Thune endorses Herschel Walker in Georgia Senate race

Thune endorses Herschel Walker in Georgia Senate race
© Greg Nash

Senate Minority Whip John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Congress avoids shutdown Senate dodges initial December crisis with last-minute deal Congress averts shutdown after vaccine mandate fight MORE (R-S.D.) on Monday endorsed Herschel Walker’s bid to oust Sen. Raphael WarnockRaphael WarnockPerdue to challenge Kemp in Georgia governor primary: report The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Congress avoids shutdown Georgia becomes ground zero for 2022 elections MORE (D-Ga.) in the latest sign that GOP leaders are warming up to the former football star’s Georgia Senate campaign.

“I am proud to endorse Herschel Walker for U.S. Senate in Georgia,” said Thune, the No. 2 Senate Republican leader. “Herschel Walker is a fighter, a uniter, and a proven winner with the ability to bring Republicans together to win in November.”

Thune is the fifth Republican senator to throw his support behind Walker and the first member of Senate GOP leadership to do so. Republican Sens. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyTo counter China, the Senate must confirm US ambassadors Facebook unblocks Rittenhouse searches GOP holds on Biden nominees set back gains for women in top positions MORE (Mo.), Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesBill honoring 13 service members killed in Afghanistan heads to Biden's desk The Memo: Much-criticized Trump policy puts Biden in a vise The good, bad, and ugly of Tester's Blackfoot-Clearwater Stewardship Act MORE (Mont.), Roger MarshallRoger W. MarshallFormer Sen. Bob Dole dies at 98 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Congress avoids shutdown Senate dodges initial December crisis with last-minute deal MORE (Kan.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate Democrat says he will 'settle' for less aggressive gun control reform 'because that will save lives' Graham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks This Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead MORE (S.C.) have already endorsed Walker in the race to unseat Warnock.

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Walker announced his campaign in August after months of encouragement from former President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden heading to Kansas City to promote infrastructure package Trump calls Milley a 'f---ing idiot' over Afghanistan withdrawal First rally for far-right French candidate Zemmour prompts protests, violence MORE

Republican leaders in Washington were at first wary of the former NFL star’s Senate bid, given his lack of political experience and revelations of a turbulent past. But those concerns have largely subsided, and party leaders now see Walker as their best bet to defeat Warnock next year.

The Georgia Senate race is among the most closely watched contests of the 2022 midterm cycle. Warnock flipped the seat previously held by former Sen. Kelly LoefflerKelly LoefflerPerdue to challenge Kemp in Georgia governor primary: report Senate GOP worries Trump could derail bid for majority Perdue mulling primary challenge against Kemp in Georgia: report MORE (R-Ga.) in a runoff election earlier this year, just two months after President BidenJoe BidenChina eyes military base on Africa's Atlantic coast: report Biden orders flags be flown at half-staff through Dec. 9 to honor Dole Biden heading to Kansas City to promote infrastructure package MORE became the first Democratic presidential candidate in nearly 30 years to win the state.

Warnock’s victory, along with that of Sen. Jon OssoffJon OssoffPerdue to challenge Kemp in Georgia governor primary: report Georgia becomes ground zero for 2022 elections Democrats anxious over Abrams silence on Georgia governor bid MORE (D-Ga.) in a separate runoff election, helped hand Democrats control of the Senate. But the 2022 Georgia Senate race is a key offensive opportunity for Republicans, who are hoping to recapture the Senate majority next year.