Month before midterms, abortion in focus as GOP backs Herschel Walker
Bombshell allegations about Herschel Walker, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Georgia, have drawn renewed attention to the debate over abortion, which Democrats are hoping will boost turnout among their supporters, though polling suggests it may be lower than it was two years ago.
The mother of one of Walker’s children has said he ended a relationship with her in 2011 after she refused to have an abortion as she had done two years earlier, according to an account in the New York Times on Friday. The Times report said she was the same woman who previously told the Daily Beast that Walker paid for the abortion for her first pregnancy with him.
The woman, speaking on the condition of anonymity to protect her privacy and that of her child, told The Washington Post in a brief interview Saturday that those reports accurately described her experiences. The Post also reviewed a copy of a $700 check the woman said Walker wrote to reimburse her for the cost of the abortion. The check did not include a memo line with a stated purpose. It was deposited days after the date the woman said she had the abortion.
The race could determine which party controls the Senate, with Democrats working to highlight the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade to draw in voters in favor of abortion rights.
Republicans, for their part, are trying to shift voters’ attention to other topics such as crime and the economy, amid the daily headlines about Walker’s personal behavior that has included threats of domestic violence, fathering children out of wedlock, and inaccurately describing his business record.
Although some Republicans have expressed concerns about Walker’s “baggage,” many in the GOP are doubling down in backing the troubled candidate. National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) plan to rally in Georgia for Walker on Tuesday, as The Washington Post first reported.
And on Sunday, Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), who is facing a tough reelection for his House seat, defended Walker, saying “none of us are perfect.”
“Herschel needs to come clean and just be honest,” Bacon said on NBC’s “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.”
When “Meet the Press” host Kristen Welker asked if Walker’s controversies undercut the Republican Party’s broader antiabortion message, Bacon was circumspect, returning to his belief that the race would not be decided on a candidate’s personal behavior.
“You want to walk the talk and talk the walk. You want to have cohesion with your message,” he said. “But people also make mistakes. I’m surely not a flawless person by no means. I have made my own mistakes in life. And Herschel has too.”
Bacon’s remarks are in line with a GOP memo released last month that offered talking points to Republican candidates looking to effectively position themselves heading into the general election this fall. The GOP acknowledged in the memo that the vast majority of voters disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision this summer to overturn Roe v. Wade, which for nearly 50 years provided a constitutional right to abortion.
In the memo, first reported by the Hill, Republicans were urged to “draw a contrast” between their position on abortion — which the memo describes as including exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother — against “a Democrat who supports abortion at any time for any reason.”
On NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) dismissed those arguments. She also defended a Michigan ballot initiative that would enshrine the right to an abortion in the state’s constitution “up to the point of viability.”
“And then afterwards it has to be because of the health of the mother deemed by a medical professional,” Slotkin said. “So it’s not abortion on demand, it’s not through the ninth month, all these talking points that the Republicans are using because they know they’re on their heels on this issue. So I support that ballot initiative.”
Slotkin also called out the hypocrisy of Republicans, noting that they have called for forgiving Walker even though he has not admitted any wrongdoing.
“I think what Mr. Walker is doing himself is enough for voters to see, right? He’s being accused of something, he’s not admitting it, or he’s dodging,” Slotkin said.
Overall, the five-page GOP memo argues for shifting attention from abortion and toward other issues such as inflation and the economy. But Republicans have found it difficult to avoid the topic of abortion since Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) introduced a bill last month that would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy nationwide.
On CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Kari Lake, the Republican nominee for governor in the battleground state of Arizona, refused to say whether she would pursue restrictions on abortions sooner than 15 weeks. Instead, she diverted the discussion to offering women help to “keep their baby” or assistance in making an adoption plan.
“I want to give women true choices,” Lake said.
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, the Democratic nominee for governor, dismissed as “ridiculous” Lake’s assertion that late-term abortions were performed solely at the patient’s discretion.
Abortion is a topic that belongs “between a woman and her doctor,” Hobbs added. "The government and politicians don’t belong in that decision.”
Midterm elections typically favor the party not in power, but the Supreme Court’s ruling in June has Democrats looking to reverse that trend by emphasizing their goal of codifying abortion rights into law. Planned Parenthood recently announced plans to spend a record $50 million to elect abortion rights supporters across the country in November, on the belief that the focus will be a net positive for Democratic candidates.
However, some Democratic groups have expressed concern that they have not seen the same levels of fundraising and voter enthusiasm as they did in 2020.
Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee for governor who is trailing in polls against Gov. Brian Kemp (R), said on Sunday that reports of faltering support among Black voters was a “manufactured crisis designed to suppress turnout.”
“If you look at my polling numbers and the polling numbers of my ticket mate, [Georgia Democratic] Sen. Raphael G. Warnock, we are polling similarly well with Black voters. We know, however, that Black voters, like every voting population, deserves the respect of having someone to come and speak to them, engage them,” Abrams said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“But it is always an opportunity to engage. I do not take any voting bloc for granted,” she added.
Abrams also noted that Black women in Georgia are the most likely to die of maternal mortality issues because they are denied access to health care before they get pregnant.
“We know that in Brian Kemp’s Georgia, a Black woman faces a lethal choice and that is to either have a crystal ball and knows she’s pregnant before she can actually know, or face forced pregnancy with very little support,” she said. “In the state of Georgia, Brian Kemp has said that Herschel Walker is entitled to his personal choices, but no woman is. And that is unconscionable.”
Annie Linskey contributed to this report."