Things are largely looking up for Republicans after a brutal summer. As gas prices and fears of a recession rise, the GOP has begun to make gains in tight Senate races, raising the possibility that it will control both chambers of Congress come January. Races in Pennsylvania and Arizona increasingly look like toss-ups, while Ron Johnson appears to be pulling ahead in Wisconsin. For the first time since June—and with the midterms just one month away—the Republican Party has clear momentum.
Only Herschel Walker—arguably the worst Republican Senate candidate of the worst crop of Republican Senate candidates in history—could fail to capitalize on what is, otherwise, a moment built for the GOP. On Monday, over the course of a few crazy hours, the already embattled Walker was thrust into two of the biggest crises of his campaign. First, The Daily Beast reported that Walker—who has billed himself as a Christian family man but had already acknowledged having four children outside of his marriage—had paid for a woman to have an abortion in 2009. Shortly thereafter, his 23-year-old son, Christian Walker—a rising right-wing media star himself—tweeted that his father had abused him and his mother.
“You’re not a ‘family man’ when you left us to [have sex with] a bunch of women, threatened to kill us, and had us move over 6 times in 6 months running from your violence,” Christian Walker tweeted Monday evening. “[H]ow DARE YOU LIE and act as though you’re some ‘moral, Christian, upright man.’ You’ve lived a life of DESTROYING other peoples lives. How dare you.”
It wasn’t the first time that Herschel Walker’s hypocrisy had threatened to undo his campaign. Earlier this summer he acknowledged—amid unrelated reports about his business failures and that he’d lied about his law enforcement credentials—having at least four children by women he was not married to. As New York’s Ed Kilgore observed, these scandals tarnished Herschel Walker’s carefully cultivated self-image as a self-sacrificing man who used his faith to overcome a number of hurdles, including mental illness which had led to past violent behavior. On Monday, it felt like that house of cards finally came crashing down: Herschel Walker’s presentation as a humble man of faith looks increasingly like a sham.
Herschel Walker threatened to sue The Daily Beast—though not his son Christian, whom he tweeted he “loves no matter what”—for defamation on Monday evening and claimed he would be filing suit on Tuesday morning. That has yet to happen, a suggestion that Herschel Walker and his campaign may have gotten cold feet based on the possibility of discovery—or that they never intended to do anything but just wanted to get the threat into headlines. In any case, the story seems airtight: The Daily Beast has literal receipts and a “get well soon” card from Herschel Walker.
In spite of all of this—and in spite of the fact that this wave of scandals may very well have doomed Herschel Walker’s chances against Democrat Raphael Warnock—the GOP is sticking with their man. “Republicans stand with him, and Georgians will stand with him, too,” Rick Scott, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said in a statement that labeled The Daily Beast’s report a “smear.” Despite the clear evidence, Republicans across the country are sticking with Herschel Walker.
One way of looking at this is that Republicans have overlearned lessons from Trump’s Access Hollywood moment. There they learned that there was no political gain for turning against one of their own—and that doing so could cause a backlash, both from voters and from other Republicans and right-wingers. But it’s still not clear if those lessons apply to candidates beyond Donald Trump. In any case, Herschel Walker’s hypocrisy on abortion has effectively been nationalized.
But another way of looking at this is as just deserts for the GOP. Herschel Walker was a self-evidently bad candidate from the beginning. His history of domestic violence was known before the other damning allegations emerged. He has no history in politics and often seems perplexed by even the most basic questions about policy. He was selected in large part because of his loyalty to Donald Trump and his name recognition as a former NFL All-Pro. That was it. There was a time when Republicans could have cut bait, but that moment is long gone. They’re stuck with Herschel Walker. They deserve him.