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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 TrumpSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Georgia secretary of state withholds support for 'reactionary' GOP voting bills 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 RobertsSenate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes Window quickly closing for big coronavirus deal Trump's controversial Fed nominee stalled after Senate setback 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 CollinsKlain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' Overnight Health Care: Johnson & Johnson vaccine safe, effective in FDA analysis | 3-4 million doses coming next week | White House to send out 25 million masks Biden's picks face peril in 50-50 Senate MORE (R-Maine), who could face a tough race in a state that Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonShelby endorses Shalanda Young for OMB director should Biden pull Tanden's nomination Jennifer Palmieri: 'Ever since I was aware of politics, I wanted to be in politics' Cruz: Wife 'pretty pissed' about leaked Cancun texts 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 JohnsonGrassley says he'll decide this fall whether to run in 2022 Top cops deflect blame over Capitol attack NRSC chair Scott calls for party unity: 'The Republican Civil War is now cancelled' 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 SasseOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Key vote for Haaland's confirmation | Update on oil and gas leasing | SEC update on climate-related risk disclosure requirements Josh Hawley is a conservative without a clue Republican Party going off the rails? 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 SanfordMark Sanford5 lawyers leave Trump impeachment team ahead of trial: reports South Carolina GOP votes to censure Rep. Rice over impeachment vote Trump selects South Carolina lawyer for impeachment trial 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 GardnerBiden administration reverses Trump changes it says 'undermined' conservation program Gardner to lead new GOP super PAC ahead of midterms OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court rules against fast-track of Trump EPA's 'secret science' rule | Bureau of Land Management exodus: Agency lost 87 percent of staff in Trump HQ relocation | GM commits to electric light duty fleet by 2035 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 ErnstWe know how Republicans will vote — but what do they believe? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by TikTok - Senate trial will have drama, but no surprise ending Overnight Defense: Pentagon says extremist groups 'very aggressively recruit' troops | Capitol Guard deployment estimated at 3M | No US combat deaths in Afghanistan for a year | VA secretary confirmed MORE (Iowa) said when asked about endorsing Trump. 

Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisMcConnell backs Garland for attorney general GOP senators demand probe into Cuomo's handling of nursing home deaths CNN anchor confronts GOP chairman over senator's vote to convict Trump 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 McConnellKlain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Murkowski undecided on Tanden as nomination in limbo 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 RomneyRomney-Cotton, a Cancun cabbie and the minimum wage debate Biden's picks face peril in 50-50 Senate Murkowski undecided on Tanden as nomination in limbo 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 MurkowskiOvernight Health Care: Johnson & Johnson vaccine safe, effective in FDA analysis | 3-4 million doses coming next week | White House to send out 25 million masks Biden's picks face peril in 50-50 Senate Murkowski undecided on Tanden as nomination in limbo MORE (R-Alaska), who voted against Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughLaurence Tribe: Justice Thomas is out of order on 2020 election LIVE COVERAGE: Senate set to consider Garland for AG A powerful tool to take on the Supreme Court — if Democrats use it right MORE, Trump’s controversial nominee to the Supreme Court, declined to comment. 

Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottLobbying world Powell pushes back on GOP inflation fears Trump ready to make McConnell's life miserable 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 RoundsPowell pushes back on GOP inflation fears Overnight Health Care: US surpasses half a million COVID deaths | House panel advances Biden's .9T COVID-19 aid bill | Johnson & Johnson ready to provide doses for 20M Americans by end of March 11 GOP senators slam Biden pick for health secretary: 'No meaningful experience' 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.”