(CNN) — Herschel Walker is trying a novel approach in his race against Sen. Raphael Warnock in Georgia: Don’t expect too much out of me, I’m just not that smart.
Walker’s new spin comes specifically in reference to next month’s planned debate between the two candidates.
“I’m this country boy. I’m not that smart. And he’s that preacher. He’s a smart man, wears these nice suits,” Walker said of Warnock at a recent press conference filmed by the Savannah Morning News. “So he’s going to show up and embarrass me at the debate October the 14th, and I’m just waiting. I’ll show up and I’m going to do my best.”
Which, well, ok.
It is pretty apparent what Walker is doing — or trying to do — here. He desperately wants to lower expectations in advance of the debate in hopes of clearing a very low bar and coming out of the event with momentum for the final weeks of the campaign.
And so, Walker is trying to paint himself as a simple man — and a man of the people — in contrast to Warnock. Of course Warnock should win the debate, the logic goes, so if Walker can even make it through their time on stage together, that should count as a victory.
Walker may also be trying to use this whole regular guy vibe to explain away his past struggles on the campaign trail. He has, to date, speculated about America’s “good air” floating to China, given a nonsensical answer on gun control, falsely claimed to be in law enforcement, and publicly acknowledged having three children with women he wasn’t married to.
It’s been a rough go of things — to say the least. And yet, recent polls show the race remains quite close.
(Sidebar: Walker also brought in a more professional team over the summer — including veteran GOP operative Gail Gitcho — and has benefited from a more disciplined message.)
The question going forward is whether Walker’s “I’m not that smart” line is part of a concerted strategy from his campaign or just another gaffe committed by a first-time candidate who has struggled mightily to adapt to the pace and requirements of the campaign trail.
The Point: Walker has been an unsteady candidate — at best — and is still running very close to Warnock. Can this latest gambit lower expectations enough to give him a debate win as long as he looks moderately able?