The ads from Georgia Honor have not been subtle.
In a series of three spots, the group has played up Walker’s history of violence, domestic and otherwise. The first features Walker’s ex-wife discussing the “first time” he held a gun to her head. The second includes a news anchor quoting Walker on the “visceral enjoyment” of a “spray of brain tissue.” The third notes Walker discussed “choking his employees” as recently as 2019.
The first ad began airing Aug. 31. In the month or so since, the group — which is fully funded by allies of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer — has spent roughly $8.2 million to air the ads throughout Georgia, according to ad buying data viewed by HuffPost.
Those ads are why, based on conversations with Democratic and Republican operatives working on Georgia’s Senate race, the potential political game-changer from the past 24 hours is not the revelation, reported by The Daily Beast, that Walker paid a woman he was dating to have an abortion. It’s the fact that Walker’s son, a conservative influencer named Christian, reacted to the story by backing up what Democrats had already been saying about his dad.
“I know my mom and I would really appreciate if my father Herschel Walker stopped lying and making a mockery of us,” Christian Walker wrote on Twitter on Monday night not long after the story published. “You’re not a ‘family man’ when you left us to bang a bunch of women, threatened to kill us, and had us move over 6 times in 6 months running from your violence.”
The elder Walker has denied paying for the abortion and has threatened to sue The Daily Beast. He has not directly responded to his son’s comments, only writing on Twitter: “I LOVE my son no matter what.”
It’s far too early to assess the overall electoral impact in his race against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, with both parties planning to conduct polling and collect data over the next several days. Georgia is almost certain to remain central to the battle for control of the 50-50 Senate. The two major entities supporting Herschel Walker’s campaign — the National Republican Senatorial Committee and a super PAC controlled by allies of Mitch McConnell — quickly signaled they would stand by him on Tuesday night.
They do not have much choice: The Senate playing field has narrowed in recent weeks, and operatives in both parties believe only a handful of seats still have a chance at changing hands. Democrats can still take GOP seats in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, while Republicans’ best hopes of ousting incumbent Democrats are in Georgia and Nevada.
In videos posted to social media, Christian Walker elaborates on Herschel’s treatment of him and his mother, Cindy DeAngelis Grossman, who was married to Herschel Walker from 1983 to 2002.
“I stayed silent as the atrocities against my mom were downplayed,” he says in one of the videos, adding later: “You have no idea what you and my mom have survived. We could have ended this on Day 1.”
I’ve stayed silent for nearly two years as my whole life has been lied about publicly. I did ONE campaign event, then said I didn’t want involvement.
Don’t you dare test my authenticity. Here is the full story: pic.twitter.com/ekVEcz8zq3
— Christian Walker (@ChristianWalk1r) October 4, 2022
“Don’t lie about your life at the expense of me and my mom,” he says in another. “You don’t get to pretend you’re some moral family man.”
The younger Walker’s videos essentially serve as the reverse of a strategy Republicans have leaned on in recent years of calling in their family members as character witnesses. In 2018, they pointed to children, wives and aunts with preexisting conditions as evidence they would not strip away health care protections. In 2022, four different GOP Senate candidates have aired ads featuring their wives discussing their character as the party tries to finesse the unpopularity of its stances on abortion rights.
“If they’re going to use family members to defend themselves, we can use family members to attack them,” said one Democratic strategist who requested anonymity to discuss party strategy.
On Tuesday, Democratic strategists were debating whether to directly take video from Christian Walker’s post and put them into television or digital ads. Some were wary of elevating the younger Walker, who broadly holds right-wing views and regularly expresses them on TikTok and on his podcast.
Democrats were also unsure of how frequently they would mention the elder Walker’s apparent hypocrisy on abortion rights. The Republican’s stated position — he opposes abortion in all instances, with no exceptions for rape or the life of the mother and would support a national ban — is already sufficiently unpopular that it might not require “dressing up,” in the words of one Democrat.
Recent polls of the race have been close. A CBS News/YouGov poll from mid-September, for instance, found Warnock earning 51% of the vote to Walker’s 49%.
The same poll found just 33% of voters would support a federal abortion ban, though just 59% of voters said abortion would be “very important” to their vote in the midterms, compared to 84% who said the same of the economy and 80% who said inflation would be “very important.”
Among voters who described the economy as “very important” to their vote, Walker has a 56% to 44% edge, while Warnock has a 67% to 32% edge among voters who say abortion is “very important.”
But the poll also contains some indications new revelations about the GOP candidate could have a limited impact, since voters already hold comparatively low opinions of him. Only 40% of voters said Walker, who has faced multiple stories showing him exaggerating his business record and accomplishments, was “honest and truthful.” Only 43% said he has “strong moral character,” and only 44% said he was a “good role model.”
“If you weren’t going to vote for Herschel Walker because of his past behavior, Democrats have already given you plenty of reason to do that,” said one GOP strategist, granted anonymity to discuss Walker’s struggles.
But simple negative partisanship will keep a large chunk of voters in line. While a 57% majority of Warnock voters said they were supporting him because they liked the candidate, just 20% of Walker voters said the same of the former University of Georgia running back. Meanwhile, 47% of Walker voters said they backed him to oppose Warnock. Only 22% of Warnock voters said the same of Walker.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.