Trump-endorsed Senate hopeful Herschel Walker wins Georgia Republican primary, will face Democratic Sen. Warnock, NBC projects

Key Points
  • Former pro football player Herschel Walker will win Georgia's Republican Senate primary race, NBC News projected.
  • Incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock was projected to win the state's Democratic Senate primary.
  • Walker, who is backed by former President Donald Trump, will take on Warnock in the general election.
Heisman Trophy winner and Republican candidate for US Senate Herschel Walker speaks to supporters of former U.S. President Donald Trump during a rally at the Banks County Dragway on March 26, 2022 in Commerce, Georgia.
Megan Varner | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Herschel Walker, the former pro football player and businessman endorsed by ex-President Donald Trump, will win Georgia's Republican Senate primary race, NBC News projected Tuesday.

Walker will face off against incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in the general election in November, according to NBC. Warnock took office last year after winning a special election.

The outcome of the race could tip the balance of power in Washington, where Democrats hold a razor-thin majority in the Senate. The chamber is split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, and Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris holds the tie-breaking vote.

Walker was expected to easily win the GOP primary. But the politically unseasoned athlete, who has skipped debates and faced accusations of avoiding nonfriendly press, is likely to face more scrutiny in the general election.

His campaign already faced new criticism on Tuesday night, when the crowd at his election watch party loudly booed President Joe Biden as he delivered a somber address consoling the families of the 18 children who were killed hours before in a mass shooting at an elementary school in Texas.

When the president criticized "the gun lobby," the crowd reacted with an chorus of boos, according to NBC and other outlets. After the speech, Fox News cut to host Tucker Carlson, who described Biden as "frail," prompting the crowd to cheer.

Walker, who wasn't watching the president's address with the crowd, joined them soon after and asked everyone to pray for the people of Texas, NBC reported. Trump also called into the watch party to congratulate Walker. "You were the greatest football player, and you'll be an even greater politician," Trump said.

Early polls of the hypothetical Walker-Warnock matchup show the candidates virtually tied, according to RealClearPolitics.

The primary races in Georgia, a swing state that narrowly voted for Biden in the 2020 election, also mark the biggest test to date of Trump's enduring influence over the Republican Party.

Trump has touted the fact that most of the candidates he endorsed in the 2022 election cycle have won their primaries, though many of those races were not competitive. Fifteen months after his single term in the White House, the former president has held his status as the de facto leader of the GOP.

Many Republican primary candidates have tried to appeal to the party's base by talking up their pro-Trump credentials, even if the former president did not endorse them. GOP hopefuls in many cases have sought Trump's favor by embracing the falsehood that the election was stolen from him, raising the prospect that a wave of candidates who spread election conspiracies could take federal and state office next year.

The primary elections will set the table for the November midterms, when Republicans hope to win majority control of the House and Senate. Democrats are fighting uphill: The president's party tends to underperform in the midterm elections, and the lead-up to the primaries has been marked in part by high inflation and low approval ratings for Biden.