Opinion | Why Herschel Walker Shouldn’t Have Run

If you have been observing the Georgia U.S. Senate campaign closely and you are unusually straightforward and eloquent you would say of

Herschel Walker


John Ellis

said Wednesday in his newsletter:

“Walker shouldn’t be a candidate for the United States Senate. He’s not qualified. He won’t know what to do when (and if) he gets to Washington. He’s only on the ticket because former President Trump endorsed him. The moment he becomes a liability for Trump, Trump will cut him loose. So will everyone else. No one cares about Herschel Walker in GOP circles. . . . If Georgia Republicans could replace him on the ballot today, they would do so in a nano-second. They can’t. It’s too late.”

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Mr. Ellis believes, however, that Mr. Walker could still win: energy prices up, inflation untamed, an out-of-control southern border, and a federal debt that this week reached a historic and somewhat harrowing $31 trillion. People fear recession. They won’t want to back the current cast of political characters, they’ll want to throw them out.

I’d add that voters don’t expect much. They’ve had their own imperfect lives, and they long ago lost any assumption that political leaders were more upstanding than they. We are in the postheroic era of American politics. What voters want is someone who sees the major issues as they do. Conservatives especially see America’s deep cultural sickness and wonder if the country is cratering before our eyes. In such circumstances personal histories don’t count as once they did.

But I see the Walker story differently and expect a different outcome.

Here I must tell you what you know, that the avowedly pro-life Senate candidate is accused of paying for the abortion of a former girlfriend, whose identity has not been revealed but who provided the Daily Beast substantiating evidence. Mr. Walker denied it, said he doesn’t know the woman and he sends checks to lots of people. The woman soon after came forward and said he should remember me, I gave birth to one of his children.

Explosive. But I think Republican strategists misunderstand the scandal, or miss the heart of it. It isn’t really about abortion or hypocrisy. It is about children born and the father says to the mother: You can raise it by yourself or you can abort it but I won’t help you raise it and act as a father. That is the story, that Walker is accused of abandoning his little kids, and it came from his son, Christian, 23, a conservative activist, who made the furious videos that blew the story up. That is the aspect Christian focused on: “My father . . . had all these random kids across the country, none of whom he raised. . . . Family values people: He has four kids—four different women—wasn’t in the house raising one of them. He was out having sex with other women. . . . You have no idea what me and my mom have survived.”

Voters who would easily forgive abortion or running around or bad breakups or divorce are less likely to give a pass on that, on four children left alone by their father, the rich handsome former football star and candidate for Senate.

Christian Walker’s

pain is a common one. The U.S. Census Bureau found in 2021 that 25% of American children are raised in households without their father. In Georgia there are more than 261,000 households with children under 18, a female head and no spouse or partner present.

That’s a lot of people. All of them would likely take this part of the story more to heart.

Republicans can say it’s an October surprise, a well-timed oppo drop. Mr. Walker himself says it shows how desperate Democrats are to hold the seat, they’ll smear you with anything. His supporters note the incumbent, Sen.

Raphael Warnock,

has had his own personal embarrassments, with an ex-wife who accused him of trying to run over her foot in an argument. He’s just a “great actor,” she says. But that’s the kind of thing that impresses people who want to stick with you anyway. I’m not sure it moves anyone else.

Donald Trump

is the reason Herschel Walker won the primary, but the Republican establishment in Washington was part of it. They looked at Mr. Walker and thought: fame, football star. He’ll raise tons of money. He will need a lot of help—he’s a political neophyte—but that will mean more jobs for high-priced consultants. Nothing wrong with that! And there were the maybes. Maybe he could help heal the Trump rift in the party. Maybe establishment support itself helps heal the rift. Maybe Mr. Walker could become the candidate who can seal the deal with minority voters, a guy who says by his very presence, “You have a home in this party.” Republicans actually do want to reach out, to include, to expand their base. But in this case it made them insane, it made them ignore what was obvious. Only a year ago the Associated Press was reporting Walker’s ex-wife

Cindy Grossman,

Christian’s mother, feared that he’d kill her and had to get a protective order against him. He had been accused of stalking and making violent threats against ex-girlfriends. Ms. Grossman said he’d held a gun to her head and threatened to blow her brains out. All this was known when everyone decided to back him.

Mr. Walker has spoken and written of his mental-health struggles, and he deserves sympathy. No one takes a sarcastic tone when noting that football-related brain injuries may have played a role in his adult life.

The Washington Post reported this week that national GOP leaders are behind Mr. Walker, but local leaders in Georgia feel “unease.” He gave a rousing speech for Mr. Trump at the 2020 GOP convention and maybe it took some guts, because it’s never been easy to be black and conservative. But he is a wholly untested newcomer to professional politics. The Post quoted former DeKalb County GOP Chairman

Lane Flynn,

who bottom-lined it: “The question going forward is how transactional is the average voter going to be?” If you’re sincerely pro-life, how does the Walker story reflect on the pro-life movement?

Seth Weathers,

a longtime Georgia GOP strategist and state director of Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, said, “I warned everyone I knew that this was a dumb idea,” referring to Mr. Walker’s nomination. Then, poignantly, “We could have had

Gary Black.

” Mr. Black was the state’s veteran agriculture commissioner, and before the Senate primary he mostly won landslides. He was a farmer, and he backed Mr. Trump. But he wasn’t the exciting choice, he wouldn’t blow up the money machine, and there was nothing dramatic about him. Why not throw the long ball?

It was political malfeasance all the way down. I understand why Republicans want to win back the Senate, and I hope they do. But they need to learn, again, that you need to be more serious than this, you can’t be so lacking in gravity when it comes to someone who may help decide Ukraine policy. You can’t be so frivolous and lacking in weight.

My hunch is they’re about to learn a lesson. Maybe it’s ultimately better that they learn it, again, and unmistakably.

Journal Editorial Report: Some races are tightening as November looms. Image: Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

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