Florida Sen. Rick Scott, chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, will travel to Georgia on Tuesday to stump for GOP Senate candidate Herschel Walker, whose campaign is engulfed in an evolving scandal after reports that he asked a woman to have two abortions.
The Georgia Senate seat, currently held by Sen. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, is crucial to GOP hopes of controlling Congress and the latest developments are testing conservatives’ commitment to winning at all costs.
“The Democrats want to destroy this country, and they will try to destroy anyone who gets in their way,” Scott said over the weekend in a statement. “Today it’s Herschel Walker, but tomorrow it’s the American people.”
“I’m proud to stand with Herschel Walker and make sure Georgians know that he will always fight to protect them from the forces trying to destroy Georgia values and Georgia’s economy, led by Raphael Warnock.”
The Daily Beast reported last week that Walker paid for a woman to have an abortion in 2009. The woman also told The New York Times that Walker tried convincing her to have a second abortion two years later, but she refused and gave birth to a son , who is one of Walker’s four children.
As a candidate, Walker supports a full ban on abortion, with no exceptions.
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Also heading to Georgia on Tuesday to back Walker is Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, and over the weekend a chorus of Republicans admitted they plan to stick with Walker for no other reason than the seat is too important to their chances of controlling the chamber – an admission that showcases the difficulty the Republican Party finds in the run-up to Election Day. Though polls are tight, the Red Wave they once anticipated appears to be unlikely. In many ways, it’s a problem of their own making.
Walker has yet to admit any wrongdoing, vacillating between denying the story altogether – “flat-out lie,” he said initially – to asking the Holy Father for forgiveness, depending on who is interviewing him.
“Had that happened, I would have said it, because it’s nothing to be ashamed of there,” Walker said in an interview with conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt last week when asked whether there is anything he needs to be forgiven for.
“You know, people have done that, but I know nothing about it,” he continued. “And if I knew about it, I would be honest and talk about it, but I know nothing about that.”
At a rally over the weekend, Warnock told reporters that Walker “has trouble with the truth,” but steered clear of addressing the directly.
“It’s up to Georgia voters. It’s not up to him, it’s not up to me,” Warnock said. “We do know that my opponent has trouble with the truth. And we’ll see how all this plays out, but I am focused squarely on the health care needs of my components, including reproductive health care.”
But if the actions of Scott and other GOP leaders in the wake of the bombshell reporting are indicative of anything – there’s little to nothing else Walker could say during the debate that would result in the Republican Party withdrawing its support. As conservative commentators were quick to point out in the immediate aftermath of the Daily Beast’s report, the goal is to win at any cost.
“Does this change anything,” asked Dana Loesch, the former spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association. “I am concerned about one thing, and one thing only at this point. I don’t care if Herschel Walker paid to abort endangered baby eagles. I want control of the Senate.”
And while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who blessed Walker’s campaign with an endorsement during the Republican primary, has been silent on the most recent developments, the Senate Leadership Fund – the biggest Senate Republican super PAC that’s aligned with McConnell – is continuing with more than $34 million in television ads in the state in support of Walker.
“If you think the GOP is going to abandon Walker over this, it’s like what planet are you on,” Joe Trippi, a Democratic campaign strategist who has worked on presidential, gubernatorial, Senate and House races, said on his podcast Monday morning.
“The right is coalescing around Walker, from the federalists arguing he is the lesser of two evils to watching evangelicals praying for him,” he said. “This is where the GOP is now. It really doesn’t matter what you’ve done. What’s really important for 2024 is power. Period. Accept anything to get it.
In past midterm election years, someone like Walker would be cast as a fringe candidate that squeaked through due to a rare combination of unforeseen circumstances. But in the latest era of GOP politics dominated by former President Donald Trump, where the most zealous candidates rise to the top in primaries, it’s more the rule than the exception this year. Indeed, the current election cycle boasts 299 Republicans candidates running for Senate, House, governor and state positions who have denied the results of the 2020 election, a Washington Post investigation found.
“The fringe is the mainstream now for the Republican Party,” Trippi said. “The extremism in the party is tainting all their candidates now. And we’re seeing crazier and crazier stuff.”
And for evangelicals and conservative Christians – whose faith was tested during former President Donald Trump’s tenure and who ultimately overlooked character flaws in exchange for political power – their continued support of Walker despite the new revelations, is the latest and most extreme example of how this 2022 crop of candidates is forcing voting blocks to suspend reality.
“Folks, it’s time to acknowledge that ‘evangelical’ is no longer a Christian religious label but a political one focused on political power more than faith,” former Sen. Doug Jones, Alabama Democrat, said in a tweet over the weekend. “Walker’s opponent is an ordained minister whose life has been a demonstration of faith and service.”