Republicans fear losing US Senate seat as Herschel Walker’s woes mount

Shannon McCaffrey and Greg Bluestein
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (TNS)

ATLANTA — Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Herschel Walker has so far weathered allegations he abused his ex-wife and exaggerated claims about his businesses.

He has survived revelations he fathered three children he had not publicly acknowledged. He brushed aside claims he lied about being in law enforcement and pushed past criticism of bizarre statements about coronavirus cures, climate change and evolution.

But Walker’s most-damaging blow might have come at the hands of his 23-year-old son.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker speaks to a crowd of voters while campaigning in Emerson, Georgia, on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022. (Natrice Miller/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

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Just weeks before the midterm election, a one-two punch on Monday — a Daily Beast story that accused Walker of paying for his then-girlfriend’s abortion in 2009, followed by a barrage of social media attacks from his adult son — have left the former football star’s candidacy in turmoil.

As Walker’s campaign aides hunkered down to plan damage control, Christian Walker showed no signs of letting up. He posted a new video Tuesday morning in which he laced into his father yet again.

“Everything has been a lie,” the younger Walker posted on Tuesday, adding: “I’m just saying don’t lie. Don’t lie on my mom. Don’t lie on me. Don’t lie on the lives you’ve destroyed and act like you’re some moral family man. Y’all should care about that, conservatives.”

Herschel Walker has denied paying for an abortion and said Tuesday that he would file a lawsuit against the The Daily Beast. By late afternoon there was no word that the promised legal suit had been filed.

Local Republicans watched the drama play out with alarm, and key national figures rallied to his aid. They don’t have much choice. It’s too late for his GOP critics to remove him from the ballot, and he still represents one of the best shots for Republicans to flip a Senate seat if he defeats Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock.

In a signal to supporters, Walker appeared at a long-planned “Prayer Warriors for Herschel” event at First Baptist Church in Dunwoody, where members of the media were barred from attending. Inside, attendees said, he was welcomed with a standing ovation.

And his most ardent allies predicted he would survive the fallout — and that GOP animosity for President Joe Biden would overwhelm concerns about Walker’s personal life.

“Warnock is tied to Biden, whose job approval stands at 37% in Georgia,” said Ralph Reed, a Republican activist and founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. “That will matter more than personal attacks against Herschel, which have not substantially changed the dynamics of this campaign.”

The fast-moving developments have some GOP figures despondent about Walker’s chances of defeating Warnock in a November race that could determine control of the U.S. Senate.

Conservative commentator Erick Erickson said the fallout is “probably a KO” for Walker’s midterm chances. Nicole Rodden, a former Republican House contender, blamed party leaders for backing a candidate who has “cost the GOP the U.S. Senate for a second time.”

Some prominent Georgia Republicans were more measured. Asked whether he continues to back Walker, GOP Attorney General Chris Carr avoided the question and instead attacked Gov. Brian Kemp’s Democratic opponent, Stacey Abrams.

Kemp’s office issued a statement that backed the GOP ticket but stopped short of pledging specific support for the former football star. Spokesman Cody Hall said Kemp is “laser-focused on sharing his record of results” and raising money to boost the campaign’s ground game.

“I fully realize what we’re doing on the ground helps our whole ticket. And I’m not doing this just for me,” Kemp told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday, before the Daily Beast story published. He added: “It’s also going to help Herschel. And that’s what my focus is going to continue to stay on.”

Even as Georgia Republicans worried their hope of defeating Warnock was circling the drain, prominent national Republicans reinforced their support for Walker, comparing the media scrutiny to other recent events that focused a harsh spotlight on conservative figures.

Former President Donald Trump, who in early 2021 urged Walker to run for office, told his supporters to stick with a “man who has true greatness in his future.” The National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Republican National Committee and other groups issued statements backing Walker and maligning the media.

”We are full speed ahead in Georgia,” said Steven Law of the Senate Leadership Fund, the well-financed group aligned with GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell. “This election is about the future of the country — Herschel Walker will make things better, Raphael Warnock is making it worse. Anything else is a distraction.”

Warnock has had little to say about his opponent’s woes, saying it is up to pundits to decide what impact the newest news will have on the race.

The Democrat has spent tens of millions of dollars in the race so far, and he announced Monday that he had raked in an additional $26 million in campaign donations over the past three months. Yet, despite the heavy spending and months of damaging news coverage on Walker, the race has remained a statistical dead heat.

In his campaign speeches, Walker routinely reminds supporters that he has overcome tough odds before.

“One thing about me is I’ve been knocked down and I’ve gotten up,” Walker said this summer at a “Women for Herschel” rally in Kennesaw. “And I have gotten up and done some amazing things after getting up.”