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Keller @ Large: Candidates playing character card is not without risk

Keller @ Large: Candidates playing character card is not without risk
Keller @ Large: Candidates playing character card is not without risk 02:41

BOSTON -- Politicians often evoke their personal lives as they campaign, modeling character as a qualification for office. Remember how candidate Joe Biden repeatedly shared the tragedy of losing his wife, daughter, and son as evidence of his compassion and understanding of "how hard life can hit you"? 

So it isn't surprising to see New Hampshire GOP Senate candidate Don Bolduc, in his new TV ad, touting his military service and proclaiming "this isn't about political party, this is about Granite Staters... We don't need career politicians that operate off of money from special interests, self-interests, and lobbyists. We need people with heart."

Given how Bolduc has been getting hammered by incumbent Democrat Maggie Hassan - who also invokes her character in a TV ad spotlighting her experience as the mother of a disabled child - over his opposition to abortion rights, it's no wonder Bolduc wants to change the subject to character, fast.

But the saga of former football star Herschel Walker, locked in a tight Georgia race for Senate, is a cautionary tale of how risky playing the character card can be.

"I believe in life, no excuses," Walker has said repeatedly during the campaign. But the Daily Beast website reports Walker encouraged and helped pay for an abortion for an unidentified woman he dated 13 years ago. She shared a receipt for the procedure, a get-well card, and an image of a check from Walker to back up her allegations.

And Walker's 23-year-old son Christian says in two Twitter videos it's his father who's lying. "Don't lie. Don't lie on my mom, don't lie on me, don't lie on the lives you've destroyed and act like you're some moral family man. Y'all should care about that, conservatives."

We learned with Bill Clinton in the 1990s that marital infidelity and lying about it do not necessarily disqualify you from being elected and re-elected. And Donald Trump showed if voters believe you're passionate about things they care about, a checkered past and a loose relationship with truth are not a problem.

But for Walker, do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do atmospherics are problematic when it comes to an issue like abortion. And in New Hampshire, admiration for Bolduc's military service and "outsider" status isn't likely to be enough to make believers in abortion rights set that issue aside.

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