Walker campaigning with 2 GOP senators after abortion report

Georgia GOP Senate nominee Herschel Walker smiles during remarks during a campaign stop at Battle Lumber Co. on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022, in Wadley, Ga. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)

Georgia Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker is slated to campaign Tuesday with Sens. Rick Scott of Florida and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, offering the latest sign that the national GOP is digging in on Walker’s candidacy as he tries to get past a renewed spotlight on his rocky past.

Scott, who chairs Republicans’ Senate campaign arm, and Cotton, a potential 2024 presidential candidate, will hold an event in metro Atlanta with Walker as the football legend continues to deny accusations that he paid for and encouraged an abortion in 2009 for a woman with whom he later fathered a child.

Walker, who has come out against abortion rights in his first bid for public office, is trying to unseat Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in a marquee midterm contest that will help decide which party controls the U.S. Senate for the final two years of President Joe Biden’s term.

The campaign swing by the Washington heavyweights highlights a simple calculation for a GOP establishment that was cool to Walker’s candidacy before he became the nominee: It’s simply too late to abandon a competitive candidate this close to the election and with the Senate deadlocked in a 50-50 partisan split.

Scott already has dismissed the stories as malicious collusion among Democrats and the media, insisting there’s a coordinated effort to “destroy” Walker and the country. Walker has followed the same script.

“I knew the Left would try to paint me as a man unfit to serve in public office,” he wrote in a fundraising appeal last week renewing his denials. “We cannot let the Left win by lying, cheating or buying their way to victory.”

The reporting by The Daily Beast complicates Walker’s candidacy in multiple ways. Supporting an absolute national ban on abortions as a candidate, Walker faces questions from at least some skeptical religious conservatives now weighing their preference for Republican rule against the possibility that Walker’s personal life has not matched his public persona.

Yet Walker’s evolving explanations — initially insisting he had no idea who could have claimed he paid for her abortion, only for the woman to identify herself as the mother of one of Walker’s four children —- have undermined his absolute denials and given Democrats a fresh opportunity to press their assertions that he’s “not ready” for the Senate.

That’s an argument Warnock has aimed at the middle of the Georgia electorate, including GOP-leaning voters who helped Biden win Georgia narrowly in November 2020 and then elevated Warnock and fellow Democrat Jon Ossoff to Senate runoff victories two months later.

The Daily Beast reporting includes records, supplied by the woman, that include a $575 receipt for an abortion, a get-well card signed by Walker and a bank deposit showing a $700 personal check from Walker, dated five days after the abortion receipt. The woman, who has not been identified by name, also told The Daily Beast that Walker encouraged the abortion and then encouraged a second abortion that she refused, giving birth to a child she says Walker has met only a few times.

Warnock, who supports abortion rights, has sidestepped the specifics of the allegations against Walker. But the incumbent has wielded the same argument about Walker’s fitness that he used amid earlier disclosures of Walker’s past and when the first-time candidate flubbed some policy discussions. Previous reports have detailed how Walker exaggerated his academic achievements, business success and his philanthropic activities, as well as accusations that he threatened the life of his ex-wife.

Walker, who had spoken publicly about adult son Christian Walker, was forced to publicly acknowledge having three additional children — including a child of the woman who said he paid for her abortion — after another Daily Beast story earlier in the campaign. He had previously only spoken publicly about Christian, a son from his first marriage.

“It does seem like a drip, drip, drip — even a little coordinated,” said Martha Zoller, a popular conservative radio host who supports Walker. But Zoller, who has criticized how Walker has handled his past during the campaign, said, “It’s getting harder and harder for some (Republicans) to justify” voting for Walker.

Ultimately, she said, the choice for some voters will come down to the same calculation that Scott, Cotton and their Washington colleagues already have figured.

“If they see Walker as a guy that’s going to vote against Joe Biden, and he’s going to rebalance the power in the Senate, then they will continue to vote for Herschel Walker,” she said. “If they believe that he has gone too far in his personal life, and they can’t support that, they will either not vote or vote against him.”