OPINION: The hits keep coming for Herschel Walker, but do voters care?

One fact about Herschel Walker is true: Republicans have no idea who they just nominated in the GOP primary to run against U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock in November.

They knew Walker was beloved in the state for his days as a football hero at the University of Georgia. And that he played in the NFL, became friends with Donald Trump, and somehow ended up back in Georgia last December, after 30 years in Texas, to run for Senate here.

But they did not know he has four children, not one son, as nearly everybody in Georgia assumed. And not two, as he told the Daily Beast the day before.

And those revelations about Walker were only the latest this week.

On Monday, the AJC reported that Walker has told multiple different audiences in the past about a career in law enforcement that never existed.

“I spent time at Quantico at the FBI training school. Y’all didn’t know I was an agent?” Walker said to the nervous laughter of soldiers who’d gone to see Walker’s motivational speech at an Army base in 2019.

That’s on top of earlier exaggerations about the chicken business he started, and the multiple police reports that cite Walker, including a 2012 report from an ex-girlfriend who said he threatened to kill her, and then himself.

In fact, it seems that nearly every week of Walker’s campaign has brought new and sometimes troubling revelations about the candidate. And yet, let me break this to Democrats: Voters may not care.

More specifically, voters have proven over and over again that scandals, dishonesty, embellishments, hypocrisy, and secrecy are not disqualifying factors if they want a change from the party in charge. That’s doubly true for a charismatic celebrity candidate many voters feel like they already know and believe in.

I write that with the recent-enough experience of covering Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, when I wrote over and over about Trump’s outrageous statements, offensive comments, and outright lies.

After a tape of an Access Hollywood segment revealed Trump bragging about assaulting women, I went to North Carolina to ask women in that swing state how it would change their opinion of him.

Not so much, it turned out. “I would be honored if Donald Trump did something inappropriate to me,” one woman told me in all sincerity.

She felt like she’d known him all her life, or at least since she watched him on The Apprentice. She trusted him.

Trump won North Carolina with 49.8% of the vote that year. He did even better in Georgia, where he won 51%, compared to Hillary Clinton’s 46%.

Walker has a similar, Teflon-like quality with a huge number of Georgia voters. And like Trump, the most devoted feel like they’ve known him for 40 years.

There’s also the matter of most Georgians’ increasingly stressful daily reality, where the price of gas in Georgia jumped 21 cents in the last week and consumer prices went up 8.6% last month.

On Wednesday, when the existence of Walker’s second son was revealed, the Federal Reserve hiked interest rates by three-quarters of a percent, the biggest jump in nearly 30 years.

By 10 a.m. Thursday, as news circulated that oh, actually, Walker has a third son and a daughter, the Wall Street Journal had a “LIVE UPDATES” banner flashing across its homepage to chronicle the stock market’s freefall.

Walker has hopped on the gas price issue, tweeting out pictures of himself at gas stations as the cost goes up. A Walker-aligned Super PAC gave out $25 gas vouchers at an Atlanta gas station.

He may not be in the FBI, but he does know a potent issue when he sees one.

Warnock has hardly been sitting on the sidelines. Nearly everything he’s done since he’s been in the Senate has been focused on the kinds of things middle-income and low-income Georgians struggle with.

He’s pushed for Medicaid expansion to cover Georgians who make too much for Medicaid but not enough to get insured and pitched to cap the cost of insulin. He co-sponsored a bill to stop price gouging by shipping companies and called on Congress to lift the federal gas tax. The list goes on.

But if inflation continues to go on, too, some voters may be looking to change out the party controlling the Senate during the next two years of the Biden Administration, no matter who the candidates are.

Warnock also has his own challenging family dynamics. In April, Warnock’s former wife accused him of being in “willful contempt” of their court-ordered custody agreement for their two small children. The senator and his former wife requested that further legal proceedings be kept under seal. His spokeswoman has said Warnock is a “proud father” and co-parent.

In Walker’s case, in particular, more important for voters than his past is his current fitness for the job. Can he show he would be a reliable, knowledgeable, qualified senator?

Asking, “Why are there still apes?” as he did in an interview with a megachurch pastor earlier this year, as he questioned evolution, does not inspire confidence.

Nor did his assertion that he’s never heard Trump say he thinks the Georgia election was stolen, as Walker told WAGA’s Russ Spencer recently.

If there’s one number that worries Republican strategists in the state, it’s 68% — the huge total that Walker finished with in the May primary — that was still about 88,000 fewer votes than Gov. Brian Kemp, who won with 73.72% of the vote.

Which voters went for Kemp, but not Walker, they want to know. And why?

Add that to the pile of questions that Republicans still have for their GOP Senate nominee heading toward November.