Republicans saw the Herschel Walker problem coming a mile away

Republicans saw the Herschel Walker problem coming a mile away



CNN

The final week of Herschel Walker’s Senate campaign – busy with a report that he paid a woman he was dating to have an abortion more than a decade ago – has been a total disaster.

And it was compounded by the fact that smart Republican strategists had known for the better part of a year that Walker was a) deeply untested and b) deeply unpredictable as a candidate.

More than a year ago, in response to an Associated Press article detailing Walker’s tumultuous past — including threatening his ex-wife and exaggerating his business successes — Josh Holmes, a longtime chief confidant Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was candid in his assessment of the situation.

“This is about the most comprehensive teardown I’ve ever read,” tweeted Holmes in July 2021. “My lord.”

And while McConnell was publicly silent, he was operating behind the scenes to try to hijack Walker from his privileged position in the Georgia Senate primary.

As CNN reported in August 2021:

“McConnell has suggested to his allies that former Georgia senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler should reconsider their candidacy, according to three sources familiar with the matter, after their small losses in January swung the Senate back into Democratic control.”

In the end, these efforts were in vain. And around this time last year, McConnell had dropped out – approving Walker’s offer. “Herschel is the only one who can unite the party, defeat Senator Warnock and help us take back the Senate,” McConnell said at the time.

To careful observers of McConnell, it was then clear that this was a marriage of convenience – at best.

Walker had already been endorsed by Donald Trump. He was (and is) a celebrity in Georgia due to his football exploits. None of the other potential high-profile GOP candidates — like Perdue and Loeffler — ended up running.

McConnell didn’t get where he is — the longtime Republican leader in the Senate — by charging windmills. He knew there was no point getting in Walker’s way because the former football star was going to be the Republican nominee. So McConnell came aboard.

But those initial doubts that led him – and one of his top political advisers – to be skeptical of Walker have never dissipated. It was a classic case of “If you can’t beat them, join them”, in action.

Unfortunately for McConnell and Senate Republicans, what played out recently was exactly what worried them all those months ago. (CNN has not independently verified the allegation against Walker, who has repeatedly denied ever paying for an abortion.)

Point: It’s not clear that McConnell had no choice but to get behind Walker. But when he did that, he knew things could end this way. Wrong.

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