Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday endorsed former NFL star Herschel Walker’s bid for a U.S. Senate seat in Georgia, a key battleground state the GOP hopes to flip from blue to pink in subsequent yr’s midterm elections.

In doing so, the Kentucky senator joins former President Donald Trump in backing Walker, who briefly performed for a Trump-owned crew in the long-defunct USFL.

McConnell’s transfer comes amid an almost yearlong confrontation between the 2 GOP giants over Trump’s repeated emphasis on re-litigating his 2020 election loss to now-President Biden, and his quite a few requires McConnell to be ousted as Senate Republican chief.

The senator’s endorsement, which was shared first with Fox News and Politico, alerts that the GOP Senate management – and with it a lot of the get together institution in the nation’s capital — is rallying round Walker’s bid to problem Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock in a race subsequent yr that will decide if the GOP wins again the Senate majority in the 2022 midterms.

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“I am happy to endorse Herschel Walker for U.S. Senate in Georgia,” McConnell stated in an announcement .”Herschel is the only one who can unite the party, defeat Senator Warnock, and help us take back the Senate. I look forward to working with Herschel in Washington to get the job done.” 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is seen on Capitol Hill, June 22, 2021. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is seen on Capitol Hill, June 22, 2021. 
(Associated Press )

Walker thanked McConnell for the endorsement and for “his commitment to bringing the party together toward the collective goal of defeating Senator Warnock. The Democrats have already said they will spend whatever it takes to keep Georgia blue. The stakes have never been higher — if we all work together, we will win next November, and take back the Senate.”

Untested first-timer

Republicans near McConnell over the summer season privately briefly expressed considerations whether or not Walker, an untested first-time candidate with potential political baggage, could be prepared for the pains of a high-profile Senate marketing campaign. But such discuss from McConnell’s inside circle quickly receded. GOP sources inform Fox News that Walker, who’s a longtime Trump ally and surrogate, has just lately held what have been described as a few “cordial conversations” with McConnell.

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McConnell turns into a minimum of the sixth Republican senator to again Walker. And his backing comes two days after Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Senate Republican, endorsed Walker. The help by Thune, the Senate GOP whip, got here after the lawmaker from South Dakota had voiced reservations about Walker’s candidacy earlier this yr.

GOP sources inform Fox News to anticipate in the approaching days and weeks extra endorsements of Walker by others in the six-member Republican Senate management crew.

Walker, a former faculty soccer star operating again who gained a Heisman Trophy and helped propel the University of Georgia to a nationwide championship – and later performed for 4 NFL groups — launched his Senate marketing campaign in August after months of help and encouragement to run from Trump.

But his announcement got here amid considerations from Republicans in Georgia and on Capitol Hill in regards to the candidate’s capacity to win an important seat for the GOP. 

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Among the considerations was that Walker is untested underneath fireplace on the marketing campaign path and has not made it clear the place he stands on many key points. And these not on board with Walker’s candidacy spotlighted that Walker comes with loads of potential political baggage that would give his opponents ammunition — his well-documented struggles with a psychological sickness often known as dissociative identification dysfunction, accusations by his ex-wife of being “physically abusive,” and reports that he exaggerated the success of a meals companies firm that he owns. 

Name recognition

The 59-year previous Walker has discounted such considerations however thus far has run a rigorously scripted marketing campaign since he declared his candidacy.

Walker was shortly endorsed by Trump, which together with the gridiron legend’s super identify recognition in Georgia boosted him to front-runner standing in the GOP nomination race. And in the fundraising race, Walker sprinted out of the gates, hauling in $3.7 million from his launch by the shut of September, which marked the top of the third quarter of fundraising.

Former President Donald Trump listens as Georgia U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker speaks during Trump's Save America rally in Perry, Ga., Sept. 25, 2021. 

Former President Donald Trump listens as Georgia U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker speaks throughout Trump’s Save America rally in Perry, Ga., Sept. 25, 2021. 
(Associated Press)

Walker’s fundraising simply eclipsed that of a few of his rivals. Former financial institution govt and Navy SEAL veteran Latham Saddler introduced in $1 million through the third quarter, Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black raised $564,000, and businessman and navy veteran Kelvin King raised $340,000.

As Republicans intention to win again the Senate majority they misplaced in January when the Democrats narrowly swept Georgia’s twin Senate runoff elections, they’re enjoying loads of protection, defending 20 of the 34 seats up for grabs, together with 5 open seats – with two of them in the essential battlegrounds of Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

Vulnerable Democrat

But in addition they see alternatives to flip blue seats pink in 4 states, together with Georgia. And they view Warnock as one of the susceptible Democrats operating for reelection in 2022. 

Warnock defeated Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed by GOP Gov. Brian Kemp, by a razor-thin margin on Jan. 5, to serve the ultimate two years of the time period of former GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson, who resigned in 2019 because of well being causes. 

But defeating Warnock subsequent yr gained’t be simple, as Georgia’s first Black senator has set fundraising information since taking workplace. Warnock hauled in an eye-popping $9 million in the third quarter of this yr, bringing his money available to roughly $17.2 million.

McConnell’s endorsement of Walker places him on the identical web page as Trump, who’s continually berated the longtime Republican Senate chief for acknowledging Biden’s White House victory and failing to assist the then-president overturn the 2020 presidential election outcomes.

McConnell voted in February to acquit Trump, who was impeached on one depend of inciting the Jan. 6 riot on the U.S. Capitol by protesters aiming to disrupt congressional certification of Biden’s Electoral College victory.

But McConnell assailed Trump in a speech on the Senate flooring minutes after the trial concluded, saying the previous president “bears moral responsibility” for the storming of the Capitol. 

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War of phrases

A confrontation between the 2 GOP leaders continues to current day, with Trump persevering with to induce that McConnell be ousted from his management place.

“The Republican Senate needs new leadership,” Trump argued earlier this month in an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity. “Mitch is not the guy, not the right guy. He’s not doing the job.”

And McConnell continues to push again towards Trump’s repeated unfounded claims that the 2020 presidential election was “rigged” and “stolen.”

“I do think we need to be thinking about the future and not the past,” McConnell advised reporters on Capitol Hill final week when requested if he was comfy Trump’s continued dominance over the GOP.

“I think the American people are focusing on this administration, what it’s doing to the country, and it’s my hope the ’22 election will be a referendum on the performance of the current administration, not a rehash of suggestions about what may have happened in 2020,” McConnell emphasised.

The endorsements by McConnell and Thune come per week after Walker pushed again towards Trump’s current feedback that Republican voters might sit out the 2022 and 2024 elections if the previous president’s 2020 election claims aren’t addressed. 

“That is not the right the message. Everyone has to get out and vote and we can’t look at the past,” Walker stated per week in the past in an interview on Fox News Radio’s “Brian Kilmeade Show.”