On Friday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) surprised the political world by endorsing Donald Trump for president. But just a few days before, two relatively moderate Republican members of Congress surprised Capitol Hill by being the first sitting members of Congress to share their support for Trump. Here's The Fix's original post and interview with them about why they're on Team Trump:
A day after he won his third state in a row (and handily at that), Donald Trump got his first congressional endorsements -- ever. GOP Reps. Chris Collins (N.Y.) and Duncan Hunter (Calif.) came out in short succession Wednesday in support of the once-unlikely GOP front-runner for president.
Both men had their different reasons for being the first sitting members of Congress to join Team Trump. One truly believes Trump is the best person for the job, the other truly believes Trump is the most likeliest person to get the job.
Neither lawmaker is the most likely to support Trump. Relative to their other House Republican colleagues, they both rank about in the middle when it comes to ideology, according to GovTrack.
Which is why their support for Trump lends further credence to the narrative that Trump is on his way to being the inevitable, unstoppable, nominee -- and the possibility that other members of Congress could soon get on-board, out of necessity more than anything else.
The Fix talked to Hunter's chief of staff and Collins himself to better understand why they're supporting Trump now and what it could mean for Congress's perception of and relation with Trump going forward.
Let's start with Hunter, who actually doesn't want his support for Trump characterized as an "endorsement."
The former combat Marine, whose father, Duncan L. Hunter, ran as a long shot for president in 2008, hasn't made an official call to Trump's campaign, nor does he expect one, said his chief of staff, Joe Kasper.
Hunter was originally a Mike Huckabee supporter. But the Arkansas governor dropped out of the race after Iowa, and since then, Hunter read the tea leaves and decided there's no other realistic choice for the nomination but Trump.
Hunter is hoping that by being one of the first members of Congress to publicly support Trump, he can convince his other colleagues to essentially face the music and figure out how they can work with Trump instead of against him.
"You have to stop talking nonsense and saying disparaging things about the guy who ultimately is more likely than not to be the Republican nominee," Kasper said, summarizing the congressman's thinking.
For his part, Hunter has decided he can get behind Trump's no-nonsense attitude on national security and border security.
Collins's endorsement (he's okay with you calling it that) of Trump is a slightly different story. Collins is an enthusiastic, no-holds-barred supporter for Trump -- though he wasn't always.
Collins was originally a Jeb Bush supporter, but as the former Florida governor's presidential campaign crumbled, the New York lawmaker started touting Trump's appeal. He made his new allegiance official just days after Bush dropped out of the race.
Collins likes Trump's attention to manufacturing and standing strong "in the face of [the Islamic State], Iran, North Korea and Russia."
"He's the person to do it," Collins said.
Collins and Trump also share similar background -- they're both successful businessmen who turned to politics after decades in the private sector. Collins indicated Trump's newness to the game should give the real estate mogul's some leeway for some of his most controversial moments.
"I believe he has not transitioned mentally from being a maverick candidate to realizing he's going to be the next president of the United States," Collins said. (Side note: Or at least the very likely next Republican nominee for the next president of the united States.)
When asked how his colleagues in Congress have reacted to his endorsement, Collins said very few dismiss Trump outright anymore.
"Most are saying, 'You've made some very valid points. Let me see how this plays out,'" Collins said.
Hunter's chief of staff predicted a similar, if not optimistic, incoming wave of congressional support for Trump. These two lawmakers out in front might get ridiculed among their colleagues for the moment, but not for long, he predicted.
"The candidates they're choosing to support aren't wining primaries. They're not even winning counties," Kasper said. "So something's got to change."