Endorsing Trump isn’t the easiest decision for some Republicans

Endorsing Trump isn’t the easiest decision for some Republicans
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats' CNN town halls exposed an extreme agenda Buttigieg says he doubts Sanders can win general election Post-Mueller, Trump has a good story to tell for 2020 MORE is the leader of the Republican Party and has announced plans to run for reelection in 2020. 

Yet for some Republicans, the question of whether to endorse him isn’t the easiest to answer. 

“Why did you ask me that?” quipped Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsSchumer, author discussed possible Kansas Senate run: report Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 Republicans writing off hard-line DHS candidate MORE (R-Kan.), who announced his retirement this month. 

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“Yeah, sure,” he said about endorsing Trump, before quickly emphasizing he’s more focused on policy work. “At this point I have some things I’d like to get done,” he said. 

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMcConnell pledges to be 'Grim Reaper' for progressive policies Senate Republicans tested on Trump support after Mueller Collins: Mueller report includes 'an unflattering portrayal' of Trump MORE (R-Maine), who could face a tough race in a state that Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDavis: The shocking fact that Mueller never would have accused Trump of a crime Trump says he would challenge impeachment in Supreme Court The Hill's Morning Report - Will Joe Biden's unifying strategy work? MORE carried in 2016, declined to comment on Trump’s reelection bid.

“I said I was going to worry about 2020 in 2020,” Collins said.  

Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGOP senator: 'No problem' with Mueller testifying The Hill's Morning Report — Category 5 Mueller storm to hit today GOP senators double down on demand for Clinton email probe documents MORE (R-Wis.), who could have a competitive race in 2022, says he is focused on rebuilding the state Republican Party in Wisconsin, which got crushed in the midterm election. 

“That’s still a light year away,” he said of 2020. “What I’m doing, because I’m kind of the last man standing in Wisconsin, it’s about how do we continue to build our party and really develop a really good grass-roots effort. We got wiped out statewide last time so that’s where I’m focusing my attention.”

Sen. Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseAfrica's women can change a continent: Will Ivanka give them her full support? Senate needs to stand up to Trump's Nixonian view of the Fed GOP senators divided on Trump trade pushback MORE (R-Neb.), who has frequently criticized Trump on foreign policy and trade issues, said, “I don’t talk about stuff like that right here” when asked outside the Senate chamber about whether he would endorse Trump. 

Tensions between Trump and his party have ebbed and flowed over the years but are on the rise again after the longest government shutdown in history — which some Senate Republicans saw as a self-inflicted disaster for their party, driven by Trump.

The Senate passed a measure by voice vote in December that would have prevented the shutdown, only to see Trump reverse course from his communicated support for the bill.

A number of Republicans have also expressed growing frustrations with Trump’s foreign policy moves. On Thursday, 43 Republicans voted to end debate on an amendment warning Trump against drawing down troops in Syria and Afghanistan.

Trump remains the leader of his party and is a power in primaries.

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During one stretch this past summer, Trump went 11 for 11 in endorsing GOP candidates who went on to win their primaries, according to a tally by The Washington Post. The president sent out a scorching tweet against Rep. Mark SanfordMarshall (Mark) Clement SanfordTrump keeps tight grip on GOP Endorsing Trump isn’t the easiest decision for some Republicans Mark Sanford warns US could see ‘Hitler-like character’ in the future MORE (R-S.C.) on his primary day and watched as Sanford’s opponent, Katie Arrington, defeated the longtime politician and former governor.

Yet Arrington lost her general election contest in November, underscoring that while Trump is a power in primaries, he also has a toxicity that is costing his party some elections.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and former Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) are making noises about challenging Trump in 2020. Neither seems too likely to defeat Trump and Republican office holders are hardly rushing to back them.

Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerDem super PAC campaign urges Republicans to back impeachment On The Money: Cain withdraws from Fed consideration | Says he didn't want 'pay cut' | Trump sues to block subpoena for financial records | Dems plot next move in Trump tax-return battle McConnell pledges to be 'Grim Reaper' for progressive policies MORE (Colo.), one of two Senate GOP incumbents running for reelection in a state won by Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016, publicly endorsed Trump this week, telling the Independent Journal Review that he was throwing his support behind Trump because “we’ve done some good things for Colorado.” 

Two other Republicans who will be Democratic targets next year were also enthusiastic about Trump.

“Absolutely. Look at the jobs report. Look at the economy. I think he’s done a wonderful job so, yes, certainly I would,” Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstTime to keep the promises for farmers to compete in energy Graham challenges Dems to walk the walk on impeachment McConnell pledges to be 'Grim Reaper' for progressive policies MORE (Iowa) said when asked about endorsing Trump. 

Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisDem super PAC campaign urges Republicans to back impeachment McConnell pledges to be 'Grim Reaper' for progressive policies Pro-life Christians are demanding pollution protections MORE (N.C.), another potentially vulnerable Republican, acknowledged he had “a few instances where I disagreed with his style” but noted “on policy, for the most part, we’re in alignment.” 

“I would discourage anybody from running against him in a primary,” he said. “If you take a look at his policies on tax reform, if you take a look at his priorities on trying to get health care to a place where it will work …. On substance I’m with him.”

Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), a fourth Republican up for reelection next year, said he would “absolutely” endorse Trump.

“With these results? Yes sir. This is the best economic turnaround in U.S. history,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Will Joe Biden's unifying strategy work? Dems charge ahead on immigration Biden and Bernie set for clash MORE (R-Ky.), who is up for reelection and faced a primary challenge in his 2014 race, also set an example for his colleagues by announcing his support for Trump early out of the gate.

“I think he can go to the American people in 2020 and correctly claim extraordinary success," McConnell told The Washington Examiner in October. 

But Trump appears to have more work to do to win over members of his party who have criticized his conduct or broken with him on major policy questions. 

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyGOP plots comeback in Orange County Trump's Fed pick on critics: 'They're pulling a Kavanaugh against me' Dem super PAC campaign urges Republicans to back impeachment MORE (R-Utah), who famously warned his party against nominating Trump in March of 2016, told CNN’s Jake Tapper earlier this month that he hadn’t yet decided who he would endorse in 2020, although he ruled out mounting a primary challenge himself. 

“I’m going to see what the alternatives are,” he said.

Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOn The Money: Cain withdraws from Fed consideration | Says he didn't want 'pay cut' | Trump sues to block subpoena for financial records | Dems plot next move in Trump tax-return battle Cain withdraws from Fed consideration Cain says he 'won't run away from criticism' in push for Fed seat MORE (R-Alaska), who voted against Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughTrump's Fed pick on critics: 'They're pulling a Kavanaugh against me' Conservative justices signal willingness to allow census citizenship question Supreme Court sees more serious divide open on death penalty MORE, Trump’s controversial nominee to the Supreme Court, declined to comment. 

Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottGOP senators dismiss Booker reparations proposal On The Money — Presented by Job Creators Network — GOP senators urge Trump not to nominate Cain | Treasury expected to miss Dem deadline on Trump tax returns | Party divisions force Dems to scrap budget vote | House passes IRS reform bill GOP senators urge Trump not to pick Cain for Fed MORE (R-S.C.), who had misgivings in 2017 over how Trump responded to violence at a Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., predicted that Trump won’t need his endorsement.  

“He’s not going to have a primary so there won’t be a decision to make,” he said. 

But just because Senate Republicans aren’t ready to endorse Trump today doesn’t mean they won’t do so at a future date or that they are necessarily harboring qualms about his leadership. 

Sen. Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsGOP gets used to saying 'no' to Trump On The Money: Wells Fargo CEO steps down | Trump vows to keep funding for Special Olympics | House panel approves marijuana banking bill | Controversial Fed pick gains support in Senate Controversial Fed pick gains support in GOP Senate MORE (R-S.D.) said Trump is very popular in his home state but believes “it’s way too early” to be discussing an endorsement. 

“I just haven’t gotten to the point I’m endorsing at this stage of the game.”