All it would take is for the GOP to flip one senate seat and Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell could be returned to power as Senate Majority Leader.
No more liberal judicial or cabinet appointments, no more historic legislation: The Biden White House would be hobbled through 2024.
But lately, it’s become increasingly elusive for McConnell to find that seat to flip.
Arizona looks fairly safe for Mark Kelly, and New Hampshire is now looking better for Maggie Hassan—all because GOP voters chose extremists out of the primaries, and they are now pitted against sane, competent incumbents in the general.
Nowhere has the pain of poor quality candidates been more apparent than in Georgia and Pennsylvania, where two new scandals erupted recently that threaten to derail the campaigns of Herschel Walker and Mehmet Oz in the final weeks of the race.
Herschel Walker Allegedly Paid for a Girlfriend to Get an Abortion
Walker has campaigned as a staunchly anti-abortion candidate, saying he wants a complete ban on abortion, with “no exceptions” presumably including for rape, incest or the life of the mother. He has even likened abortion to murder by saying it’s a “woman killing her baby.”
That stance was tested deeply by a report from The Daily Beast that Walker had fathered a child out of wedlock in 2009 and had urged the woman to get an abortion. The woman agreed, had the procedure performed, and received reimbursement from Walker for it, according to the report.
To corroborate the story, The Daily Beast reviewed a receipt for abortion services in the amount of $575, a “get well” card allegedly from Walker that bore what appears to be his signature flourish H, and a check from Walker in the amount of $700 which the woman said also covered travel and recovery costs.
The Daily Beast also spoke to a close friend of the woman who was aware of the procedure at the time and was with her in the days following.
Walker immediately responded to the report calling it a “flat-out lie.”
On Fox News, Walker continued to deny the story, claiming:
“I never asked anyone to get an abortion, I never paid for an abortion.”
He also said he did not know the woman, but this was odd considering he sent her a check for $700 and, it turns out, apparently also had a child of his.
Walker sought to explain the check by saying:
“I send a lot of money to a lot of people."
"I do scholarships for kids, I give money to people all the time, because I’m always helping people, because I believe in being generous.”
\u201cHannity: What about the $700 check Walker: I send money to a lot of people.\u201d— Acyn (@Acyn) 1664847230
He as yet has offered no explanation for not knowing the woman who claims she is the mother of one of his children.
One of the first people to call Walker out for this was his son, Christian Walker, who until now has acted as a staunch supporter on the campaign trail despite his often colorful if somewhat unhinged rants.
When the story broke, Christian Walker tweeted:
"Every family member of Herschel Walker asked him not to run for office, because we all knew (some of) his past."
"Every single one."
"He decided to give us the middle finger and air out all of his dirty laundry in public, while simultaneously lying about it."
\u201cEvery family member of Herschel Walker asked him not to run for office, because we all knew (some of) his past. Every single one. He decided to give us the middle finger and air out all of his dirty laundry in public, while simultaneously lying about it. \n\nI\u2019m done.\u201d— Christian Walker (@Christian Walker) 1664845280
Later, he added another revealing thread condemning his father’s lies and hypocrisy.
"I know my mom and I would really appreciate if my father Herschel Walker stopped lying and making a mockery of us."
"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."
"I don’t care about someone who has a bad past and takes accountability."
"But how DARE YOU LIE and act as though you’re some 'moral, Christian, upright man'."
"You’ve lived a life of DESTROYING other peoples lives."
"How dare you."
\u201cI don\u2019t care about someone who has a bad past and takes accountability. But how DARE YOU LIE and act as though you\u2019re some \u201cmoral, Christian, upright man.\u201d You\u2019ve lived a life of DESTROYING other peoples lives. How dare you.\u201d— Christian Walker (@Christian Walker) 1664845932
editors note: Christian Walker posted two videos to reveal the "truth" about his father which can be seen here.
Herschel Walker had threatened to sue The Daily Beast for defamation the very next morning, but the media outlet stands by its reporting and sources and so far no lawsuit has landed.
The scandal is likely to continue to follow Walker up through the election, adding to a long list of alarming past behavior, apparent lies, and hypocrisy over the conservative family values that he claims to support.
Dr. Oz’s Laboratory Violated Animal Welfare Laws
Another bombshell story dropped yesterday on a different GOP senate candidate: Mehmet Oz of New Jersey, who is running in Pennsylvania.
The progressive media outlet Jezebel, which is known for its more pointed attacks, reported while Oz was a principal investigator at the Columbia University Institute of Comparative Medicine labs and had “full scientific, administrative, and fiscal responsibility for the conduct” of his studies, his research team for years conducted over a thousand live animal studies on dogs, pigs, calves, rabbits and rodents resulting mostly in their deaths.
While emotionally upsetting to read about, that fact isn’t so unusual in a medical lab setting. After all, according to critics, each year in America some 50 million animals are used in medical research, and most of them die from the experience.
What stood out in this report, however, was a whistleblower and veterinarian named Catherine Dell’Orto earlier had detailed “extensive suffering inflicted on his team’s canine test subjects” including “multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act.” That law requires researchers to use pain-relieving drugs or euthanasia on animals and not to experiment multiple times on the same animal.
Dell’Orto provided gruesome testimony about the cruel treatment of dogs in Oz’s lab, and I won’t go into the details. But you can review the larger story of her efforts to shine a light on the lab’s practices here and in the Jezebel piece.
It’s important to note there was no evidence Oz himself participated directly in the euthanization or mistreatment of animals in the lab, though his name appeared on the experiment itself, and Dell’Orto has noted this makes him responsible for what happened during the research.
An internal Columbia University investigation did find violations of the Animal Welfare Act, after which a settlement with the USDA was reached for a small sum, which Dell’Orto contested as based on a faulty and biased review process.
So far, Oz’s campaign has not responded to the report, nor has he effectively rebutted attacks by John Fetterman’s campaign that he regularly promoted quack medicines and procedures to benefit himself financially.
The effect of these critiques, along with the recent report of animal mistreatment, has been devastating: Oz has effectively been cast as not only a charlatan and a snake-oil salesman, but one apparently willing to hurt puppies to advance his aims. If there are effective counters to this narrative, the Oz campaign has yet to find them.
Meanwhile Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who is running against Oz, is more than happy to take loving family photos of himself and his dogs and post them on social media.
McConnell May Need to Look Elsewhere To Find His Majority
With Arizona and New Hampshire increasingly out of reach, and with trouble brewing in Georgia for Herschel Walker, McConnell likely will focus on Nevada, where a pick up looks increasingly possible.
Democrats are numerically disadvantaged in the state, and the traditional working class vote has reportedly soured on incumbents, including Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, due to high inflation and a sluggish recovery. Democrats would be well served to shore up her race as well as the three House incumbents in Nevada who face tough challenges.
But even a win by the GOP in Nevada could be offset by a likely loss in Pennsylvania—or for that matter in Ohio where Republican J.D. Vance is running a spectacularly poor campaign against Democratic Representative Tim Ryan.
In North Carolina and Florida former state supreme court justice Cheri Beasley and Representative Val Demings are running close races against extremist anti-abortion GOP candidates. In Wisconsin deeply unpopular Senator Ron Johnson is hoping to hang onto his seat against a spirited Democratic challenger, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes.
The last thing McConnell needs is more scandal upon scandal, all resulting from a crop of poor quality candidates who were backed by Trump but are burdened with significant personal baggage.
It is fair to say that their problems are now McConnell’s as well as we head into the last month and final sprint to the midterms.