Walker abortion story tests if October surprises matter in GA in 2022

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A report that Georgia Republican Herschel Walker personally paid for a girlfriend’s abortion in 2009, which would seem to be one of the more startling October surprises in recent memory, will test if such scandals matter to voters as much in such a deeply-divided country.

The fiercely anti-abortion former NFL star, who is running for Senate, called The Daily Beast’s story ­— which hasn’t been independently verified by USA TODAY — “a flat-out lie.”

But political observers are wondering if such a bombshell, which in years past might have been a fatal blow for a campaign, will make a difference.

Does the latest Walker scandal change anything?

“Quite frankly, I think any question like that needs to be retired — it’s defunct,” said Kendra Cotton, chief operating officer with the New Georgia Project, a progressive-leaning voting rights group in the Peach State. 

“I mean, (the) 2016 (presidential election) showed us that nothing is a game changer, and that anything can be overcome”, she said.

Cotton and others say in a political era defined by former President Donald Trump, who brushed aside similarly personal accusations during his 2016 campaign, even a national bombshell isn’t likely to end Walker’s campaign.

Walker has been beset by multiple controversies surrounding his personal life since announcing his challenge to Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock. The race is viewed by many as one of the GOP’s best chances to flip a seat this fall. 

With a 50-50 Senate, narrowly controlled by Democrats because of Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote, even gaining one seat could shift control of the upper chamber to Republicans.

Former Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, a Republican who represented Georgia in Congress, said most Georgians have already made up their minds.

“I do think this is going to hurt Herschel in the long run, if he doesn’t win this seat… but right now, I think there’s a lot of people, whether they are upset with it or not upset with it, will vote for Herschel,” he said.

“I think it’s more voting for a Republican than it is right now voting for an individual.”

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Defying expectations?

What makes this revelation somewhat different, however, is Walker’s son, Christian, a popular conservative political commentator, accusing him on Tuesday of being a liar and blasting conservatives for continuing to support him.

“It’s the hypocrisy of it that is so damning in this situation,” Cotton said.

The Walker campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Walker supports a total ban on abortions, without exceptions for rape, incest or the life of the mother, and has criticized absentee fathers.

People protest following the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022.

Many Republicans who spoke up Tuesday, including Trump, declared the latest controversy nothing more than a “distraction” by Democrats and the media against the embattled contender.

Trump, as a candidate, survived the airing of an “Access Hollywood” recording where he was on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women in the final weeks of the 2016 campaign.

Walker’s candidacy, much like Trump, has been fueled by his celebrity as a running back for 12 seasons in the NFL and has already weathered allegations that he threatened to kill his ex-wife during their marriage. He has also acknowledged having three additional children whom he has not talked about publicly; his record as a businessman has come under scrutiny, as well.

Westmoreland said much like the former president, Walker could also defy political expectations and overcome this most recent scandal.

“I can’t even imagine another candidate that has been brought out more information on and still be slightly ahead in the polls,” he said. “Anybody else other than Herschel Walker and maybe Donald Trump, I have no idea, but I can’t even imagine.”

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