The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Trump’s meager early 2024 endorsements

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), center, speaks to a crowd as former president Donald Trump and South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster look on during a Trump 2024 campaign event last month. (Sean Rayford for The Washington Post)
4 min

With the entry of Nikki Haley into the 2024 presidential race, we finally have an actual contest. And with that comes an endorsement battle.

Former president Donald Trump’s performance in that battle thus far is rather underwhelming, given his stature in the party.

Haley on Wednesday debuted her first endorsement. That it comes from a fellow South Carolinian, Rep. Ralph Norman (R), may not be especially surprising; it’s perhaps more surprising that it comes from a major Trump ally who is perhaps best known for urging the former president to declare “Marshall Law” to hold on to power — more than a week after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Norman provides one of the earliest cracks in GOP support for Trump. But the potential fissures have been forming for a while.

There is no central, authoritative list of Trump 2024 endorsements, but more than 30 out of 271 congressional Republicans have backed him, according to a Washington Post review. And the vast majority of them have come from ride-or-die Trump supporters and/or people who came into power with the Trump’s help.

To date, Trump’s endorsements include:

  • Senate (5): Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), Markwayne Mullin (Okla.), Eric Schmitt (Mo.), Tommy Tuberville (Ala.) and J.D. Vance (Ohio)
  • House (26): Jim Banks (Ind.), Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Lauren Boebert (Colo.), Mike Carey (Ohio), Elijah Crane (Ariz.), Charles J. “Chuck” Fleischmann (Tenn.), Russell Fry (S.C.), Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Paul A. Gosar (Ariz.), Tony Gonzales (Tex.), Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), Harriet M. Hageman (Wyo.), Clay Higgins (La.), Wesley Hunt (Tex.), Ronny Jackson (Tex.), Jim Jordan (Ohio), Mary E. Miller (Ill.), Max L. Miller (Ohio), Alex Mooney (W.Va.), Barry Moore (Ala.), Troy E. Nehls (Tex.), Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), Dale W. Strong (Ala.), William Timmons (S.C.), Jeff Van Drew (N.J.) and Joe Wilson (S.C.)

Trump backed four of the five senators listed above in contested open-seat primaries in either 2020 or 2022. (The Schmitt endorsement was split between him and another “Eric,” but it helped Schmitt defeat his nearest competitor, then-Rep. Vicky Hartzler.)

The fifth senator, Graham, has made clear his calculus for backing Trump is not so much about principle than about his fear of what might happen to the party — and what Trump might do — if the party tries to turn the page.

In the House, a majority of the endorsements have come from the arch-conservative House Freedom Caucus. Trump has also backed half the members in recent contested primaries: Boebert, Carey, Crane, Fry, Gonzales, Hageman, Higgins, Hunt, Jackson, Mary E. Miller, Max L. Miller, Mooney, Timmons and Van Drew.

Among the few who don’t fit into either category, some obvious political motivations may have factored in.

Banks quickly endorsed Trump in November while he was seeking to become the No. 3 House Republican. He lost that race but soon decided to run for Indiana’s open Senate seat, where Trump’s Feb. 1 endorsement has helped him clear the GOP field. (Mooney is also running for Senate, in West Virginia.)

Similarly, Stefanik has risen to power in the House GOP by bear-hugging Trump, and Trump’s endorsement of her to replace Cheney in leadership helped assure Stefanik was the choice. Jordan has risen to prominence in a similar way.

Trump didn’t back Nehls until the 2020 general election, and Nehls didn’t exactly tout the endorsement in a competitive district. But since then Nehls has echoed Stefanik’s wholehearted embrace of Trumpism, and Trump backed his 2022 primary campaign against nominal opposition.

In other words, Trump’s gotten relatively few surprising endorsements — which in his case would come from House members in the establishment wing of the party; such backing might send a signal about the broader party rallying behind Trump again.

By contrast, Haley’s endorsement does raise eyebrows — and suggests Trump’s base of support isn’t entirely intact.