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Trump gets endorsement from Montana Sen. Daines, a key GOP fundraiser

Former President Donald J. Trump gets one of the most important endorsements of his 2024 presidential campaign on Capitol Hill: Sen. Steve Daines of Montana , who is chairman of the Senate Republican campaign arm.

While top Republicans in the Senate have been lukewarm about the prospect of another Trump-led election, the endorsement gives him a foothold among a key party fundraiser.

“I am honored to be endorsing Donald J. Trump as President of the United States,” said Mr Daines, a close friend of Mr Daines, during an appearance on Monday night’s “Trigger”.

He added that his “best four years” in the Senate were during Trump’s presidency. Mr. Daines laid out a list of what he said Mr. Trump had accomplished on issues such as immigration.

“That would be fantastic,” Mr Trump Jr. replied.

Mr. Trump has secured a string of congressional support, but Mr. Daines, chairman of the National Republican Senate Committee, wields outsized clout. He has been in touch with some of the wealthiest donors in Republican politics, who have been reluctant to back Mr Trump even as he declares himself the clear front-runner with the primary less than a year away. If Mr. Daines vouches for the former president as he works in the donor circle, it could bolster the Trump campaign’s rather lackluster fundraising efforts so far.

Mr. Trump has a poor relationship with the Republican leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell, whose most senior supporter in the Senate was formerly Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

For Mr Daines, however, the decision was a relatively safe move. Through a closer relationship, Mr. Trump could support a Senate candidate backed by Mr. Daines’ committee — or at least avoid attacking the committee’s preferred candidate. Mr. Daines’ relationship with Mr. Trump Jr. is also seen as an important conduit between the Senate and Trump’s actions.

Mr. Daines and Mr. Trump Jr. began the interview joking about their past hunting trips, but Mr. Daines ended up talking about how Republicans have a “once in a decade” chance of picking up a favorable map seat in 2024 . If Republicans lose, he warned, they could remain a minority “for the next decade.”

Mr. Trump’s main rival for the nomination, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, has had some trouble connecting with potential supporters as he tries to formally make himself a candidate. Both hopefuls are gaining support in Congress. While Mr. Trump has collected dozens, Mr. DeSantis, a former congressman, has acquired only a handful. Supporters of Mr Trump were quick to praise his personal style.

In the 2022 cycle, the National Republican Senate Committee, chaired by Sen. Rick Scott, has taken a largely hands-off approach to primaries. Mr McConnell lamented the “candidate quality” of those who stood out after the primary, with some Republicans continuing to lose key battlegrounds in November, including Don Bolduk in New Hampshire and Blackmaster in Arizona Sri Lanka, party strategists had predicted they would be weak candidates.

Mr Daines took a different approach. He backed a Senate seat in Indiana on behalf of Jim Banks and courted other candidates, including former hedge fund executive David McCormick, who lost last year’s Pennsylvania Senate primary.

Still, Senate Republicans face the challenge of a potential 2024 primary, with party leadership concerned that a weaker pool of potential candidates could hamper the GOP again in November, including in Mr. Daines’ home state of Montana.

In West Virginia, for example, national Republicans wooed former governor and billionaire Gov. Jim Justice to run against Democratic Senator Joe Manchin III, who won in a landslide victory in 2020 for Mr. Trump. The state faces a tough re-election campaign. Mr. Justice is expected to enter the race on Thursday, but Rep. Alex X. Mooney, who won the bitter 2022 Republican primary with Mr. Trump’s support, has Run for election.

Other states where Republican primaries could be tricky include Arizona, where former TV newscaster Carrie Lake lost the 2022 gubernatorial race and could run for Senate in 2024, and Pennsylvania’s Doug Mastroiano A crushing defeat in the 2022 gubernatorial race looks at the Senate race.

“We should walk away first,” Mr. Mastroiano said in an interview with conservative radio host John Fredericks on Monday. “We have the base. We are the base.”

Mr Mastriano is the kind of nominee Mr Daines is keen to avoid. “His last fight proved he couldn’t win a general,” Mr Daines said last month.

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