More Senate Republicans Embrace Trump As He Marches Toward GOP Nomination


Authored by Samantha Flom via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Former President Donald Trump continues to pick up endorsements from Capitol Hill as it appears increasingly likely that he will clinch the Republican nomination for president.

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) became one of the latest GOP lawmakers to back President Trump on Jan. 24 following his historic victory in New Hampshire.

“Competition makes us all better, so I let the primary play out, but this thing’s over,” Mr. Kennedy wrote in an X post.

“It’s going to be Pres. Trump versus Pres. Biden: A choice between hope and more hurt. It’s not even close. I choose hope. I am endorsing Pres. Trump and look forward to working with him.”

After winning in Iowa by a historic 30-point margin, President Trump went on to set records in New Hampshire as well. Not only did he receive the most votes of any presidential candidate ever in the history of the first-in-the-nation primary, but he is also now the first non-incumbent candidate to win in both Iowa and New Hampshire.

Mr. Kennedy’s endorsement followed those of Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), who backed the 45th president almost immediately after the New Hampshire race was called. The move brings President Trump’s total Senate endorsements up to 30.

It also appears to be part of a more recent trend among Republican senators to coalesce—in some cases reluctantly—behind President Trump and shift the focus to November. But with former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley still in the race, that might take longer than they’d like.

Although Ms. Haley will not take part in the GOP’s Nevada caucus on Feb. 8, she has pledged to continue her fight in her home state of South Carolina, where she is targeting a come-from-behind victory.

But even for the former governor, a Palmetto State upset would be no easy feat. There, a 30-point chasm currently separates Ms. Haley from first place, per the RealClearPolitics average of polls. Further, a host of prominent Republican leaders in the state have already backed President Trump.

Yet while the former U.N. ambassador denies that the writing is on the wall for her campaign, in the Senate, Republicans seem more ready to accept what has long appeared inevitable.

He’s going to be the nominee. Voters have made their minds up,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) told NTD News on Jan. 24. “So, I think this is the time to unite—Republicans need to unite. I understand the different candidates who ran have differences, sure. But hey, this is the time to unite and beat Joe Biden.”

‘Time to Unite’

Mr. Hawley, who endorsed President Trump in December, acknowledged that the move to rally around the presumptive nominee has been sluggish in the Senate, particularly among GOP leadership.

It’s no secret that the chamber’s minority leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), has a strained relationship with the former president. And those who remain loyal to Mr. McConnell have been among the slowest to get behind President Trump.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, has not endorsed President Trump but has said he would support the party’s eventual nominee.

“Voters are breaking heavily in [Trump’s] favor. He’s in a commanding position, and I’ve said all along I’ll support the nominee,” he told reporters on Jan. 24. “So, if he’s the nominee, I’ll do what I can to help the team win the presidency and the Senate and put an end to the Biden/Schumer agenda.”

Mr. Thune had previously endorsed Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) in his presidential bid. Mr. Scott has since dropped out of the race and joined President Trump on the campaign trail.

Meanwhile, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), a leadership counselor to Mr. McConnell, said he won’t endorse during the primary process but will support the Republican nominee.

And Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, has flat-out rejected the idea of endorsing President Trump.

Ms. Collins was one of the seven Republican Senators who voted to convict the 45th president on the impeachment charge of inciting an insurrection just before he left office. When asked if she could see herself supporting President Trump even as the nominee, she replied: “I do not at this point.”

Instead, she said she was glad to see that Ms. Haley was still in the race and hoped that she would prevail in securing the nomination.

But one Senate leader who has embraced President Trump is Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), the chairman of the Senate GOP conference and the chamber’s third-ranked Republican.

During a Jan. 9 appearance on Fox News’ “Hannity,” Mr. Barrasso endorsed the former president as the candidate who could get the country “back on track.”

“The country was much better off under President Donald Trump. And Joe Biden continues to fail America.”

McConnell Stays Silent

Mr. McConnell himself has remained mum on the primary race. When asked about it on Jan. 23, he told reporters, “I’ve essentially stayed out of it. And when I change my mind about that, I’ll let you know.”

He also dodged a subsequent question on whether he thought he should mend his relationship with President Trump, stating that he had “no news to make” on that, and that he and others would be watching the New Hampshire primary “with great interest.”

But Mr. Hawley said on Jan. 24 that discord between the top Senate Republican and a Republican president—should President Trump be elected—would be bad for the GOP.

You can’t have a Republican leader in the Senate who doesn’t want to work with the president of his own party who’s come into office,” he said.

The senator added that he would not support Mr. McConnell in the party’s next leadership election, regardless of who is elected president.

“I think we need new leadership for a range of reasons. And I think that’s been on full display in recent months,” he said, holding that Mr. McConnell has ignored the will of Republican voters on more than just the presidential primary race.

“In my state, you’ve got people who’ve been exposed to the government’s nuclear radioactive waste for 50 years running,” he said. “The position of the leader of my own party in the Senate is they should get nothing, they deserve to have nothing, but we have unlimited sums of money for Ukraine and other foreign interests in which he is personally interested. I just think that’s an extraordinary position for any member of the Senate to take.”

Jackson Richman contributed to this report.

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