‘On Herschel’s team’: Top Republicans to visit Georgia to boost Walker’s bid

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Prominent Washington Republicans will stump for Senate hopeful Herschel Walker in Georgia this week in a show of support for his embattled campaign after the candidate’s ex-girlfriend accused him of paying for her abortion and urging a second one.

U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, will headline a Tuesday event in metro Atlanta for Walker, where he’s expected to echo the former football star’s denials of the claims and try to steer attention toward Democratic policies that enrage conservatives.

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas is also planning to make the trip, The Washington Post reported, one of a string of stops by high-profile Republicans who seek to boost Walker in the closing weeks of the race.

The visits are a reflection of the importance of Georgia’s Senate contest in an evenly divided chamber. Though the developments have battered Walker’s campaign, Republicans have few other options beyond Georgia to flip control of the Senate.

“I’m on Herschel’s team,” the Florida Republican said in a statement regarding the Georgia college football icon. “They picked the wrong Georgian to mess with. I’m proud to stand with Herschel Walker and make sure Georgians know that he will always fight to protect them from the forces trying to destroy Georgia values.”

They also come ahead of a critical week for Walker, who is set to square off against U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock on Friday in Savannah in the sole face-to-face debate of the campaign. The three week in-person early voting period begins on Oct. 17, and most polls before the abortion allegations showed a tight race.

Credit: Natrice Miller / AJC

Credit: Natrice Miller / AJC

The circling of the wagons follows weeks of damaging reports that have plunged Walker’s campaign into turmoil triggered by The Daily Beast’s report that the mother of one of Walker’s children said he paid for her abortion in 2009.

The woman has declined to comment to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The Republican, who opposes abortion even in cases of rape or incest, has called the allegations a “flat-out lie” and vowed a defamation lawsuit that he’s still yet to file. He’s also cast himself as the victim of a media frenzy, saying his opponents are “desperate to make this race about my family.”

The visits by prominent Republicans are aimed not only at Walker supporters who reject the allegations, but also those who might believe them but see GOP control of the U.S. Senate as the paramount concern in the midterms.

The Washington Republicans are likely to focus their attacks on measures that President Joe Biden signed into law with Warnock’s support. Walker and his allies are eager to refocus the race on Biden, whose approval ratings in Georgia are below 40% in recent polls.

A visit by former President Donald Trump, one of Walker’s most important political patrons, is less likely. The AJC reported last month that Trump’s advisers were discussing a mid-October rally. But officials say his aides were dissuaded by recent polls that showed the visit could backfire.

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Even as national figures rally behind Warnock, key Georgia politicians are keeping their distance.

Gov. Brian Kemp and Attorney General Chris Carr, both in tough reelection battles, have declined to specifically defend the Senate hopeful. And the governor in an earlier interview with the AJC wouldn’t commit to campaigning with Walker.

“We’re working hard to help the whole ticket in this state,” Kemp said Friday during a visit to the Georgia National Fair, adding: “I’m not getting into any allegations. I’m not a police officer. I’m not an investigative reporter. I’m running to be governor of Georgia.”

Staff writer Shannon McCaffrey contributed to this report.

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