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Republicans close ranks around Trump as he looks to lock up his third nomination

In World
January 20, 2024

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Republicans are quickly falling in line behind former President Donald Trump’s bid for a return to the White House, signaling a growing consensus that his nomination is all but inevitable.

The most glaring example: Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., will become the third former Trump rival to back his campaign in a week, joining North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, when Scott gives his endorsement at a rally here Friday just four days before the New Hampshire primary.

But the shifting ground can also be observed in the ranks of lawmakers and donors who are scrambling to put themselves on Trump’s good side before it’s too late.

“There will be a lot of people on planes to Mar-a-Lago over the next couple of weeks,” one former Trump campaign official who is in close contact with donors and elected officials said, anticipating visits planned to Trump’s home in Palm Beach, Florida. “A lot of folks trying to make sure they kiss the ring in the appropriate time frame.”

For a growing number, that time frame is now.

Brad Todd, a Republican strategist who is not working for a presidential campaign, attributed the gusher of support for Trump to two key factors: the work Trump and his operation — including top aides Susie Wiles, Chris LaCivita and Brian Jack — have put into wooing endorsements, and a dawning realization that the former president is on the precipice of locking up his third straight nomination.

“Everybody senses that an endorsement only helps him now,” Todd said. “They want to do it when they are adding value, as opposed to when it’s meaningless. After South Carolina it will be meaningless if he wins New Hampshire.”

Members of Congress have long since decided the cost of explicitly stepping out against Trump wasn’t worth it: His 2024 rivals haven’t collected a congressional endorsement since June.

A Suffolk University/Boston Globe/NBC-10 survey released Friday showed Trump with 52 percent support in New Hampshire, followed by Haley at 35 percent and DeSantis at 6 percent. That is consistent with previous iterations of the “tracking” poll, which updates daily. No nonincumbent Republican has ever won both the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary in the same year.

With Scott’s backing in hand, Trump now has endorsements from both of South Carolina’s senators, Gov. Henry McMaster and three of the state’s six Republican House members. Haley, the former governor of the state, claims support from just one of South Carolina’s members of Congress, Rep. Ralph Norman.

Overall, Trump now has support from more than half of the Republicans in Congress, according to NBC News’ tracking of his endorsements.

In addition to Trump’s campaign staff, which has long targeted specific state delegations as a show of force, House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik of New York — who has been mentioned as a potential Trump vice presidential pick — has been lobbying lawmakers to endorse, according to a former Trump White House official familiar with the effort.

“What motivates President Trump? More than anything else, it’s loyalty,” the former White House official said. “Stefanik understands that and is strategic … She knows what she’s doing.”

Stefanik adviser Alex DeGrasse confirmed the congresswoman’s efforts in a statement to NBC News, noting that she endorsed Trump before he officially launched his campaign in November 2022.

“[S]he worked the last year to encourage all of her colleagues to do so!” DeGrasse said. “It’s great to see the overwhelming support for President Trump across the House Republican Conference, which shows the strong momentum at this important time.”

One CEO who spoke to NBC News on the condition of anonymity to describe his thinking candidly said that he is laying the groundwork for a conversion from a rival’s fold to Trump’s team.

“I’m left with a choice of, if I want to be inside the tent, I’ve got to crawl back to Trump,” he said, noting that people in Trump’s orbit have been in semi-regular contact with him since the fall, making clear that his support would be welcome.

“So for me, that means calling Don Jr. and letting him crow. It means setting up a meeting at Mar-a-Lago, which I’ve done,” he said. “It means having people that I know call the president — the former president, the future president — and say good things about me.”

And, the CEO said, the hoop-jumping course requires him to be seen “flipping on social media.”

Trump’s outreach to high-level donors and elected officials has been consistent over the course of more than a year and has involved more light touches than arm-twisting — often with the former president, members of his family or the top aides, who are well-connected in political circles, calling people with whom they have personal relationships — according to people familiar with the approach.

Political elites are smart enough to know the potential consequences of crossing Trump without having them spelled out, the former campaign official said.

A Trump aide familiar with the effort said that endorsements are flowing naturally at this point, without the application of pressure.

“We don’t have to,” the aide said. “They’re all coming to us.”

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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