Donald Trump has received his first endorsements from Congress. While Trump has been the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination for months and has dominated the last three primary contests, he had been the only candidate in the race backed by zero members of Congress.
That changed Wednesday, when Rep. Duncan Hunter of California and Rep. Chris Collins of New York decided to throw their support behind The Donald, Politico and The Buffalo News reported. The congressmen both said they see Trump as the kind of strong leader America needs to take on issues of national security and get the economy "back on track."
“Donald Trump has clearly demonstrated that he has both the guts and the fortitude to return our nation’s jobs stolen by China; take on our enemies like ISIS, Iran, North Korea and Russia; and, most importantly, reestablish the opportunity for our children and grandchildren to attain the American Dream,” Collins said, according to The Buffalo News.
Collins had previously backed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who dropped out of the presidential race on Saturday following a disappointing finish in the South Carolina GOP primary. For his part, Hunter told Politico that he has liked Trump’s policies on immigration, manufacturing and national security since early in the race.
“I’m in, and I’ve been in,” he said Wednesday. “We don't need a policy wonk as president. We need a leader as president.”
While these are Trump’s first congressional endorsements, the New York billionaire has made it clear he is not concerned about other politicians backing his candidacy. He said Wednesday morning on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that he does not bother to seek endorsements.
“Now, and as of yesterday, people were calling, a lot of people were calling, and I’ll have many endorsements soon, but it’s not something I want to work for, to be honest with you, because it’s a waste of time. Endorsements mean very little,” Trump told host George Stephanopoulos.
Historically, endorsements have often been predictive of a party’s presidential nominee. But this election cycle has seen much of conventional campaign wisdom go out the window, and so far, it has seemed like endorsements are following different patterns than in the past. Jeb Bush, for example, had 31 endorsements before dropping out of the race last weekend, according to FiveThirtyEight’s endorsement tracker.
Trump has run his candidacy on anti-establishment fervor, and his supporters are frequently excited to hear him criticize Washington politicians such as those in Congress and in the White House. He currently stands at 33.6 percent in an average of national polls, and is well on his way to collecting the delegates necessary to become his party’s nominee. But the congressmen endorsing The Donald on Wednesday seemed well aware their newly chosen candidate might not care about their endorsements.
“I don't think Trump wants my endorsement,” Hunter said, adding that he had not spoken with Trump himself about the endorsement. “And that's one reason why I like him.”
Hunter sponsored a bill last year that its opponents called the “Donald Trump Act” because it would have required local law enforcement in sanctuary cities to notify federal immigration officials if they had an undocumented immigrant in their custody. He also told Politico Wednesday that he thinks other members of Congress likely support Trump too, but have not said so publicly.
“I've liked Trump since the beginning,” Hunter said. “I think you have more Trump supporters in Congress. They just have to come out of the closet, so to speak.”