President TrumpDonald TrumpOhio Republican who voted to impeach Trump says he won't seek reelection Youngkin breaks with Trump on whether Democrats will cheat in the Virginia governor's race Trump endorses challenger in Michigan AG race 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 RobertsBob Dole, Pat Roberts endorse Kansas AG Derek Schmidt for governor Ex-Sen. Cory Gardner joins lobbying firm Senate GOP faces retirement brain drain MORE (R-Kan.), who announced his retirement this month.
“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 CollinsWelcome to ground zero of climate chaos A tale of two chambers: Trump's power holds in House, wanes in Senate Bipartisan blip: Infrastructure deal is last of its kind without systemic change MORE (R-Maine), who could face a tough race in a state that Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonAttorney indicted on charge of lying to FBI as part of Durham investigation Durham seeking indictment of lawyer with ties to Democrats: reports Paul Ryan researched narcissistic personality disorder after Trump win: book 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: Buying Treasury bonds 'foolish' amid standoff over debt ceiling, taxes Internal poll shows Barnes with 29-point lead in Wisconsin Democratic Senate primary Wisconsin Democratic Senate candidate facing 4 felony charges 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 SasseBen SassePresident of newly recognized union for adult performers boosts membership Romney blasts Biden over those left in Afghanistan: 'Bring them home' Progressives breathe sigh of relief after Afghan withdrawal 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.
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 SanfordMark SanfordMark Sanford calls Graham 'a canary in the coalmine' on GOP's relationship with Trump Top cyber Pentagon official overseeing defense contractor project placed on leave Cheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP 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 GardnerProtecting the outdoors: Three cheers for America's best idea Ex-Sen. Cory Gardner joins lobbying firm Biden administration reverses Trump changes it says 'undermined' conservation program 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 ErnstGOP senators unveil bill designating Taliban as terrorist organization More Republicans call on Biden to designate Taliban as terrorist group Top Republican: General told senators he opposed Afghanistan withdrawal MORE (Iowa) said when asked about endorsing Trump.
Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisGOP senators unveil bill designating Taliban as terrorist organization Without major changes, more Americans could be victims of online crime How to fix the semiconductor chip shortage (it's more than manufacturing) 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 McConnellLindsey Graham: Police need 'to take a firm line' with Sept. 18 rally attendees Manchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants CEOs urge Congress to raise debt limit or risk 'avoidable crisis' 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 RomneyWarren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack Overnight On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — GOP senator: It's 'foolish' to buy Treasury bonds Democrats aim for maximum pressure on GOP over debt ceiling 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 MurkowskiThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - DC prepares for Saturday of festivals & Jan. 6 demonstration Republican leaders misjudged Jan. 6 committee Trump endorses GOP challenger to Upton over impeachment vote MORE (R-Alaska), who voted against Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughSenators denounce protest staged outside home of Justice Kavanaugh Why isn't Harris leading the charge against the Texas abortion law? Cori Bush introduces legislation aimed at expanding access to emergency rental assistance funds MORE, Trump’s controversial nominee to the Supreme Court, declined to comment.
Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottDOJ announces agencywide limits on chokeholds and no-knock entries Lobbying world As Biden falters, a two-man race for the 2024 GOP nomination begins to take shape 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 RoundsMike RoundsThe 19 GOP senators who voted for the T infrastructure bill Senate passes T bipartisan infrastructure bill in major victory for Biden Senate votes to end debate on T infrastructure bill 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.”