early and often

GOP’s Strategy to Save Herschel Walker: Ignore His Son, Attack the Abortion Story

Can Walker like his patron Trump dodge really damaging allegations? Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer; Photo: ERIK S LESSER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

In the fast-moving firestorm of allegations that threatens to consume the Senate candidacy of Georgia Republican Herschel Walker, the GOP strategy to save the battered former football legend is quickly becoming clear. Republicans are going all out to attack the Fake Liberal Media outlet that has come up with a lot of the character-diminishing charges against Walker — most recently, the claim that he encouraged and paid for a 2009 abortion for a girlfriend he impregnated — while ignoring the potentially more damaging simultaneous charges by the candidate’s son. And that’s shrewd, since Christian Walker is a conservative social media star who is boldly claiming that the image at the heart of his father’s campaign is completely fraudulent and based on countless lies.

As one might expect, Herschel’s old friend and political patron, the 45th president of the United States, is showing the way:

It’s vintage Donald Trump: sweepingly denying the abortion claim reported by the Daily Beast as a media fabrication while indistinctly alluding to rumors about Raphael Warnock that Trump, of course, is too decent to repeat, at least so far. And there’s no reference to the inconvenient fact that Christian, a longtime fan of both Trump and DeSantis, is calling bullshit on the entire Walker 2024 enterprise.

Other national Republicans are taking the same tack, as NBC News reports:

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, stood by Walker on Tuesday in an aggressive statement describing the [abortion] report as a smear — without saying which parts were false.

“When the Democrats are losing, as they are right now, they lie and cheat and smear their opponents. That’s what’s happening right now. They know they are on the verge of losing the Senate, and they know that Herschel Walker is winning, so they have cranked up the smear machine,” Scott said. “Herschel has denied these allegations and the NRSC and Republicans stand with him, and Georgians will stand with him too….”

Georgia Republican and Christian-right leader Ralph Reed made a particularly revealing comparison, according to the New York Times:

[Reed] compared the report’s timing to that of the “Access Hollywood” recording that threatened Mr. Trump’s bid in the final weeks of the 2016 campaign. “We’ve seen this movie before,” Mr. Reed said. “They’re trying to take down a good man.”

So the truth or falsity of the allegations is beside the point: It’s all about “their” team trying to beat “our” team. And “they” refers indiscriminately to both the news media and the Democratic Party.

It probably helps this tactic that the media outlet publishing this and earlier charges damaging to Walker derives its name ironically from the name of a fictional British newspaper satirized in a 1945 Evelyn Waugh novel. In MAGA land, where there probably aren’t a lot of Waugh readers, the Daily Beast probably sounds a lot like the official news outlet of the Antichrist.

Whether the ignore-the-son, attack-The-Beast strategy works may depend a lot on how far Christian is willing to take his sudden effort to call his father’s heroic image into extreme doubt. But as the Access Hollywood precedent shows, there may be almost nothing Walker can do to forfeit Republican support. They need that Senate seat badly. Everything else is just noise to be countered with noise.

GOP Strategy to Save Herschel Walker: Ignore His Son