Voices: Why the Republican Party isn’t abandoning Herschel Walker

Herschel Walker is not the only Republican to have faced pre-election scandal  (EPA)
Herschel Walker is not the only Republican to have faced pre-election scandal (EPA)

In the hours since The Daily Beast dropped its story about Herschel Walker reportedly paying a woman to have an abortion, Republican groups have steeled themselves behind the GOP nominee in Georgia.

Walker vehemently denied the story and threatened to sue The Daily Beast, even as his son Christian Walker publicly disowned him. But even more damning, Politico reported on Tuesday that many Republicans in the state saw this coming, with one Republican strategist flat-out saying, “It’s not that we knew about this specific case, but he’s a wealthy, famous football player who is obviously spreading his seed.”

The fact some Republicans expected this shows that Walker violated one of the major rules of politics: know yourself better than your opponent knows you.

Reportedly, Walker’s campaign simply hoped and prayed that the story would not come out before the campaign ended — an incredibly risky move, especially given the fact that the race could go into a runoff if neither he nor Senator Raphael Warnock wins a majority of the vote.

Nevertheless, Republicans are standing by the former University of Georgia running back, though a spokesman for Governor Brian Kemp, who is leading Stacey Abrams, toldThe Atlanta Journal-Constitution that “the governor is laser-focused on sharing his record of results and vision for his second term with hardworking Georgians.”

Here are three reasons why Republicans are sticking by Walker:

They are too invested in the race: It’s not like they have much of an option. Early voting in Georgia starts on October 17, meaning that people will be casting their ballots soon.

Stephen Law, of the Mitch McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund, told Axios, “We are full speed ahead in Georgia,” and called anything except focusing on Warnock’s record “a distraction.” But Axios also noted that the super PAC has already spent or reserved $37.1m.

Republican chances to flip Arizona and New Hampshire have dimmed, given weak candidates on their side and strong performances by incumbent Senators Mark Kelly and Maggie Hassan. That makes Georgia one of the GOP’s last hopes to flip the one Senate seat they need to gain a majority.

The base: No pollsters have released surveys since the scandal broke just yet. But a survey of recent polls show that Walker is incredibly popular with Republican voters.

A Marist survey from September showed that 73 per cent of Republicans have a favorable opinion of him. While that is lower than the 87 per cent of Democrats who have a favorable opinion of Warnock, that’s still a large chunk of Republicans.

No rewards exist for Republicans who distance themselves from the nominee. Which leads to the last reason.

Trump: Plenty of people on social media – including many liberals – have compared the Walker bombshell to October 2016, when The Washington Post reported the tape of Donald Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women.

After that story dropped, plenty of Republicans un-endorsed the former president. And then Trump still beat Hillary Clinton. In addition, many Republicans who rescinded their endorsements lost their seats or had their future efforts to seek higher office thwarted. Republicans fear a repeat of this same scenario, where Walker could still win and they have to answer why they abandoned a hypothetical Senator Herschel Walker.

Of course, there are many holes in this logic. As previously stated, Walker’s support isn’t as high as Warnock’s support in his own party. And it’s worth noting that FBI director James Comey’s letter to Congress about the investigation relating to Hillary Clinton largely negated the effect of the Trump Access Hollywood tape.

In addition, Republicans still have a chance to flip Nevada — and Dr Mehmet Oz looks to have improved his prospects in Pennsylvania.

But Republicans have made the decision that abandoning Walker would be too costly in financial and political capital. Similarly, they are running out of options. Warnock and Walker will debate next week and early voting begins in less than two weeks.