Former President Donald Trump achieved a significant milestone in his political comeback, securing his 135th congressional Republican endorsement on Sunday. This support grants him a majority backing within the congressional GOP, just a day before the Iowa caucuses.
The pivotal endorsements came from Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Julia Letlow from Louisiana. Letlow, serving her second term, expressed her support in a statement to POLITICO, highlighting her longstanding relationship with Trump and the honor she felt in endorsing him.
Trump’s accumulation of support within the congressional Republicans significantly overshadows that of his primary rivals. According to a combined count from recent endorsements and previous data from FiveThirtyEight.com, Trump now enjoys the support of 111 House Republicans and 24 Senators, out of 220 and 49 sitting Republicans in the House and Senate, respectively. In stark contrast, Governor Ron DeSantis has only 5 House Republicans and no senators backing him, while former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley has the support of just 1 House Republican.
Trump’s commanding lead in endorsements wasn’t always certain, especially following the January 6 riot, when many congressional Republicans openly criticized him. However, his frontrunner status in the primary and the relationships forged during his presidency have played a crucial role in garnering support. Many congress members see little advantage in endorsing candidates with slim chances of winning.
Trump’s endorsement strategy has been proactive and personal, involving direct outreach to House and Senate Republicans over the past year. This effort has been orchestrated by Brian Jack, Trump’s former White House Political Director and current liaison to Congress.
Representative Letlow’s endorsement came after a personal call from Trump, a relationship that began during her 2021 special election campaign. Similarly, New York Representative Nick Langworthy, who has a longstanding relationship with Trump dating back to his 2016 campaign and White House transition, confirmed his endorsement following a conversation with the former president.
Rubio’s endorsement is particularly noteworthy, as it signifies his preference for Trump over Florida Governor DeSantis and Nikki Haley, who previously endorsed Rubio in the 2016 GOP primary. Additionally, Idaho Senator Jim Risch announced his support for Trump late Saturday, further solidifying Trump’s position within the GOP.