After Early Primary Victories, Republicans in Congress Fall in Line Behind Trump

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Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Georgia Republican and die-hard ally of former President Donald J. Trump, was exasperated with her colleagues as she left the House floor last Thursday evening.

“I don’t know if it’s sunk in this place around here,” Ms. Greene vented as she headed for the elevators and then for Manchester, N.H., where she was stumping for the former president. “I’ve been telling everyone that President Trump is the leader of the Republican Party; he’s going to be our presidential nominee. It’s time for all Republicans to get behind his policies.”

If it hadn’t sunk in yet, it has now.

After Mr. Trump won the New Hampshire primary by 11 percentage points on Tuesday night following his steamrolling victory in the Iowa caucuses, the small segment of Republicans in Congress who had tried to distance themselves from him, ignore him, cast doubt on his staying power or condemn him have begun swiftly falling into line behind him. And this time, it is happening even faster than it did in 2016, when Mr. Trump first subsumed his party.

In the Senate, at least 29 Republicans — more than half the conference — have now endorsed Mr. Trump, compared with zero for the lone Republican challenger still standing, former Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina, who vowed on Tuesday night to carry on with her campaign despite outlining no clear path to victory.

In the Republican-controlled House, which has acted as Mr. Trump’s sword and shield, vulnerable Republicans who represent districts President Biden won in 2020 are speed walking to the Trump bandwagon, where their MAGA-loving colleagues are greeting them with an “I told you so.”

Two of them, Representatives Brandon Williams and Nick LaLota of New York, said that Mr. Trump was the party’s inevitable nominee and that they fully supported the voters’ choice. Representative John Duarte, a California Republican whose district Mr. Biden won in 2020 by almost 11 points, told Axios that he expected to “ultimately endorse Donald Trump for president.”

Tim Miller, who worked as a top adviser to former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, said it wasn’t hard to understand why.

“Trump slaughtered Nikki Haley among self-identified Republicans last night,” he said. “Republicans want Trump. The politicians aren’t fighting it anymore. It’s what their voters want, and they have given up on any pretense of fighting their impulses or trying to lead them a different direction.”

The dynamic could have an immediate impact on the agenda in Congress, where Republicans and Democrats have been grasping for an elusive compromise to pair a clampdown on migration at the southern border with an aid package for Ukraine. Mr. Trump has savaged the emerging deal as too weak on immigration, and as lawmakers line up behind his candidacy, they appear more unlikely to defy him on his signature issue — particularly in the Republican-controlled House.

And in the Senate, where top Republicans have been split over Mr. Trump’s candidacy, resistance is melting away. Perhaps the most surprising lawmaker to join the growing queue of Trump endorsers on Tuesday night was Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, who is one of three lawmakers vying to succeed Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky as the party’s leader.

“I am proud of our accomplishments in President Trump’s first term,” Mr. Cornyn wrote in a post on social media that omitted any praise of the candidate himself but called him the “Republican voters’ choice.” His endorsement came just months after he told The Houston Chronicle that “Trump’s time has passed him by,” and that a successful general election candidate needed to appeal to voters beyond the MAGA base.

Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 2 Senate Republican who has been an outspoken critic of Mr. Trump, took a similar approach on Wednesday, withholding any accolades for the former president but conceding that he appeared to be marching toward the G.O.P. nomination. Mr. Thune told reporters that Mr. Trump was “in a commanding position, and I’ve said all along I’ll endorse the nominee. So if he’s the nominee, I’ll do what I can to help the team win the presidency.”

Senator John Barrasso, Republican of Wyoming and the No. 3 Senate Republican who is also in the quiet Senate race for party leader, stated plainly earlier this month: “We need Donald Trump back in the White House.”

Mr. McConnell himself has been silent, telling reporters at a news conference ahead of the New Hampshire primary that everyone was “watching New Hampshire with great interest,” but saying nothing on Wednesday after Mr. Trump won.

The rush to fall in line, yet again, has a surreal yet inevitable quality this time around. It has been eight years since Mr. Trump first vanquished 16 other candidates in the Republican primary, and was eventually embraced by the very G.O.P. lawmakers who had expressed deep concerns about his ability to serve as commander in chief. It has been three years since the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, when many Republicans who feared for their lives that day initially blamed Mr. Trump for the violence — but quickly reversed course and defended him.

“I really would have thought that Jan. 6 would have been a clean break and I’m surprised that it’s not,” said Senator Tim Kaine, Democrat of Virginia. “I don’t get it.”

Democrats have rushed to capitalize on the dynamic, arguing that voters will punish Republicans who ally themselves with Mr. Trump and cost the party its House majority.

“Donald Trump called it when he said that Republicans across the country would all ‘bend the knee’ and declare their fealty to him — no matter how toxic he is,” Viet Shelton, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said. “Now we’re watching it happen in real time as party leaders are pressuring candidates across the country to fall in line.”

But Republicans appear to have concluded, once again, that it is too difficult to forge a viable path in G.O.P. politics that does not include a tight embrace of Mr. Trump.

Representative Nancy Mace, Republican of South Carolina, beat a Trump-backed candidate in 2022 thanks, at least in part, to the backing of Ms. Haley, who campaigned with her. After Jan. 6, Ms. Mace claimed that all of Mr. Trump’s accomplishments had been “wiped out” by his behavior during the mob attack. In response, Mr. Trump called her a “grandstanding loser.”

As she has tried to plot her own political future, Ms. Mace has wrestled for months with how to deal with the pesky Trump issue. “I’ll support the nominee — that’s what I say,” she said in April, when discussing how to triangulate around Mr. Trump, whom she did not want to support. “And then I shut up.”

That was then.

A day before the New Hampshire primary, Ms. Mace said she was backing Mr. Trump for president. On Tuesday night, she showed up with her Havanese dog, Liberty, at the Trump campaign headquarters in Charleston to celebrate what she called “the historic New Hampshire win!”

Senator Susan Collins of Maine was among the few Republican senators who said that she did not see herself ever endorsing Mr. Trump, going so far as to commend Ms. Haley for staying in the race.

“The more people see her, since she appears to be the only alternative to Donald Trump right now, the more impressed they will be,” Ms. Collins said on Wednesday. But even she declined to formally endorse Ms. Haley, saying she was “personal friends” with many of the other Republican presidential candidates who have since dropped out of the race.

On the right, though, Mr. Trump also was quickly coalescing the support of the tiny group of lawmakers who had tried experimenting with an alternative. Representative Bob Good of Virginia, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, had endorsed Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida for president. But within minutes of Mr. DeSantis’s pulling the plug on his own bid ahead of the New Hampshire primary, Mr. Good rushed to right that wrong.

“It is my privilege to provide my complete and total endorsement for Donald J. Trump as the 47th president of the United States,” Mr. Good wrote online. “President Trump was the greatest president of my lifetime, and we need him to reinstate the policies that were working so well for America.”

Representative Chip Roy, Republican of Texas, who campaigned for Mr. DeSantis through the bitter end, was inching his way back into the fold on Tuesday night.

“Trump supporters rightly just want their country back — and he listens to them,” he wrote online. “It’s his core strength.”

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After Early Primary Victories, Republicans in Congress Fall in Line Behind Trump

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