Many lawmakers Trump endorsed last year aren't returning the favor

1 month ago The Washington Post





The campaign

Many lawmakers Trump endorsed last year aren't returning the favor

Former president Donald Trump is headed today to East Palestine, Ohio, making the town — which was ravaged by toxic chemicals when a trail derailed there earlier this month — the third stop in his slow-moving campaign to win back the White House.

Ohio is friendly territory for Trump, who carried the state twice by comfortable margins. But most of the Republicans in the state’s congressional delegation haven’t rushed to rally around Trump’s candidacy.


While Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) endorsed Trump last month, only three of Ohio’s 10 House Republicans have done so: Reps. Mike Carey, Jim Jordan and Max L. Miller. None of them are coming to his event today, according to their spokespeople, who cited trips and scheduling conflicts. Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), whose district includes East Palestine, will be there, but he hasn’t endorsed Trump.

And the state isn’t an anomaly. 

The relative lack of Trump endorsements is striking because Trump — who once described himself as “the king of endorsements” — endorsed all but one of the Republicans in Ohio’s delegation last year.

Trump endorsed 164 Republican senators and representatives now in Congress during last year’s midterm elections, whether those lawmakers asked for his backing or not.

Only around 30 of them have returned the favor since Trump announced his campaign more than three months ago, according to a list compiled last week by our colleague Aaron Blake. (We’re not counting Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.), whom Trump quasi-supported by endorsing “Eric” in Schmitt’s race against former governor Eric Greitens.)


Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) last week became the first Republican lawmaker to endorse someone other than Trump for president when he announced he would support Nikki Haley. Norman, who last year said he was “honored” to receive Trump’s endorsement, wrote on Facebook that “the Republican Party has entered a season of change” and it’s time for“new leadership with a new vision.”

A variety of reasons

The Republicans who’ve withheld their endorsements include lawmakers who might owe their seats to Trump’s backing as well as longtime lawmakers who won reelection easily.

Freshman Sen. Ted Budd (R-N.C.) won a crowded primary last year with Trump’s endorsement. But he has yet to back Trump for president. 

“I’ve been very supportive of him and I'm going to end up with lots of friends in this race,” Budd said last week when asked if he'll endorse Trump. 


Does it make it harder not to endorse Trump when Trump played an instrumental role in electing him? 

“I think sincerity is always difficult, and he’s a great friend,” Budd said. “I'm proud of what he's done.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), on the other hand, didn’t need Trump's endorsement to win reelection last year, but he got it anyway.

“He’s a Florida resident,” Rubio said of Trump. “Gov. [Ron] DeSantis is Florida. [Sen.] Tim Scott’s [R-S.C.] one of my closest friends up here. Nikki Haley supported me. So I'm just going to let that play out for a while.” 

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), who Trump endorsed for reelection last year, remains uncommitted but said he’ll be “supportive” of Scott’s likely presidential ambitions.

“I think he’s a wonderful human being,” Moran said of Scott, before adding, “We do have a Kansan in the race” — a reference to Mike Pompeo, Trump's former secretary of state, who is not in the race yet but is widely expected to run. 


Freshman Sen. Katie Boyd Britt (R-Ala.), who traveled to Mar-a-Lago last year to seek Trump’s endorsement, said in a statement that she can’t endorse Trump or anyone else because her work on a Republican National Committee board requires her to remain neutral in the race.

The lure of Trump’s rivals

Other lawmakers have cited their admiration for DeSantis, who is laying the groundwork for a campaign, in their decision to hold off.

“There’s no denying that Ron DeSantis’ political star is on the rise, and that’s why you have a primary process,” Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Tex.), who Trump endorsed last year but who hasn’t endorsed Trump’s campaign, told the NBC station in Dallas in December. “I’m looking forward to that process, and I think the two heavyweights right now are Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump.”

'He is not a lock'

While Trump helped defeat several House Republicans who voted to impeach him by endorsing their primary challengers last year (think the “Impeachment 10”), Republican lawmakers seem unafraid that they’ll lose their seats if they back another candidate for president.


Alex Conant, a Republican consultant who worked for Rubio when he ran for president in 2016, said Trump’s relative lack of congressional endorsements demonstrates the realities of a new era.  

“He is not a lock in the nomination and these members are not feeling a lot of pressure to weigh in at such an early stage,” Conant said. “His candidacy doesn't have a lot of momentum at the moment.”

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who has said he won’t run for president in 2024 and will be up for reelection next year, said he’d welcome Trump’s endorsement.

But will he endorse Trump in return?

“I haven't endorsed anybody,” Hawley told us last week. “So I just I'll stick on that.”

At the White House

Biden to meet with Bucharest Nine

Happening today: President Biden will meet with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the leaders of the Bucharest Nine today. The Bucharest Nine, a group of countries along NATO’s eastern flank that share borders with either Russia, Ukraine or Belarus, have grown increasingly wary of Russia’s expansionist aspirations since its Feb. 24, 2022, invasion of Ukraine.


Biden is likely to discuss providing American-made weapons and equipment. Poland, which is on track to spend 4 percent of its gross domestic product on defense, has an arsenal of U.S.-made Patriot missile batteries and is expecting American M1A2 Abrams battle tanks “to arrive by train this spring with hundreds of U.S.-manufactured rocket artillery systems to follow,” .

Poland, which is on track to spend 4 percent of its gross domestic product on defense, has an arsenal of U.S.-made Patriot missile batteries and is expecting American M1A2 Abrams battle tanks “to arrive by train this spring with hundreds of U.S.-manufactured rocket artillery systems to follow,” per our colleague Loveday Morris All eyes on Washington: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has thrust Biden into a global leadership role — one that Biden’s visit is a “visible sign that Poland is safe and secure,” Duda said, adding, “America is able to ensure the global order.” Strengthening the NATO alliance has been central to that role. 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has thrust Biden into a global leadership role — one that Polish President Andrzej Duda acknowledged Tuesday:Strengthening the NATO alliance has been central to that role.

The back-to-back meetings follow a surprise visit to Kyiv on Monday and a fiery, wartime speech in Warsaw Tuesday. In his address, Biden pressed “the world’s nations to recommit to a unified defense of Ukraine, saying global democracy is at stake,” our colleagues Matt Viser, Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Mary Ilyushina and Robyn Dixon write.

The meetings also come as a small group of House Republicans criticize Biden for traveling to Ukraine instead of East Palestine.Despite some Republican protestations, Washington has continued to back Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, a comedian turned president, who, hardened by the war, “emerged as a far fiercer foe than Moscow has expected, part of a broader transformation that has cemented his global reputation as a hard-bitten wartime leader,” our colleagues Paul Sonne and David L. Stern write.

Exhibit A: Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, led a group of five House Republicans to meet with Zelensky in Kyiv on Tuesday. They also traveled to the

(R-Tex.), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, led a group of five House Republicans to meet with Zelensky in Kyiv on Tuesday. They also traveled to the Ukrainian town of Bucha to see the “war crimes that took place” at the hands of Putin’s forces.

McCaul has presented a much different stance on Ukraine than some in his party. In a statement, he said that the group spoke to Zelensky about the long-rage artillery and the air-to-surface systems, including F-16s, that he is asking for.

The campaign

Election Day: A historic first for one state, a turning point for another

Election Day: As voters in Virginia headed to the polls Tuesday to pick Rep. A. Donald McEachin (D)’s successor to fill his 4th Congressional District seat, voters in Wisconsin narrowed the field in the state’s Supreme Court race to two following the state’s primary election. 


Here are the results: 

Virginia: State Sen. Jennifer L. McClellan (D-Richmond) defeated conservative pastor Leon Benjamin to become the state’s first Black congresswoman, per our colleagues Meagan Flynn and Gregory S. Schneider. 

McClellan on the significance of the victory: “It’s poetic justice, thinking about what not only my family has been through, but what our country has been through,”she said. “To be the first Black woman from Virginia, which was the birthplace of American democracy but also the birthplace of American slavery. And to be someone who … fought my entire adult life to address the lingering impact that slavery and Jim Crow has had on America and on Black communities. … To be able to do that on a national scale is an incredible honor.”

Wisconsin: Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz and former state Supreme Court justice Daniel Kelly will advance to the April 4 general election in a race that could tilt the court’s balance of power and have a profound effect on abortion rights in the state, per our colleague Patrick Marley.Protasiewicz — who said she is running to “save democracy” — called the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision “judicial activism at its worst.”

— called the U.S. Supreme Court’sdecision “judicial activism at its worst.”

Meanwhile, Kelly — who once wrote that Democrats supported abortion “to preserve sexual libertinism” — told a conservative radio host that the Dobbs decision “honors the constitutional framework that we have in this country” by leaving the issue up to the states to decide.

What we're watching

In the courts: The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments for Twitter v. Taamneh, which is separate but similar to Tuesday’s Gonzalez v. Googlecase.

At issue is whether Twitter, Facebook and Google can be sued for violating the Antiterrorism Act of 1990. The case was brought by the family of Nawras Alassaf, who was killed in a 2017 terrorist attack in Istanbul.

This morning, the court may also issue opinions on cases it has heard.

At the White House: Meanwhile, first lady Jill Biden kicks off a five-day trip to Namibia and Kenya today as part of the Biden administration’s continued effort to increase engagement with African nations. Biden is expected to highlight women’s and youth empowerment, democracy and food insecurity on the trip. 

The Media

Must reads

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From across the web:

Coffee Break(s)

Check out these tips on composting, which we are big fans of doing. (Maybe that’s what Trump meant when he called us “the Washington Compost”?) One huge benefit: When food scraps aren’t put in the garbage, the trash doesn’t smell. 

Thanks for reading. You can also follow us on Twitter: @LACaldwellDC and @theodoricmeyer.

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