Analysis: Raphael Warnock goes there on Herschel Walker’s abortion allegations


After largely avoiding the abortion controversy surrounding Republican challenger Herschel Walker, Georgia Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock is straight in a new TV ad.

“For you, Herschel Walker wants to ban abortion,” says the ad’s narrator before playing clips of Walker’s comments in support of a national abortion ban. The ad then plays news reports of allegations that Walker paid for a woman’s abortion, with one saying “his son is lying too.” The ad ends with Walker inspecting a check in an interview with NBC News and confirming that it is his signature, although he denied it was reimbursement for an abortion.

Walker has repeatedly denied that he paid for a woman’s abortion, and CNN has not independently confirmed the allegations.

Warnock – after weeks of dodging questions about the abortion allegations – has decided not only to reveal it, but also to run ads, telling us a few things.

1) We are very late in the game. With the critical Senate election just over two weeks away, Warnock is reluctant to reveal any issues that could help him win. Anything goes in the final stretch of a campaign and, well, this fits the bill.

2) Warnock is worried. The allegations against Walker do not appear to have sunk his campaign as some had predicted. Walker is still well within striking distance of Warnock, with most polls showing him behind. While the allegations have been widely covered in local and national media, Warnock and his team clearly want to make sure every voter knows what Walker is alleged to have done when they go to their polling station.

Will it work? Well, it is worth noting that in a race like this – which has been fully engaged between the two parties for months – there are not a large number of convincing voters left. Most people are in their party camps, and have been there for some time.

What Warnock hopes is that this ad will reach the small fraction of voters who are still undecided. And the message to them isn’t just that Walker allegedly paid for the abortion. He has also expressed his support for the national ban on abortion. The real takeaway from the ad – Warnock hopes – is that Walker is a hypocrite. The argument goes that one set of rules for himself and a completely different set of rules and expectations for everyone else.

Hypocrisy is a very powerful negative message in the context of campaigns. Voters hate politicians telling them how to behave, but then they don’t follow that advice in their personal lives.

The only caveat is that Walker has taken plenty of criticism in a race that could decide which party controls the Senate and is still standing. His past as a Georgia football hero may insulate him in ways other candidates can only dream of.