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It was not Joe Biden, the Catholic President with a longtime personal opposition to abortion, who helped clear the way for some states to outlaw abortion medical care in the US. Biden is currently promising to protect abortion rights.
Rather, it was Donald Trump, the twice-divorced reality TV star whose overriding faith is that some people would follow him even if he committed murder, who found himself as the President with three Supreme Court nominees in four years and teed up the end of Roe v. Wade.
In Georgia, that Supreme Court decision means a law outlawing abortions as early as six weeks of pregnancy, with some exceptions, has gone into effect.
Now, abortion opponents in Georgia have another decision to make.
Should they care that the GOP Senate candidate who opposes abortion rights has been accused in press reports of paying for a former girlfriend’s abortion and encouraging her to get a second?
Herschel Walker has denied the allegations, and CNN has not independently confirmed the woman’s allegation about the abortion or that Walker urged her to terminate a second pregnancy.
While the allegations in press reports have upended the race, Sen. Raphael Warnock, who is trying to hold on to the seat for Democrats and is the pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, has tried to stay above the fray and refrained from using hypocrisy or the abortion story as a line of attack against Walker.
Walker’s celebrity-fueled campaign is testing Trump’s belief that personal issues don’t matter as much as they used to in US politics.
Trump has been among Walker’s biggest backers. Long before this abortion story was reported, Trump told The New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, who was writing a biography of him, that Walker’s complicated history won’t matter today.
“It’s a personal history that, 10 years ago, maybe it would’ve been a problem,” Trump told her. Haberman has shared audio of the interview and made clear Trump was talking about previous allegations of domestic violence against Walker and not the current abortion story. “Twenty years ago it would’ve been a bigger problem. I don’t think it’s a problem today,” Trump said.
The conservative radio host Dana Loesch certainly prizes Walker’s opposition to all abortion no matter what he’s done in his personal life.
“I don’t care if Herschel Walker paid to abort endangered baby eagles. I want control of the Senate,” she said, to some controversy, on her radio show last week.
The larger universe of Republicans eyeing the balance of power in Washington is not using those terms, but they are ready to make that bargain.
The chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, is traveling to Georgia on Tuesday to appear with Walker.
“I’m proud to stand with Herschel Walker and make sure Georgians know that he will always fight to protect them from the forces trying to destroy Georgia values and Georgia’s economy,” Scott said in a statement to CNN.
The Republican establishment is mobilizing around Walker to help him over the finish line in part because they did not appropriately mobilize to smother his candidacy when Trump first pushed it. Walker romped through the primary with more than two-thirds of the vote even though there were clear early warning signs about his candidacy.
In that regard, Trump is wrong about personal issues not mattering.
It’s possible one of the only reasons Democrats even appear to have a shot at maintaining control of the Senate is that Republican primary voters opted for inexperienced candidates in Arizona, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Georgia.
CNN’s Harry Enten pointed out on “New Day” that the GOP candidates in each of those races are under water in their favorability ratings.
“These races have become a little bit more localized, and these GOP candidates are, to be honest, in the voters’ minds, just not very good,” Enten said. Read more from Enten.
That doesn’t mean flawed candidates won’t win in this climate and in a political system that effectively offers a binary choice – Republican or Democrat – in most races on Election Day.
Walker also needs to make sure more independent and moderate voters don’t turn en masse away from him.
Keep in mind that Trump won the presidency in 2016 with help from evangelical voters about a month after leaked video from “Access Hollywood” showed him bragging in 2005 about grabbing women.
The new Southern Baptist Convention President Bart Barber went on “60 Minutes” on Sunday to talk to Anderson Cooper about his efforts to deal with a sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the church this year.
But he also talked about politics and explained his own conversion to supporting Trump in 2020 after not voting for him in 2016.
Among Barber’s reasons for changing: “I was encouraged by the consistent pro-life support that the President gave. I didn’t expect that.”
Barber’s opposition to abortion rights sounds as strict as what Walker has said on the campaign trail. Asked by Cooper about a horrible case out of Ohio, Barber defended the idea of forcing a 10-year-old rape victim to carry a child to term.
Cooper asked Barber if evangelicals had “sold their soul” to support Trump, and Barber answered he was one of few available options on Election Day: “I think we had to choose from the choices that were given to us. And that’s, uh, that’s – that’s an inescapable reality in our political system.”
That’s the same reality abortion opponents face today in Georgia. They will have to set aside apparent hypocrisy if they want a senator who will vote for what they believe in.