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Columns Tom Baxter

Another revelation, and worse, his wounded son, plague Walker’s campaign

By Tom Baxter

Before we get into where Herschel Walker’s campaign stands this week, we should pause for a moment to reflect on why it took so long for it to get there.

There have been attack ads every 15 minutes for what seems like months now, talking about how Walker put a gun to his ex-wife’s head, how he lied about his children and his resume. If these very direct attacks on the Republican Senate candidate’s character have had a decisive impact on his race, it hasn’t shown up in any polls. Walker and U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, two very human candidates, have for many voters been transformed into the knight and the bishop on a national political chessboard in which all that matters is control of the U.S. Senate.

Last week’s story in the Daily Beast might have been received as just another account of his deceptions and hypocrisy, except that it was about a former girlfriend’s allegation that he had paid for an abortion he urged her to get. That imbued it with a political importance to which no other moral failing of Walker’s had risen. His previous response to charges was that he was a changed man. This story he denied quickly and heatedly. His accuser has since alleged that she refused to have a second abortion and had a child by Walker.

Walker might well have been better off if he had refrained from comment about the story because it turned out not to be the worst thing that happened to him last week. The worst thing was the fiery response that Walker’s denial drew from his son, Christian Walker.

“I don’t care about someone who has a bad past and takes accountability. But how DARE YOU LIE and act as though you’re some moral, Christian, upright man,” the son wrote in one of a series of blistering tweets, followed by a widely viewed video.

Herschel Walker was a running back. Christian Walker is an influencer. It may come as a shock to those more familiar with his father, but Christian Walker has nearly a million followers on TikTok, Instagram and Twitter. He’s part of what amounts to a sub-genre of young, right-wing, sexually ambiguous social commentators whose worth is measured by their ability to aggravate their adversaries.

So the younger man has deep and unresolved feelings, which he has expressed in the past, about absentee fathers. He also has his own, political-ideological gig, mocking gay pride parades and calling out liberal college professors. Earlier in the year, these forces combined in such a way that he shared a stage with his father despite whatever misgivings he may have had about him running for office. Last week the same forces collided to ignite his impassioned rejection.

This week, we’ll have a Senatorial cleanup crew, Sen. Rick Scott of Florida and Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, in state to stump for the embattled candidate. It’s what senators with presidential ambitions do.

Walker last week fired his political director, which is not unusual when a campaign is in turmoil. It did seem odd that the aide reportedly was fired for leaking to the press, at a time when the Daily Beast abortion story and Christian Walker’s online rebuke were showering the press with a gusher of news. Who needed leaks?

It remains to be seen, still, how much this uproar will affect a race that has stayed within a fairly narrow range throughout the year. Friday night’s debate in Savannah is still on. It will be broadcast on several stations around the state as well as stations in South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama and Florida. It will be simulcast in Atlanta on the Georgia News Network and WSB AM radio.

At this point, the debate expectations for Walker are very low, and Warnock has to approach this encounter warily. For his part, Walker doesn’t have to answer for all the offenses aired by his son, but he does have to make some kind of case that he’s serious about being a senator for six years.

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Tom Baxter

Tom Baxter has written about politics and the South for more than four decades. He was national editor and chief political correspondent at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and later edited The Southern Political Report, an online publication, for four years. Tom was the consultant for the 2008 election night coverage sponsored jointly by Current TV, Digg and Twitter, and a 2011 fellow at the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas. He has written about the impact of Georgia’s and Alabama's immigration laws in reports for the Center for American Progress. Tom and his wife, Lili, have three adult children and seven grandchildren.

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2 Comments

  1. C. Lee October 11, 2022 10:57 am

    “For his part, Walker doesn’t have to answer for all the offenses aired by his son, but he does have to make some kind of case that he’s serious about being a senator for six years.”
    I don’t think he does not have to appear serious at all. The playbook has been clearly written: An inexperienced candidate, unfit for office, with a controversial (and usually not conservative) background and baggage, making outrageous, often nonsensical, and frequently inflammatory statements showing little to no grasp of things they need to understand in order to do the job. They are well supported (and adored, really) by Republicans at this point. I never thought I’d see a day when the Republican party consisted of people like this, but here we are. The Democrats just need to turn out to keep Warnock in office. Republicans here generally turn out to vote more; that needs to end if we don’t want people like Trump and Walker as very high-ranking public officials.Report

    Reply
  2. Katherine Helms Cummings October 11, 2022 12:05 pm

    Will Herschel even show up for the one debate that is custom designed for him?Report

    Reply

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