Analysis: What’s Next for Herschel Walker in Georgia Senate Race?



CNN

Over the past 48 hours, the Georgia Senate race was filled with two dramatic storylines.

The Daily Beast first reported that Walker paid for a woman’s abortion after the two fathered a child while dating in 2009. CNN has not independently verified the allegations and Walker vehemently denied the report, insisting it was a “defamatory lie.” ” Walker has been against abortion throughout the campaign.

Then Walker’s son, Christian, a conservative online influencer, posted a series of tweets saying Walker was less than a role model father.

“I don’t care if someone has a bad past and is held accountable,” wrote Christian Walker. “But how DARE YOU LIE and act like you are a “moral, Christian, upright man”?

Walker responded to his son by saying, “I LOVE my son no matter what.” Christian Walker also posted a video on Twitter Tuesday morning in which he said he was done with his father’s “lies.”

Those twin developments create a lot of uncertainty in the race between Walker and Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, seen as one of the most important (and close) Senate contests in the country.

So what’s next?

That’s hard to say, especially since we live in a post-Donald Trump world.

Normally in such situations, the candidate would do some sort of interview, usually with a friendly media outlet. That’s the trajectory Walker has taken, sitting down for two interviews with Fox News since the story broke.

A candidate’s campaign must do several things at once:

1) Try to reassure donors and voters that this is all too much, and that the campaign is still focused on what they need to do to win.

2) Make sure there is no other shoe to drop, and that Walker’s complete denial of the abortion charge can stick.

But, as if you needed a reminder, these are not normal times.

Just weeks before the 2016 presidential election, an “Access Hollywood” tape surfaced showing Trump speaking in lewd and crude terms about women and bragging about sexually assaulting them. There was talk among Republican leaders at the time – both publicly and privately – of dropping out of the race or giving up the candidacy altogether.

Neither happened. Trump dismissed the whole incident as “locker room talk” and defeated Hillary Clinton. That, even in retrospect, is a surprising turn of events.

The question is whether Trump fundamentally rewrote the rules of political scandals in 2016 or whether he is a rare exception to this rule that still exists.

Walker campaign manager Scott Paradise referenced the “Access Hollywood” episode in a speech to staff after the Walker news broke. “Trump still got to the White House,” Paradis said, a source familiar with the memos told CNN. (Paradis, via Twitter, denied making that comparison.)

So far, Republicans are closing ranks around Walker.

“The fake news media and obviously the Democrats are slandering and maligning Herschel Walker,” Trump said Tuesday. “They are trying to destroy a man with true greatness in his future, just as he had sporting greatness in his past.”

“Full speed ahead in Georgia,” said Steven Law, president of the Senate Leadership Fund, a major GOP super PAC focused on Senate races.

Republican support for Walker is, in some ways, beholden to the party. The midterm elections are now less than five weeks away and dropping him as a candidate or walking away from him at this point would cost the majority a much-needed seat. is realpolitik at its best

Of course, if more allegations come out or if Walker finds himself so damaged that he can’t win, history suggests that his current support could quickly erode.

The controversy surrounding Walker serves as a very interesting test case for how scandals will be handled and processed by voters in the post-Trump era. Can Walker continue to campaign as if nothing has changed? Or does he need a full plan to ensure he remains a viable candidate?