Trump, Car­son lack en­dorse­ments

Law­mak­ers say too early to choose, too many to choose from

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY S.A. MILLER

Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial front-run­ners Don­ald Trump and Ben Car­son have not re­ceived any en­dorse­ments from Capi­tol Hill law­mak­ers de­spite the can­di­dates’ agen­das be­ing sup­ported by most mem­bers and pop­u­lar with vot­ers back home.

The hes­i­ta­tion to en­dorse the two out­sider can­di­dates at the front of the race has af­flicted Repub­li­can law­mak­ers of ev­ery stripe, from es­tab­lish­ment stal­warts to rene­gade tea par­ty­ers.

When pressed about the com­plete lack of en­dorse­ments, most law­mak­ers in­sisted it was too early or there were too many can­di­dates to choose from — not that Mr. Trump and Mr. Car­son are too far out­side the main­stream to risk as­so­ci­at­ing them­selves with them.

How­ever, some Repub­li­cans bluntly ques­tioned Mr. Trump’s abil­ity to go all the way to the White House or to do the job if he some­how makes it.

“I think Mr. Trump would be hard to elect,” said Rep. Trent Franks, Ari­zona Repub­li­can and mem­ber of the con­ser­va­tive Free­dom Cau­cus that helped force out for­mer Speaker John A. Boehner.

Mr. Franks, who has en­dorsed for­mer Arkansas Gov. Mike Huck­abee for the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion, pledged to sup­port Mr. Trump if he wins the nom­i­na­tion.

“Who­ever our nominee is, I will strongly sup­port. I am hope­ful that we sup­port some­one who is em­i­nently electable like a Mike Huck­abee or [Florida Sen. Marco] Ru­bio, or there are sev­eral oth­ers there. Car­son I think is won­der­ful and could be very electable,” he said.

Rep. John Flem­ing, an­other Free­dom Cau­cus mem­ber, gave voice to a mis­giv­ing that most law­mak­ers only share pri­vately: He doesn’t fully trust Mr. Trump.

“He uses a lot of broad state­ments in the way that Barack Obama did, and th­ese things can be­come fill-in-the­blanks. In other words, you hear what you want to hear, and then you get a sur­prise down the road,” the Louisiana Repub­li­can said.

“We just have to be care­ful. I want to know more about what does Don­ald Trump want to do with our for­eign pol­icy, other than say­ing that he is a tough ne­go­tia­tor against China and other places. I want to ac­tu­ally know what he in­tends to do in Afghanistan and Iraq and places like that. I really don’t know what he in­tends to do,” he said.

The law­mak­ers gen­er­ally han­dled the af­fa­ble Mr. Car­son more gen­tly.

Rep. Peter T. King, New York Repub­li­can, said Mr. Trump and Mr. Car­son still must “prove them­selves” to win more sup­port from elected lead­ers.

“Trump and Car­son have to show they know what the job is about, not just be me­dia stars,” he said.

Doug Heye, a Wash­ing­ton-based Repub­li­can po­lit­i­cal con­sul­tant, said that electabil­ity is a ma­jor rea­son law­mak­ers are not jump­ing on the Trump or Car­son band­wag­ons — no­body wants to end up be­hind a loser.

“Ev­ery his­tor­i­cal pat­tern we know tells us that Trump and Car­son are un­likely to win the nom­i­na­tion. That may end up not be­ing the case, but it ex­plains why mem­bers have not en­dorsed,” said Mr. Heye, who served as a top ad­viser to for­mer House Ma­jor­ity Leader Eric Can­tor and Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee Chair­man Michael S. Steele.

The Car­son cam­paign said that the re­tired neu­ro­sur­geon de­lib­er­ately has not so­licited en­dorse­ments from a sin­gle gov­er­nor, se­na­tor or con­gress­man.

“Po­lit­i­cal en­dorse­ments will come in due time. They are not a pri­or­ity for our cam­paign at­ten­tion,” said Car­son cam­paign spokesman Doug Watts.

The Trump cam­paign de­clined to com­ment.

For Mr. Trump, the dearth of en­dorse­ments con­trasts with his strong push to crack down on il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion and ne­go­ti­ate tougher trade deals with China and other trad­ing part­ners — stances backed by con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­cans in Congress.

“Those are two is­sues to me that work­ing Amer­i­cans care about, and this Wash­ing­ton es­tab­lish­ment of both par­ties seem[s] to fail to grasp,” said Sen. Jeff Ses­sions, Alabama Repub­li­can.

Mr. Ses­sions has never en­dorsed a can­di­date in a pres­i­den­tial pri­mary, but he said that could change. And he dis­agreed that his col­leagues were afraid to en­dorse Mr. Trump or Mr. Car­son.

“Most peo­ple are a lit­tle slow to en­dorse. We don’t have many en­dorse­ments for any can­di­date,” he said.

Other GOP con­tenders have man­aged to pick up en­dorse­ments on Capi­tol Hill, ar­guably re­gard­less of their over­all electabil­ity.

For­mer Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fio­r­ina was en­dorsed by three House mem­bers; Mr. Huck­abee has re­ceived en­dorse­ments from two sen­a­tors and four con­gress­men; Mr. Ru­bio got two sen­a­tors and eight House mem­bers; and Mr. Cruz was en­dorsed by seven House mem­bers.

Sen. Rand Paul was en­dorsed by eight con­gress­men and Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, a fel­low Ken­tuck­ian whom Mr. Paul backed in a tough 2014 re­elec­tion race.

Jeb Bush col­lected the most en­dorse­ments in Congress: three cur­rent sen­a­tors and 23 cur­rent House mem­bers.

“There’s a pro­found long-term loy­alty to the Bushes,” said Rep. Kenny Marchant, Texas Repub­li­can.

He said that many law­mak­ers could be with­hold­ing en­dorse­ments from Mr. Trump and Mr. Car­son in def­er­ence to the Bush fam­ily and for­mer Pres­i­dents Ge­orge H.W. Bush and Ge­orge W. Bush.

“They might en­dorse now but don’t want to of­fend Bush 41 and 43,” he said.

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