Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Wednesday he is backing former NFL star running back Hershel Walker, who is running to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock during next year’s midterm elections.
In giving his blessing, the Kentucky Republican is joining former President Donald Trump’s endorsement of Walker, who once played for the New Jersey Generals, a team Trump owned in the United States Football League, which began in 1983 but went under in 1985.
McConnell’s co-endorsement of Walker, who is expected to capture the GOP nomination in the spring according to current polling, comes amid a months-long war of words between the Kentucky senator and former president, the latter of whom has frequently blasted McConnell’s leadership and has called for him to be replaced.
McConnell, meanwhile, has frequently pushed back on Trump’s claims about the 2020 election and his loss to President Joe Biden.
The Senate GOP leader’s endorsement, which was first shared with Politico and Fox News, indicates that top Republicans in the chamber are coalescing around Walker as he works to unseat Warnock in a race that could determine whether the upper chamber remains under Democrat control.
“I am happy to endorse Herschel Walker for U.S. Senate in Georgia,” said McConnell in a statement. “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.”
Walker responded by thanking the GOP leader for the endorsement, as well as “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,” Walker added, according to Fox News.
For his part, Walker endorsed Trump’s reelection bid, appearing at the Republican National Convention in August to recount his decades-long relationship with the billionaire brand maker and real estate developer.
“If you love America and want to make it better, Donald Trump is your president,” Herschel said during his speech. “He’s my president and I’m blessed to call him my friend.”
“I watched him treat janitors, security guards, and waiters the same way he treats a VIP, ” Walker noted further. “He made them feel special because he knew they were. He understands that they are the people who make this country run. They clean, they cook, they build, they drive, they deliver. He told me, ‘Herschel, make an effort to get to know people. Remember their names.’ That stuck with me.”
Earlier last summer, as reports noted that Walker was considering a Senate run, some Republicans close to McConnell worried privately whether the NFL great, a first-time politician, could deliver a winning message. But, Fox News reported, those concerns soon subsided, and sources told the outlet that Walker has recently had a couple of “cordial conversations” with the Senate GOP leader.
McConnell is the sixth GOP senator to back Walker. Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the Senate GOP whip and No. 2 Republican in the chamber, reversed course after first expressing reservations about a Walker candidacy and publicly backed him earlier this week.
As for Walker, he rose to prominence as a running back for the University of Georgia in the early 1980s, winning a Heisman Trophy and leading the university to a national championship.
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