HomePoliticsRepublicans rally around Walker's endangered candidacy

Republicans rally around Walker’s endangered candidacy

But the GOP has no choice but to double down on its support for Walker, a failed candidate who party insiders say remains one of its last hopes of shifting control of the narrowly divided Senate chamber this year to the middle of a shrinking map.

“When the Democrats are losing, as they are now, they lie, cheat and smear their opponents,” Sen said. rick scott, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said Tuesday, echoing in his statement similar comments from other Republicans who have dared to weigh in public on the allegations, though most incumbents remained silent on the matter while at home for the Senate recess. The claims were reported Monday by the Daily Beast; POLITICO has not independently verified the Daily Beast’s reporting.

Walker has denied the charges.

“That’s what’s happening right now,” Scott continued. “They know they’re about to lose the Senate and they know Herschel Walker is winning, so they’ve got the smear machine going.”

Scott, putting on a brave face, akin to the chairman of the Republican Senate super PAC, said the Senate committee remained fully committed to the Georgia race, where the NRSC announced last week that it would split a new $100 ad buy. 8.5 million with Walker. Campaign. Scott compared the situation to the sexual assault and harassment allegations brought against Supreme Court Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas, and suggested that he believed Walker’s denial of the claim that he paid for the woman’s abortion 13 years ago. years.

While they admitted the latest indictment presented a public relations problem, in interviews with more than a dozen Republican strategists, the operatives downplayed its likely effect. They suggested a wait-and-see approach and largely avoided conceding that Georgia’s first October upset spelled the end of Walker’s chances.

A top Republican strategist working on Senate races said it remains to be seen how much the new revelation will matter, pointing to extensive media coverage of Walker’s alleged domestic violence and television ads that have already attacked him for the topic.

“The reality is that Democrats have been running ads for two months saying that Herschel tried to murder his ex-wife,” the strategist said of Cindy Grossman’s claims that Walker held a gun to her head. “I don’t know if this moves the needle.”

Through a spokesman, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell – who has repeatedly raised concerns about the “quality of candidates” for Republicans this year – did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Recent polls show Walker and the Democratic senator. Raphael Warnock constantly exchanging the lead in a race for margin of error. Walker was backed by former President Donald Trump, who defended his ally in a statement: “They are trying to destroy a man who has true greatness in his future, just as he had athletic greatness in his past. It is very important to our country and the great state of Georgia that Herschel Walker wins this election.”

So far this cycle, Republicans have spent $67 million on ads in Georgia, according to ad-tracking firm AdImpact, a state they’ve seen as one of their best chances to flip a Senate seat. The GOP has another $34 million in ads set aside for the election, putting Democrats on track to spend more than $20 million.

Ralph Reed, founder and president of the conservative evangelical Faith & Freedom Coalition, which in recent months has defended Walker and his commitment to his Christian faith, continued to do so Tuesday, saying “a 13-year anonymous indictment is unlikely.” to resonate with Georgia voters.”

“Voters are much more likely to vote based on inflation, the economy, high gas prices and the failure of Biden policies, which Raphael Warnock has supported 96 percent of the time,” Reed said, naming Walker’s Democratic opponent. He added that “Warnock is linked to Biden.”

“That will matter more than the personal attacks on Herschel, which haven’t substantially changed the dynamic of this campaign.”

Kevin Bell, a volunteer for several local Republican groups in Georgia, said he doesn’t think voter sentiment will change as a result of this week’s events.

“That’s only going to fuel the fire for those who didn’t want to vote for him in the first place,” said Bell, who plans to continue his door-to-door campaign for Walker. “That’s it. And those who are undecided, may have to think about it a little more. But at the end of the day, those strong supporters will still vote for Herschel Walker. I assure you.”

While expressing concern about the NRSC’s lack of extensive statewide voter mobilization operations, Republicans are encouraged by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s own voter mobilization efforts. Kemp, who is up for re-election and in the polls well before Walker, has made a point of targeting Republican voters who missed out in 2020 and the January 2021 state Senate runoffs as a result of the claims. Trump’s rebuttals of a rigged election.

But Republicans hope Democrats will seize on the latest Walker scandal in a new barrage of ads, including highlighting scathing criticism from Walker’s own 22-year-old son after the abortion news broke.

“What I would do if I were a Democrat is call it a fraud,” said a Republican consultant who has worked on Senate races. “Voters hate inauthenticity. He has built his entire post-NFL life on being a Christian and being a good person.”

Republican consultant Chris Mottola pointed to the polarization of voters in Georgia, a state that, unlike Nevada, Arizona and other major battlegrounds, does not have a large proportion of undecided and independent voters.

“Given the surprise nature of the October attack, voters will raise questions about validity; think of it as Hunter Biden’s laptop in the womb,” Mottola said.

In a possible sign of how much media attention the news was receiving, the Republican Party of Georgia website, which was working Tuesday morning, was no longer accessible at 10:30 am, resulting in a “502 Bad Gateway” error. It included contact information for the party and county chairmen.

Danielle Repass, press secretary for the Georgia Republican Party, said the site is “simply experiencing a server error, it was not intentionally removed” and the state GOP “looks forward to having it back by the end of the day.”

He added that the Georgia Republican Party is “fully committed to ensuring that Herschel Walker defeats Raphael Warnock this November.”

Senate Leadership Fund Chairman Steven Law said Tuesday morning that the super PAC is moving “full speed ahead in Georgia,” where it has $23 million in television and radio ads set aside until Election Day.

The top Republican spending group, closely aligned with McConnell, has already spent $15.5 million on the race, according to AdImpact.

“This election is about the future of the country,” Law said in a statement. “Herschel Walker will make things better, Raphael Warnock will make things worse. Any other thing is a distraction.”

And the leading anti-abortion group, the Susan B. Anthony List, which backed Walker and has been knocking on doors on his behalf, also continues to support him.

Mallory Carroll, a spokeswoman for the group’s super PAC Women Speak Out, said Walker had “denied these allegations in the strongest possible terms.”

“To date, our Georgia field team has visited more than 310,000 homes across the state in support of pro-life candidates like Herschel and against the extremism of Senator Warnock and Stacey Abrams, and we will continue through Election Day,” he said. Carroll.

However, a Republican strategist predicted that the odds of a runoff between Walker and Warnock increased amid the latest ballot. Another noted that Democrats have thrown tens of millions “in hits and bashing at Herschel so far, and Warnock still can’t get to 50 percent in any poll.”

Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), a former NRSC chairman who also supports Walker, called the “personal attacks, all too common in political campaigns,” a “diversion from threats to the economic, personal, and national security of Georgians.” that the Democratic majority has gotten worse, not better.”

Barring drastic changes in the polls, which Republicans don’t expect, the party is likely to continue pouring resources into the state, rather than diverting money to other major battlegrounds.

“You have to play Georgia,” said the Republican strategist who suggested Democrats should charge Walker with fraud. “You have to do it to get to 51.”

Holly Otterbein and Brittany Gibson contributed to this report.

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