The heightened scrutiny is nothing new for Walker, who has faced damaging reports of his history of violent behavior and his pattern of lies, exaggerations and gaffes during the campaign trail. Despite those concerns, Walker crushed his GOP rivals in the May primary and is neck and neck with Warnock in many polls.
But the reports pose the most serious threats to his campaign to date, and Thursday’s event was touted by Walker’s allies as a chance to stabilize his campaign.
The Walker campaign summoned reporters to a rural lumberyard three hours from Atlanta. The crowd for his speech was made up mostly of shift workers on their lunch break who listened politely but without much enthusiasm. “When is it over?” one whispered.
Yet rather than confront the reports head-on, as many Republican officials had hoped, Walker gave his usual stump speech and made no mention of the controversy until questioned by questioners. journalists.
“I’m not going to back down,” Walker said outside his campaign bus. “The stakes are way, way too high. We are going to win this race.
Walker has little time to relaunch his campaign ahead of a November election that could decide Senate control. The only debate between Warnock and Walker is scheduled for next week and early voting begins on October 17.
Many Walker skeptics were already considering skipping the race or voting for Warnock. Polls for months have shown a split banknote trendwith a significant number of Republican Governor Brian Kemp’s supporters signaling that they will hold back their support for Walker.
“I just can’t do it,” said Vince Jantz, an east Cobb County resident who recently told Republican volunteers at his doorstep that he plans to vote for every GOP candidate on the ballot. ballot, with the exception of Walker. “Everything that has been reported about him worries me.”
There is anecdotal evidence that the trend is intensifying. Martha Zoller, a conservative commentator and radio host based in Gainesville, said she has received many calls from Republicans concerned about Walker.
“They don’t know if they can believe it or believe the allegations,” Zoller said. “I still believe that ultimately people are going to vote based on their wallet. And I think that means it risks turning into a second round.
Still, other Republicans say the review intensifies their support for the former soccer star. Church leaders rallied around him in a closed meeting this week, with the Reverend Anthony George lead a prayer to the First Baptist Church of Atlanta to honor “our conqueror, our brother, our friend”.
So have some rank-and-file Republicans.
“I don’t give any credence to anything at this stage of a campaign. I don’t care if he paid for someone’s abortion,” said Mike Upchurch, a 68-year-old Republican from Acworth. “You know what? I can close my eyes and watch the fabulous games he played as running back with Georgia…and, well, I wouldn’t vote for a Democrat anyway.
And national conservative groups have highlighted their commitment to the race, aware that Georgia still offers the GOP one of its only avenues to overturn control of the US Senate.
The Daily Beast story was the second in a week that threw Walker’s campaign into turmoil, following a Monday report that Walker paid for the woman’s abortion in 2009.
Walker supports a ban on the procedure with no exceptions.
After Walker denied the report and repeatedly said he had no idea who the woman might be, The Daily Beast reported that the unnamed woman conceived a child with him years after the abortion. She told the outlet that Walker’s refusal surprised her.
“Of course I was stunned, but I guess it doesn’t shock me either, that there may be so many of us that he really doesn’t remember,” the woman said in the point. of sale. “But again, if he really forgot it, that also means something.”
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has not verified the Daily Beast report. The Daily Beast said it had independently corroborated the details of the woman’s claims with a close friend she spoke to at the time and who also took care of her in the days following the incident. intervention. The woman declined to comment when reached by the AJC on Thursday.
While Republicans are nervous, many are not in panic mode, hoping that many conservatives are paying little attention to the developments or valuing Walker’s party affiliation over any other factor.
Some call it the Dana Loesch strategy, after GOP strategist’s controversial take earlier this week: “I don’t care that Herschel Walker paid to abort endangered baby eagles. I want control of the Senate.
Swainsboro’s Richard Claxton has been a Walker fan since he celebrated the University of Georgia football championship season in 1980 while serving in the military in South America. Claxton rode about 20 miles to the Wadley event to cheer on Walker, who played on that team.
“A long time ago someone said to me, ‘Think that you half hear and half see.’ So I’m skeptical,” he said of the abortion reports. “But if he did, people can be forgiven in this world.”
Even though national Republicans vouch for Walker, Georgia’s key figures are reacting differently. The reactions of Kemp and Attorney General Chris Carr are telling: neither defended Walker, and Kemp said he was concentrating on his own campaign.
“Even the staunchest Republicans are shaken,” Republican Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan told CNN. “Every Republican knew there was baggage out there, but the weight of that baggage is starting to feel a little closer to unbearable at this point.”
Editors Lautaro Grinspan and Shannon McCaffrey contributed to this article.