McConnell Endorses Donald Trump as GOP Resistance Collapses

(Bloomberg) -- Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell endorsed Donald Trump in the 2024 election, an awkward embrace marking the final capitulation of the party’s establishment to the former president.

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McConnell said Trump has “earned the requisite support of Republican voters to be our nominee” following a series of primary victories on Tuesday and Nikki Haley’s withdrawal from the race.

“It should come as no surprise that as nominee, he will have my support,” he added.

McConnell, who once condemned Trump as “practically and morally responsible” for the Jan. 6, 2021 mob attack on the US Capitol, has since kept his distance from the former president. In the Senate, he has been a bulwark within the party against Trump populists’ animosity toward internationalist commitments, championing continued aid for Ukraine.

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McConnell, 82, announced in February he would step down as Republican leader after the November election, meaning the legislative partnership he once maintained with Trump won’t be repeated regardless of the campaign’s outcome. But McConnell has his sights on winning back Republican control of the Senate in November, an aim easier to achieve with a unified party.

Trump’s status as the Republican frontrunner is solidified by Super Tuesday’s wave of primary elections, opening the way for a strategic effort to bring the party together to promote candidates up and down the ballot.

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The tranche of six-year Senate seats up for reelection in November offers multiple opportunities for Republicans.

Democrats are defending seats in three states Trump won in 2020 — West Virginia, Ohio and Montana — as well as seats in numerous other battleground states including Pennsylvania, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Nevada. None of the Republican-held seats up for reelection are in states Biden won.

Trump won other notable endorsements on Wednesday, including Iowa Republican Joni Ernst, a junior member of Senate GOP leadership, and Pennsylvania GOP Senate candidate David McCormick. Trump had attacked McCormick, the former Bridgewater Associates executive, in the 2022 Senate primary that he ultimately lost to celebrity physician Mehmet Oz.

Still, McConnell’s endorsement is a stunning turnabout.

The two Republican leaders stopped talking after McConnell recognized Joe Biden as the legitimate winner of the 2020 presidential election campaign, infuriating Trump.

After the Jan. 6, 2021, attack, not only did McConnell denounce Trump but his wife, Elaine Chao, then Trump’s Transportation Secretary, was among the cabinet members who resigned from the administration.

Trump has since repeatedly urged Senate Republicans to oust McConnell as their leader and publicly denigrated McConnell, ridiculing him as “Old Crow.”

The former president has also targeted McConnell’s wife, Chao, with racist broadsides, at times referring to her as “Coco Chow.” Chao, who immigrated to the US from Taiwan as a child, has publicly rebuked Trump for anti-Asian tropes he directed at her.

McConnell telegraphed openness to supporting Trump’s reelection back in February 2021 when he said in a Fox News interview that he would “absolutely” endorse the Republican nominee for president in 2024 even if it were Trump. Since then, however, he has rarely taken on Trump directly or commented on his many legal troubles.

--With assistance from Erik Wasson and Mark Niquette.

(Updates with Ernst and McCormick in ninth paragraph)

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