When Donald Trump issued endorsements for the respective Senate campaigns of J.D. Vance and Eric Schmitt, both of whom sailed to victory, the former president could not even be bothered to correctly say or completely write out their names. But that half-assed effort was apparently enough for both freshmen Republicans to repay Trump with endorsements of their own for Trump’s 2024 presidential bid.
Politico reported Tuesday that Vance, a socially conservative crusader who has been uncharacteristically quiet since arriving in Washington, has told allies in recent months that he expects to endorse Trump in the 2024 presidential primary. The senator has since confirmed his endorsement plans to Hugh Hewitt, telling the conservative talk radio host that he will publish an op-ed soon detailing his stance.
Last May, the former president may or may not have helped Vance survive his own primary contest after he issued a tepid, last-second endorsement of “J.D. Mandel,” a mash-up of Vance’s first two initials and the last name of his opponent Josh Mandel. Some commentators interpreted that as Trump hedging his bets, especially given Trump’s fantastically ambiguous endorsement of “Eric” a few months later in Missouri’s Republican Senate primary, which pitted two Erics—Schmitt and Greitens—against one another.
The victorious Eric is not hedging at all in 2024, calling Trump “very popular in Missouri.” As Schmitt told Politico, “He’s been somebody that’s gotten the support of Missourians by big margins a couple times. He has my support.”
News of the two endorsements comes days after GOP senators Lindsey Graham and Tommy Tuberville threw their support behind Trump. Graham spoke over the weekend at Trump’s first campaign event in his home state of South Carolina, a pivotal battleground in the Republican primary, and took to Fox News to express his loyalty. “There are no Trump policies without the man Donald Trump,” Graham told Sean Hannity before addressing the other Republicans considering a 2024 run. “To all these people who are very talented, I don’t think you could do what he did and I want him to have another shot––unfinished business.” Tuberville likewise told Politico that he will be “disappointed in the summertime” if Trump hasn’t received any more endorsements, and affirmed Trump’s plan to build momentum by holding small, early events in key states.
Other Senate Republicans are not entirely sold on Trump’s bid, including Senator John Cornyn, who echoed “a growing desire to get some new blood,” and Senate minority whip John Thune, who has described Governor Ron DeSantis as a “very formidable” presidential choice. However, those in the party who do want a fresh face currently have no one to back, as Trump is the only candidate to have officially entered the race.