John Ellis
4 min readOct 6, 2022

What follows is a Political Note I sent to subscribers to News Items, my morning newsletter. I’ve made it available here, because it’s attracted some attention in political circles.

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LaDainian Tomlinson was one of the great running backs in the history of the National Football League. He rushed the ball 3,174 times, gaining 13,684 yards over the course of his 11-year career. He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2017.

Years ago, he was featured in a ’60 Minutes” segment that addressed, among other things, the physical toll of being a running back in the NFL. Specifically, he was asked how he felt after a game. “I feel like I’ve been in a head-on car crash, at high speed” he told the interviewer. (Ed Note: This is not an exact quote, but it’s close enough. I was unable to find the ’60 Minutes’ episode in question on the web).

Over the course of his career, he was in at least 155 “head-on car crashes” (games he started and played throughout). What he now fears, more than anything else, is chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive brain condition that’s thought to be caused by repeated blows to the head and brain traumas.

Over the course of Hershel Walker’s 12-year professional football career, he was in at least 137 “head-on car crashes.” Watching him speak and struggle to think clearly, you can’t help but wonder if “repeated blows to the head” from playing football at the highest, hardest-hitting level have damaged his brain.

It’s painful to watch. Walker shouldn’t be a candidate for the United States Senate. He’s not qualified. He won’t know what to do when (and if) he gets to Washington. He’s only on the ticket because former President Trump endorsed him. The moment he becomes a liability for Trump, Trump will cut him loose. So will everyone else. No one cares about Herschel Walker in GOP circles (or in any other circles, for that matter). If Georgia Republicans could replace him on the ballot today, they would do so in a nano-second. They can’t. It’s too late.

The amazing thing is: he can still win. Despite his evident lack of qualifications, his tossed word salad answers to even the most straightforward questions, his son’s blistering condemnation, a credible allegation that he paid for a girlfriend’s abortion (Walker denies the allegation and asserts that he is adamantly opposed to abortion) and much, much more, Herschel Walker can still win the Georgia Senate race.

Quick detour:

The three most popular governors in the United States are from Vermont, Massachusetts and Maryland. All three states are solidly Democratic. Governors Phil Scott (VT), Charlie Baker (MA) and Larry Hogan (MD) are all Republicans.

Voters look for different qualities in candidates for state government than they do in candidates for Federal office. We saw this last year in Virgina. A blue state (Biden carried it by 10 percentage points) elected a Republican gubernatorial candidate, Glenn Youngkin, by 2 percentage points (51%-to-49%). That’s a 12 point swing in one year.

Back to the Georgia Senate race:

Federal races, on the other hand, are basically Red vs. Blue. In states where the two sides are (more or less) evenly matched, the game begins with the score tied at ~45% Red, ~45% Blue. The campaigns then focus on two things: (1) turning out a larger percentage of their ~45% than the other side does of their ~45%, and (2) convincing the remaining ~10% that the opposition is beyond beyond the pale.

For the next month or so, the Walker campaign will likely have nothing to say about Herschel Walker, other than a brief message: “Vote Red.” It will have everything to say about the horrors of the Biden Administration, the degeneracy of Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock (Walker’s opponent), the double nightmare of Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, the fake news “corporate media,” maybe even the dastardly Deep State for good measure.

And it just might work. Oil prices, which had been heading south, will likely rise again following today’s announcement from OPEC+. The crisis at the border continues to rage out of control. The deficit is now $31 trillion. Inflation is not under control. A “hard landing” seems more than likely. You know all this (and more). It adds up.

Sen. Warnock’s message, other than “Herschel ain’t up to it” is two-fold: the Dobbs decision was a terrible mistake and Donald Trump specifically and the MAGA Republican Party more generally represent a clear and present danger to the Republic. Both “issues” will help drive Democratic turnout. The question is whether that’s enough.

Maybe “Herschel ain’t up to it” will be decisive.

I wouldn’t bet on it.



John Ellis

Founder and Editor, News Items. Political analyst. Founder of and contributing editor to Bird News Items. Former columnist for The Boston Globe.