This article appeared in the October 07, 2022 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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Candidate quality and the case of Herschel Walker

Akili-Casundria Ramsess/AP
Herschel Walker, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate for Georgia, speaks at a primary watch party on May 23, 2022, at the Foundry restaurant in Athens, Georgia. A woman who said Mr. Walker paid for her 2009 abortion is the mother of one of his children, according to a new report released Oct. 5, 2022, undercutting the Republican Senate candidate's claims that he did not know who she was.
Linda Feldmann
Washington Bureau Chief

For Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker, it’s been a rough week. Already saddled with reports of alleged domestic abuse, revelations of previously unacknowledged children, and admitted mental health challenges, the Georgia football legend now faces reporting that he paid for a former girlfriend’s abortion – a charge he denies.

The allegation raises the specter of hypocrisy, given Mr. Walker’s support for a ban on abortion with no exceptions, a view he says is faith-based.

The Daily Beast has cited documentation to back up the abortion story, and subsequently reported that the same woman gave birth to a child fathered by Mr. Walker, which he also denies. After the initial allegation, the candidate’s son Christian Walker, a conservative influencer, came out forcefully against his father. Late Friday, The New York Times reported that the elder Mr. Walker had urged the woman to have a second abortion, but she chose to have their son. At time of writing, Mr. Walker had not responded to requests for comment from the Times.

The stakes are sky high. Most polls show Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, slightly ahead. If Mr. Walker falls short in his effort to capture this seat, the GOP’s odds of winning back control of the 50-50 Senate grow steeper.

But in modern politics, personal failings aren’t an automatic disqualifier. Former President Donald Trump, whose endorsement vaulted Mr. Walker to the Republican nomination, demonstrated that late in the 2016 election, when he survived the leak of a video in which he bragged about crudely grabbing women. Then there’s former President Bill Clinton, who survived his own sex scandal, and years later said he regretted lying about it but felt it was necessary to save his presidency.

So far, at least, many conservatives are standing by Mr. Walker, saying his policy positions matter more than his private life. In this polarized era, that’s an increasingly common stance. Mr. Walker’s defenders also complain that the media have been silent on Senator Warnock’s personal life, including a contentious divorce.

Still, in a close race, a scandal that turns off independent voters or even a small percentage of the base can make the difference. The postmortems after these midterms may be interesting.

This article appeared in the October 07, 2022 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 10/07 edition
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