10 congressional endorsements the 2012 GOP presidential hopefuls want

The GOP's 2012 White House hopefuls have been running against Washington, but they are also working behind the scenes to rally support from kingmakers on Capitol Hill.

Many major players in the Republican Party, including Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and John Thune (S.D.), have come out in support of Mitt Romney. But there are other influential Republicans who have remained neutral in the  presidential primary. 

Romney has by far the most congressional endorsements, according to The Hill’s tally. However, five of the last six lawmaker endorsements have gone to candidates not named Romney.

The top 10 coveted congressional endorsements follow.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.): 

altThe Budget Committee is revered on the right, and considered a possible vice presidential pick this year. Ryan last year fired back at Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) when the former Speaker ripped the Wisconsin lawmaker’s Medicare reform plan. Ryan would be a big get for any of the White House hopefuls, but it’s noteworthy that he didn’t endorse in the 2008 primary.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.): 

altDeMint backed Romney in 2008, but has held off this time around. DeMint has been complimentary of Romney in recent days and went so far as to predict the former Massachusetts governor will win the pivotal Jan. 21 South Carolina primary.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.): 

altLieberman is certainly keeping his options open. The retiring senator backed McCain in 2008, delivering a speech at the Republican convention that infuriated Democrats. The 2000 Democratic vice presidential candidate could opt to stay out of this race entirely, but it is likely he will be courted by both sides of the aisle.

Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.): 

altSocial conservatives are big fans of Pence, who considered running for president. But Pence opted to launch a bid for governor instead. Pence’s backing would be a huge boost for Romney, who has not been embraced by leading social conservatives. Pence, 52, did not endorse in the 2008 primary.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.): 

altBachmann dropped out of the White House race after her disappointing finish in the Iowa Caucus. But Bachmann’s bid for the presidency significantly raised her profile. Bachmann has been a leading critic of the new healthcare reform law and accused Romney of implementing "socialized medicine" when he was governor of Massachusetts. 

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.): 

altFiscal hawks are fond of Coburn, who backed McCain over Romney in 2008. One candidate Coburn will not endorse is Gingrich. Coburn served with Gingrich in the House and last year called the former Speaker’s leadership “lacking.”

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.):

altaltThese two leaders have repeatedly said they will not endorse in the primary, even though a few of their lieutenants have gotten behind Romney.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio): 

altPortman is one to watch. He is seen as a possible running mate this year, and helped McCain and George W. Bush in their presidential campaigns. Portman this week indicated he will soon get behind Romney, adding that he is not interested in the vice presidency and "it's not going to happen." Of course, Joe Biden made similar remarks in 2008 as he and his staff worked to get on the 2008 Democratic ticket. 

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.): 

altRubio is the leading candidate to be the No. 2 on the ticket, and has said he will not endorse in the primary. But Rubio could play cement Romney’s nomination this month before the Jan. 31 Florida contest, just like then-Florida Gov. Charlie Crist did for McCain four years ago.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.): 

altStumping for his good friend McCain in 2008, Graham was not shy in ripping Romney. Graham also has recently questioned Romney’s foreign policy positions. Graham has said he will not endorse, though McCain’s backing of Romney has some thinking that could change.

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