Oct 4, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Republicans double down on Herschel Walker

Photo illustration of Herschel Walker and elephant trunks.

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photo: James Gilbert/Getty Images

Republicans and anti-abortion movement leaders doubled down on their support for embattled Georgia Senate nominee Herschel Walker, one day after a detailed report he's denied that alleges Walker paid for a then-girlfriend to have an abortion in 2009.

Why it matters: Without a Walker victory, Republicans' path to the Senate majority depends largely on Mehmet Oz's campaign in Pennsylvania.

The latest: "We are full speed ahead in Georgia. 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," said Senate Leadership Fund president Steven Law, whose super PAC has spent or reserved $37.1 million in the race.

  • "Herschel Walker has denied these allegations in the strongest possible terms and we stand firmly alongside him," said Mallory Carroll, spokeswoman for Women Speak Out PAC, the super PAC partner of SBA Pro-Life America. The group said it will continue organizing voters for Walker on the ground through Election Day.
  • Former President Donald Trump, who urged Walker to run, defended him in a statement saying Walker is being "slandered and maligned."
  • The National Republican Senatorial Committee told Axios it stands by Walker. NRSC chairman Rick Scott charged in a statement that Democrats "know they are on the verge of losing the Senate" and "have cranked up the smear machine."

Walker appeared at a prayer luncheon in Atlanta today, from which media was barred. Salleigh Grubbs, chair of the Cobb County GOP, who attended the event, told Axios: "Everybody was supportive of him. They were very loving and very kind and very engaged.”

  • Grubbs said the latest attack has not affected her support for Walker: "I think there are things that happen in everyone’s personal life. I’m not dissuaded and I don’t think any voters should be dissuaded.”

The big question: Will this resolve be shaken by new developments including Walker's son Christian Walker, a 23-year-old conservative TikTok influencer, accusing his father of lying about his personal life?

In a series of public posts, he also accused social conservatives of hypocrisy around family values.

  • Georgia-based conservative commentator Erick Erickson wrote: “Georgia Republicans overnight were burning up my phone with text messages. It didn’t hit home for them until Christian Walker started his tweets, largely throwing his dad under the bus.”
  • North Georgia conservative talk show host Martha Zoller told Axios that on her show this morning she heard “from a number of people that have pause about what they’ve heard... they’d like to see him give a more robust not only defense but explanation.”

The other side: Democrats tell us the controversy could be particularly damaging with suburban women and rural Black voters — two key constituencies they argue are necessary to win the state. Republicans have so far been struggling to convince skeptical suburban women across the country.

Between the lines: Republicans are already downbeat on their chances of unseating vulnerable Democratic senators in Arizona and New Hampshire because of flawed nominees.

  • Georgia now threatens to become a third missed opportunity for Senate Republicans.
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