Sep 29, 2022 - News

Another Herschel Walker attack ad, but are they working?

Archived footage of Herschel Walker's ex-wife Cindy Grossman in a new attack ad. Screengrab: courtesy of Georgia Honor

Democrats continue to hammer Republican U.S. senate hopeful Herschel Walker for his alleged history of domestic violence, but with the race still tied, some question whether the issue is making an impact with voters.

Driving the news: Georgia Honor, a group aligned with the Democratic-leaning Senate Majority PAC, Thursday released another ad — first shared with Axios — highlighting past reports of Walker's violent threats against women, including his ex-wife Cindy Grossman.

  • It's part of the PAC's previously announced $33 million fall television advertising buy in Georgia.
  • The ad ends with a call to "Google Herschel Walker violence."

Why it matters: Republicans have long feared what millions spent on these tough stories might do to Walker's standing against incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.).

  • But after two months of ads focused on the Republican's alleged history of domestic violence, polling averages show the race is still deadlocked and within the margin of error.

The other side: Walker told Axios in December he's “accountable” for past violent behavior toward his ex-wife, which he said stemmed from dissociative identity disorder. But he maintains that today his mental health is treated and "healed."

Catch up quick: In August, the Republican Accountability Project spent about $100,000 on an ad focused on the Republican's history with domestic violence, and Georgia Honor has ramped up its own attacks in the last month. The Warnock campaign itself also ran an attack ad on the topic over the last two weeks.

  • One of Walker's GOP primary opponents, Gary Black, warned this spring that Walker's past would make him unelectable.

The intrigue: Stephen Lawson, a Republican strategist who works for a Walker-aligned PAC, 34N22, said he estimates between $6 million to $8 million have been spent on this line of attack, without much visible effect.

  • He warned negative messages running often can “reach the point of diminishing return where people see it so much and just start to tune it out."
  • Lawson, who has worked for former Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), said Loeffler's campaign made that mistake in the runoffs last year with Warnock attacks.

What they're saying: Walker supporter Diane Williams of Alpharetta told Axios that the attack ads make her feel "really sad" about the state of politics. "He has come through all of that. And today I think today he’s just as solid as anybody," Williams said.

  • Democrats "spent millions attacking Herschel and they are running scared because it hasn’t made a difference," Walker's communications director Will Kiley told Axios in a statement.
  • “Voters deserve to know the truth about who Herschel Walker really is,” said Senate Majority PAC spokesperson Veronica Yoo in a statement.

Zoom out: In the first two weeks of September, Georgia saw the second-highest number of political ads in a Senate race. According to the Wesleyan Media Project, Democrats aired about 7,000 to Republicans' 4,500.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to add further detail about the scale of advertising buys attacking Walker.

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