Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called GOP Rep. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) my choice to replace retiring Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) in 2012.

McCain had held off on making an endorsement in the race to replace Kyl. But on Arizonas KMLE radio Thursday, he said Flake was a solid conservative and obviously a good choice to be Kyls replacement.

The senators support for Flake could be an important factor in what is likely to be a fiercely competitive race.

Flake does face a primary from little-known businessman Douglas McKee, but the six-term lawmaker is favored to win. Its the general election that could prove much tougher.

His competition in the race could include Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.). Giffords has not yet announced her 2012 election plans, but Democrats are holding out hope that she will be recovered enough from Januarys assassination attempt to make a bid. Giffords’s friends in the Democratic Party, including Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), have said they are working to make sure she has the resources she needs in order to make her decision.

The conservative Club for Growth, the Tea Party group FreedomWorks and Utah Sen. Mike Lee (R) also made early endorsements of Flake earlier this year.