Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speak during a commercial break in the sixth Republican presidential debate in North Charleston, S.C., on Jan. 14, 2016.
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty

Republicans play the Endorsement Game clumsily

Updated
At a campaign event in Marshalltown, Iowa, this week, Donald Trump focused on Ted Cruz’s lack of support from within the Republican Party. “Think about it, not endorsed by one United States Senator and he works with them every day,” Trump said, adding, “Not one Republican senator. How do you do that? How do you run a country that way? … The guy doesn’t have any endorsements.”
 
At a certain level, that’s true. Cruz has done fairly well picking up support from Republicans in the U.S. House – his 18 endorsements are the third most in the GOP field – but Cruz, a sitting U.S. senator, has zero endorsements from his colleagues in the chamber. He hasn’t picked up any support from Republican governors, either.
 
What Trump neglected to mention is that he’s doing even worse. For the first time in the modern era, a Republican frontrunner, leading in each of the first three nominating contests, is heading into Iowa with a grand total of zero endorsements from governors and/or members of the House and Senate. Literally, none.
 
Will that change? The State newspaper in South Carolina published an interesting piece late yesterday.
South Carolina Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster endorsed Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump on Thursday.
 
McMaster – a former state attorney general, U.S. attorney and S.C. GOP chairman – is the highest-ranking state politician to endorse a 2016 candidate…. The endorsement comes as a bit of surprise since McMaster represents the establishment in the state party.
Remember, it was earlier this month when South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) delivered her party’s official response to the State of the Union address, in which she took not-so-subtle shots at Trump. And yet, yesterday, her lieutenant governor – and likely successor in 2018 – threw his official backing to Trump.
 
Is it only a matter of time before a member of Congress does the same? Roll Call considered the question overnight:
Of all Donald Trump’s curious unblemished records, this one will almost surely end pretty soon: At last one member of Congress will endorse him for president.
 
As good a bet as any is that this signal move will come from Jeff Sessions, the junior Republican senator from Alabama…. Sessions’ office won’t say when, or even if, he will formalize his support, but his enthusiasm clearly stands out as far more overt than any other lawmaker’s.
It’s worth noting that one of the under-appreciated oddities of the 2016 cycle is the degree to which the Endorsement Game has been stagnant for months. For all the chatter about the role of the GOP “establishment” in the process, there are 54 Republicans in the U.S. Senate and only 13 of them have thrown their official support behind a presidential candidate. The rest, apparently, are in wait-and-see mode.
 
Similarly, there are 31 sitting Republican governors, and only four of them have endorsed in this race. That’s not a typo: 27 out of 31 current GOP governors have chosen to stay on the sidelines.
 
Will these official insiders get in the game before the fight for the nomination wraps up?
 
 

Donald Trump and Republican Party

Republicans play the Endorsement Game clumsily

Updated