While a growing number of Republicans from outside of Georgia rush to Herschel Walker’s defense, top Democrats are having a different sort of reaction to the cascading allegations that he paid for an ex-girlfriend’s abortion and urged her to have a second one: Relative silence.
At multiple events since the Daily Beast first reported the claims, U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock avoided mentioning them as he delivered his usual stump speech. Only when pressed by reporters does the Democrat deliver a measured rebuke, calling it a “disturbing pattern” but little more.
He’s not the only one. Down-ticket Democrats are mostly biting their tongues on social media and the campaign trail. And Stacey Abrams is also steering clear in her message to voters, pivoting to an attack on Gov. Brian Kemp when asked about the fallout.
“I think that anytime hypocrisy is revealed among Republicans then it’s incredibly important,” Abrams said after an event in Norcross aimed at Asian-American voters before jabbing Kemp’s support for abortion restrictions.
“He is always taking positions that are designed to undermine personal freedoms. And you cannot say that you believe that Herschel Walker is entitled to his personal choices, but no one else in Georgia is.”
There’s good reason for the reserved approach, a tactic Warnock used successfully during the 2021 runoff, when he often avoided leaning into the daily Donald Trump-driven controversies.
“It’s a basic rule of politics,” said Rick Wilson, the co-founder of the Lincoln Project, on MSNBC. “When your opponent is setting himself on fire, do not come in with a bucket of water. Do not give him something to bridge off of.”
CIRCLING THE WAGONS. The ongoing Herschel Walker abortion saga also sharpened how nationalized the race for Senate has become, as Republicans with a narrowing path to flip control of the chamber are increasingly pouring resources into races in Georgia and other states where GOP chances are fading.
Many seemed to be reading from the same script on the Sunday talk shows when asked about Walker’s struggles. U.S. Rep. Don Bacon, a Nebraska Republican in an uphill reelection battle himself, said “none of us are perfect.”
“Herschel needs to come clean and just be honest,” he said on “Meet the Press.” “We also know that we all make mistakes and it’s just better, if this actually did happen, say I’m sorry and ask for forgiveness.”
Scott Jennings, a conservative commentator and former George W. Bush aide, put words to the GOP strategy on CNN. “When the Senate control is this close, there’s nowhere else to go.”
National Republicans are sending reinforcements this week. Look for U.S. Sens. Rick Scott and Tom Cotton in Georgia Tuesday, when they stump for Walker at an event in Carrollton.
TRUMP CASH. Former President Donald Trump at last dipped into his campaign checkbook to spend at least $900,000 to boost Herschel Walker’s embattled campaign. It’s part of a $4.8 million overall spend in battleground states.
The cash infusion comes from Trump’s newly created MAGA Inc. super PAC, which has already aired ads in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
BIDEN FACTOR. We’ve told you before that Stacey Abrams and U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock have taken starkly different approaches to President Joe Biden in their campaigns.
Abrams vocally embraces the president and his policies, while Warnock would rather talk about his work across the aisle with Republicans. And with Biden’s approval rating below 40% in Georgia, he could do more harm than good.
Abrams may be coming to terms with the downside. After her campaign stop in Gwinnett County, she was asked whether she expects a Biden campaign stop before November.
“We’ve been in conversations with the Biden administration, and we look forward to having folks from the Biden administration, including the president himself, if he can make it,” Abrams said.
“But we have to understand there are 36 governor’s races, there’s a little bit of a Senate kerfuffle going on,” she added. “People are fighting hard. But we look forward to having anyone who wants to come to Georgia to help show up.”
KEMP TARGET. “Why is Georgia outperforming the rest of the nation? Because we said no to everything Stacey Abrams wanted to do.”
That’s the open of Gov. Brian Kemp’s ad, which highlights the Republican’s decision to reopen businesses in the opening weeks of pandemic lockdowns and push back on Democratic efforts to eliminate cash bail.
U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock rode along with his colleague, U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, in the Atlanta Pride Parade, making them the first two United States Senators from Georgia to join the event.
Democratic candidates turned out in force at Atlanta’s Pride Parade this weekend, where Stacey Abrams got an especially loud welcome.
To everyone celebrating #ATLPride, I hope today is a reminder that love always wins. I join as an ally of our LGBTQ+ community in celebrating the unapologetic love, joy and triumph that has built a better state and world for us all. pic.twitter.com/qRL5Er5lBj
VOTER CHALLENGES. The Cobb County elections board on Monday is considering challenges to the eligibility of 1,350 voters, most of whom are people of color, Kennesaw State University students, or both, our colleague Mark Niesse reports.
Under Georgia’s voting law passed last year, any voter can challenge the registrations of an unlimited number of other voters within their county.
The Cobb elections board meeting will decide whether there’s probable cause to move forward with the challenges filed by local Republicans. All are based on voter registration records that are missing an apartment number, dorm name, room number or unit number.
The voting rights organization Fair Fight Action said the challenges are being used by Republicans to disenfranchise Black voters and college students, who generally support Democratic candidates.
The Cobb hearing is the latest round in an ongoing effort to question the validity of registered voters in Georgia. Tens of thousands of registrations have been challenged across Georgia in recent months.
In Gwinnett County, the elections board threw out all of 22,000 voter challenges because they were primarily based on voters’ mailing addresses rather than more specific allegations that they were no longer eligible to vote in Georgia.
AG ADS. Speaking of ads, state Sen. Jen Jordan, the Democratic nominee for attorney general, is launching a seven-figure ad buy with the Democratic Party of Georgia today to highlight contrasts with incumbent Republican Chris Carr on abortion and crime.
“I’ll be an attorney general who will keep our families safe,” she says.
NASTY. The Stacey Abrams campaign posted a brief conversation between two young Georgia voters to Twitter Sunday night, with one going after Gov. Brian Kemp’s looks.
“We definitely don’t like Kemp. Nasty, greasy, crusty, ugly — we do not like Kemp at all,” she says.
The message from the Abrams campaign posted along with the Tweet: “She said what she said.”
CENSURING GREENE. U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams is among a group of Democratic lawmakers who have introduced legislation to censure fellow Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene for posts on social media that were widely criticized as anti-Semitic.
Credit: Jason Getz/AJC
Credit: Jason Getz/AJC
Greene compared President Joe Biden to Adolf Hitler shortly after his September speech when he warned that “MAGA Republicans” were a threat to democracy. And she shared a doctored video of Biden edited to resemble Hitler and with swastikas in the background. With it, she wrote: “Joe Biden is Hitler. #NaziJoe has to go.”
Greene, a Republican who lives in Rome, later apologized. But Williams and the others said the U.S. House should make a formal statement of disapproval.
“Representative Greene has shown throughout her time in Congress that she is a racist antisemite who peddles baseless conspiracy theories,” Williams, D-Atlanta, said in a statement. “There should be no room in the United States Congress for members like that.”
FIRST LADY VISIT. First Lady Jill Biden will visit Fort Benning on Thursday and Friday to visit with members of the military and their families, the White House announced.
Biden’s visit will also include a stop at the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, a consolidated military training school also located on the base. The trip is part of the “Joining Forces” initiative first launched in 2011 by Bien and First Lady Michelle Obama.
Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC
Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC
ON THE TRAIL:
Gov. Brian Kemp and his family kick off a bus tour this week with a stop at Barrow Gun Shop in Butler on Tuesday, followed by lunch at Michelle’s Restaurant in Georgetown.
Democratic state Sen. Jen Jordan, the party’s nominee for attorney general, will launch a statewide “Beauty Shop” tour this afternoon from a salon in Columbus. Jordan worked in her mother’s beauty shop as a teenager.
Dr. Rich McCormick, the Republican nominee in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, will host a Veterans Town Hall on Thursday in Marietta. Insurance Commissioner John King, who serves as a major general in the Army National Guard, is among those scheduled to join.
The Human Rights Campaign has endorsed Democrat Jen Jordan in the Georgia attorney general’s race.
NEW NAMES. Georgia’s Fort Benning and Fort Gordon are one step closer to having new names, the Augusta Chronicle reports.
“On Thursday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III issued a memo accepting the recommendations of a congressionally authorized commission to rename U.S. Military assets honoring Confederate soldiers. This included nine army forts, including Fort Gordon and Fort Benning. In May, the commission recommended naming Fort Gordon Fort Eisenhower and changing Fort Benning to Fort Moore.”
Along with renaming Augusta’s Fort Gordon after President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Pentagon approved naming Fort Benning in Columbus in honor of the late Vietnam commander, Army General Hal Moore, and his wife Julie. The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer’s Nick Wooten wrote about the unusual path to naming a base after a family, rather than a single person.