy.

“All I know is what I read in the paper,” Cornyn mentioned Wednesday. “I want to win that race, and so I want the best nominee. I don’t know whether he’s it.”

Walker, a Georgia native who presently lives in Texas, has but to say whether or not he’ll run. But Trump’s public pining for his old friend has been sufficient to freeze some potential candidates from coming into the sphere, even as there are rising alarms in regards to the former Georgia Bulldog working again’s potential candidacy.

Eric Tanenblatt, a veteran Georgia Republican operative, instructed NCS that whereas “there’s a lot of excitement among some in the base” about Walker, there’s additionally “a lot of unknowns” in regards to the political newcomer.

“I think in the last couple of weeks, there have been some things reported in the media that have caused people to take pause,” Tanenblatt mentioned.

Three outstanding Georgia consultants — Nick Ayers, Austin Chambers and Paul Bennecke — engaged in casual talks with Walker this summer time, in line with a number of GOP sources. But all three declined to work on his Senate marketing campaign. Ayers instructed NCS he is spoken to a number of present or potential Senate candidates on a merely advisory foundation.

“I’ve spoken to all of them and given them all advice,” mentioned Ayers, the previous chief of employees to Vice President Mike Pence. Ayers added that whereas he “hit it off” with Walker, he made it clear he wouldn’t be working for any Senate candidates.

While Walker is a Georgia soccer icon, the AP report and lack of a political operation haven’t impressed confidence throughout a lot of the party. Three Republican candidates — Georgia agriculture commissioner Gary Black, development agency proprietor Kelvin King, and Saddler — have already introduced their campaigns.

When requested if he would drop out of the race if Walker jumps in, Saddler instructed NCS on Wednesday: “It doesn’t matter who wants to get into this race. It will have zero effect on our campaign and our strategy.”

But Randy Evans, a Georgia lawyer and former ambassador to Luxembourg in the Trump administration, mentioned there is not any cause for Walker to leap into the Senate race now, until the newest studies begin to injury the potential candidate’s standing in the state. If Walker’s ballot numbers stay regular, Evans mentioned he did not see why Walker would make a transfer earlier than Labor Day.

“I think he’s about to get tested,” mentioned Evans.

Trump has recognized Walker since no less than 1984, when the then-owner of the United States Football League’s New Jersey Generals gave his star working again a contract extension. Trump’s allies hope that lengthy friendship might go a good distance in serving to unify the party after the previous President blasted GOP officers like Gov. Brian Kemp for accepting his loss in Georgia final yr. In December, Walker tweeted a video supporting Trump’s effort to overturn his loss. Trump responded, “Herschel is speaking the truth!”

Some Trump allies are standing firmly behind Walker, saying that having a celeb, conservative African-American would quantity to an excellent candidate towards Warnock, a progressive Democrat and one among three Black senators.

“He’s not the first person to struggle,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has spoken to Walker a few potential run, instructed NCS final week. “I’m told he spent the last couple days at a military base helping people through PTSD problems. He’s made that sort of his life’s work.”

Asked if he thought he’d nonetheless run, the South Carolina Republican mentioned: “I’d be surprised if he didn’t.”

A Walker aide didn’t reply to a number of requests for remark.

Recruiting the previous senators

Some Republicans are questioning whether or not one of many two former Georgia senators, Perdue and Loeffler, would rethink a marketing campaign. Loeffler, whom Warnock defeated by 2 factors in January, would probably run for the seat once more if Walker does not, in line with an individual accustomed to her considering.

After assembly with McConnell in June, Loeffler told NCS, “I haven’t ruled it out.”
Perdue, nevertheless, ruled out the prospect in February, per week after submitting paperwork with the Federal Election Commission.

Many Georgia Republican strategists privately say they would favor Perdue, who misplaced his reelection bid to Democrat Jon Ossoff by a few level in January, to run.

At a dinner for Republican donors in Washington final month, Perdue indicated he had nothing to say about whether or not he would launch one other Senate marketing campaign.

The donors responded to Perdue’s non-announcement with some light-hearted booing, in line with two individuals accustomed to the dinner, which was organized by the National Republican Senatorial Committee and attended by McConnell and NRSC chairman and Florida Sen. Rick Scott.

Scott has mentioned he is impartial in Senate primaries with no GOP incumbents. When requested if he had been involved by Walker in any manner, Scott mentioned, “I mean, he’s not in the race.”

“I’ve talked to him,” Scott added. “I tell everybody the same thing. If you’re going to get in, you have to be ready to do everything. … You got to go raise money, you got to go to debates, you got to do all these things.”

Walker biding his time

Walker lately instructed Fox News’ Sean Hannity that he would make an announcement “on my timetable.” But some Georgia Republicans need Walker to decide — now — in order to provide himself or the other candidates the time to construct the strongest doable marketing campaign towards Warnock, who already has a $10.5-million struggle chest.

“If Herschel Walker is committed to the Republican Party, he needs to get out and announce he’s running, or he needs to announce he’s not, and let the other candidates be given a chance to get support from others that may be holding back, waiting on him,” mentioned Tanenblatt.

Some Senate candidates have impressed Republicans in the state, significantly Saddler, a 38 year-old banking govt and veteran Navy SEAL, who raised greater than $1.4 million in the second quarter of the yr, greater than Black and King mixed.

In an interview with NCS, Saddler mentioned that Georgians “miss the America First policy agenda.” He mentioned two of the highest issues he hears on the marketing campaign path is a battle to seek out employees and a insecurity in elections. Saddler mentioned he helps a Fulton County audit and wouldn’t say whether or not Trump or Joe Biden gained the 2020 election regardless of a number of recounts exhibiting Biden’s 11,779-vote victory in the state.

“I’m still waiting to see what is surfacing from these audits and investigations on that front,” mentioned Saddler. “Once all the information is out there, I look forward to sharing my opinion on it.”

Saddler declined to substantiate he’d meet with McConnell this week, however acknowledged he can be in Washington for “a number of meetings.” The GOP chief additionally declined to remark about his views on the Georgia race.

Other Republicans are watching Walker intently.

Rep. Buddy Carter, a Georgia Republican who has beforehand mentioned he would run for the Senate seat if Walker passes on a bid, dismissed the AP report in regards to the Heisman Trophy-winner’s previous.

“Herschel is fine. I think Herschel is going to run, and I know he’s going to win,” Carter mentioned. “I don’t think there’s anything new [that] came out that hasn’t already been out there. Herschel is a strong person.”

At least one candidate, Commissioner Black, is taking Walker head-on.

Black, who has gained statewide races since 2010, questioned whether or not Walker would really run in a digital advert launched Monday. The advert opens with a clip from a cryptic June video Walker posted on social media that exhibits him revving the engine of a automotive with a Georgia license plate. Walker, who retired from the Dallas Cowboys in 1997, presently lives in Texas.

In the US Capitol on Wednesday, Warnock was bullish about his possibilities subsequent yr.

“I think once I have an opponent from the other side, I’ll be prepared to defeat whoever they put up,” Warnock instructed NCS.

As for the damaging studies about Walker’s previous, Warnock mentioned: “I haven’t seen it.”