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Republicans look beyond Walker's defeat

But the sour taste of Tuesday's lost may linger as some point fingers.

ATLANTA — A prominent Republican activist blames anti-Trump Republicans for undermining Herschel Walker's campaign for the US Senate. Walker lost the runoff in a squeaker against the victorious Democrat, U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock.

Republicans had a good fall election in Georgia. But the loss of the U.S. senate race Tuesday has left a foul taste that may linger.

Walker was the one Republican on the statewide ballot who couldn’t win a majority in November and couldn’t win a runoff Tuesday. Yet Walker came close – despite issues in his personal life and an unpolished speaking style that sometimes worked against him.  

But one prominent Walker backer blames Republican Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan – who appeared on CNN repeatedly to lament Walker’s shortcomings as a candidate.

"You had hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of activists on the ground. And they were undercut by Geoff Duncan, when he pulled his little audition for CNN. And that was wrong and folks are livid," Debbie Dooley said, who has petitioned county Republican parties in Georgia to pass resolutions censuring Duncan. Duncan is leaving office in January after he declined to run for re-election.

Dooley is a vocal supporter of Donald Trump. Duncan has also fiercely criticized the former president, who urged Walker to run for the US Senate despite a deep well of experienced Republicans – like former congressman Doug Collins -- who declined to run when it became clear Trump had given Walker his blessing.

"No one had a worse year in Georgia than Donald Trump," Republican strategist Brian Robinson said, who says Brian Kemp’s re-election tops the evidence that Trump’s influence in Georgia is fading.  

Walker’s loss in the senate race likewise attests to Trump’s dwindling clout.

"Republicans haven’t rejected Trump policies," Robinson said.  "They will tell you in focus groups and polls they think he was great for America. But they're ready for change. They're ready for a new generation to step forward" to lead the GOP.

Dooley predicts Republicans in Georgia can come together even if Trump is marginalized.  But with a presidential run pending in 2024, Trump himself clearly hopes to remain the party’s central figure.

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