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The truth Republicans don't want to admit about Herschel Walker

CNN  — 

Herschel Walker held a press conference on Thursday, ostensibly to quiet the furor that has engulfed his campaign since the Daily Beast reported that he had paid for a woman’s abortion after the two conceived a child while they were dating in 2009.

It didn’t go well.

Walker again denied that he paid for the abortion. “This here, the abortion thing, is false. It’s a lie,” the Georgia Republican Senate nominee said after a campaign event.

But earlier in the day, during an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, Walker said of the allegation: “if that had happened, I would have said it, ‘cause there’s nothing to be ashamed of there.”

So…

Pressed on those comments by reporters, Walker, who has campaigned on his opposition to abortion rights, responded: “No, what I said – I was talking about something totally different … nothing to do with what this woman said. I said this here, the abortion thing, is false. It’s a lie.”

CNN has not independently verified the allegations reported by the Daily Beast.

Asked Thursday about allegations made publicly by his son, Christian, that his family had begged him not to run for Senate and that he had been a less-than-stellar father, Walker offered up a word salad.

“I said, ‘Anything that happened with my ex-wife, or what Christian was talking about, I don’t know,’” the candidate said. “But – as I said – if anything happened, that’s nothing to be ashamed of, because my ex-wife and I have been best of friends, with her husband, and my wife, so that’s the thing that I’ve said.”

What?

Walker went on to say about his son: “I love my son so much. He’s a great little man, I love him to death. And you know what, I will always love him, no matter what my son says.”

The reality here is pretty obvious: Walker is simply not a good candidate. He has struggled throughout the campaign to expand beyond his football hero persona, stumbling repeatedly to do the basics required of a candidate running for the Senate.

Here’s the problem for Walker – a point made to me by the Washington Post’s Philip Bump: Walker has spent his whole life basking in adulation. He was revered during his time at the University of Georgia. Ditto his career in the NFL. And his post-football career. He’s never been forced to answer even mildly difficult questions. He’s never been put in any sort of adversarial situation. He’s never had anyone look into his resume. He’s never, really, been subject to any criticism at all.

That’s not so different than how we treat a lot of former athletes in our culture. Plenty of athletes dine out on their accomplishments on the football field or the basketball court for decades after they stop playing.

But most of those people never run for elected office. And Walker isn’t running for some low-level office. He’s running for the US Senate – a massively high-profile position, with all the scrutiny and seriousness that comes with it.

None of this means that Walker can’t win his race. Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock won in Georgia in January 2021, yes, but the state’s roots remain Republican. And most polling – largely conducted before the abortion news broke – suggests that Walker, despite the myriad other issues his campaign has had, remains well within range of Warnock.

But candidate quality does matter – at least at the margins of close races. And the all-too-obvious fact at this point is that Walker is just not a very good candidate. And he’s unlikely to get much better in the remaining month or so of this campaign.