Congressional Republicans Line Up Behind Trump
A top party leader, a committee chairman with a deep understanding of national security, and an aspiring senator endorsed Donald Trump shortly after he secured his place as the de facto 2016 GOP presidential nominee.
It's as sure a sign as any that the party is falling in line behind the New York businessman as he prepares to face off against Hillary Clinton in the general election. Even if their hearts are not in it.
"I have committed to supporting the nominee chosen by Republican voters, and Donald Trump, the presumptive nominee, is now on the verge of clinching that nomination," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a tepid statement in support of Trump.
The Kentucky Republican, whose Senate majority is in play this November, added that Trump now has "the obligation to unite our party around our goals."
The only goal that unites this Republican Party is the desire to defeat Hillary Clinton.
It's for that reason that Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., announced on Twitter his endorsement of Trump on Wednesday.
3/3: There will not be a third term for a Clinton/Obama Administration in the White House. #NeverHillary— Richard Burr (@BurrForSenate) May 4, 2016
Burr is also facing a tough reelection battle of his own against former Democratic state Rep. Deborah Ross.
While Senate GOP aides privately worry that Trump will cost the party heavy losses down the ticket, senators in these races are — often reluctantly — falling in line behind Trump.
In New Hampshire--where Trump preformed strong in the GOP primary--incumbent Sen. Kelly Ayotte said through a spokeswoman that she would support Trump, but not formally endorse him. Got that?
In Florida, GOP Rep. Ron DeSantis endorsed Trump in an equally resigned manner. DeSantis is competing in the Senate GOP primary to win the party nomination in the open seat race to replace retiring Sen. Marco Rubio, one of Trump's 16 vanquished opponents for the nomination.
"In light of the exit from the race by Ted Cruz and John Kasich, it is now clear that Donald Trump will accumulate the delegates necessary to be nominated by the Republican Party," DeSantis said in a statement.
"If we want to defeat Hillary Clinton and have a chance to change the trajectory of our country, we need to unite behind the Republican ticket this November."
Trump's ability to secure the nomination with only fledgling support from the party is one more factor that upended conventional wisdom in his remarkable rise towards winning the nomination.
Historically, endorsements from party leaders have been one of the most reliable predictors of who would ultimately clinch the nomination.
Prior to his Indiana primary win that secured his path to the nomination, only 15 governors, senators, and representatives had publicly backed his candidacy. By comparison, primary opponent Texas Sen. Ted Cruz had 44 endorsements from governors, senators, and representatives.
Not all Republicans are willing to fall in line. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., the most vocal Trump critic on Capitol Hill, announced in an open letter to the public that the party should consider finding and running a third party conservative candidate.
But efforts to date to stop Trump have been marginal and ineffective. Top party strategists behind the #NeverTrump movement failed to gain any traction in their coordinated efforts to deprive Trump of the 1237 delegates to secure the nomination.
Katie Packer, who ran the anti-Trump Super PAC, conceded defeat with a sense of humor on Wednesday.
Former Presidents George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, and 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney have all announced they will sit out the 2016 convention in Cleveland. It's an equally sure sign that the party remains wounded and divided.
But they are not on the ballot this November. The Republicans who are on the ballot are coming to terms with Trump as the GOP standard bearer in 2016.