First Trey Gowdy, and now Jason Chaffetz. Marco Rubio seems to be gaining most of the endorsements from the newer vanguard of Congressional Republicans, and the endorsements stand in contrast to the lack of same for his colleague Ted Cruz. But will this help Rubio, or just not matter in a very unusual primary environment?
“Marco Rubio – he is the real thing. He is a great conservative. He has a great record and I think he would be just an amazing president,” Chaffetz says in this NBC News exclusive. “I think as people firm up their decisions, they’ve got to take a good hard look at all the candidates. I am not going to tell them who to vote for but I’ve looked at them all and I think Marco Rubio is the right person.”
When it comes to Trump, Chaffetz says Rubio’s positive message will, er, trump the frontrunner. “We need to share a positive message about why we need a conservative and Marco Rubio is the best I’ve seen.”
Politico had reported on it earlier in the morning, noting that Rubio is mainly competing with Jeb Bush for the endorsement sweepstakes. And at the moment, he seems to be winning:
Rubio is locked in a crowded race with other center-right candidates Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Chris Christie in the nation’s first GOP primary state, but Rubio is gathering more momentum in the halls of Congress than any other GOP presidential candidate. While Bush shot out to an early lead in terms of congressional endorsements, Chaffetz joins a swelling group of high-profile lawmakers backing Rubio.
Since the beginning of November, 17 House and Senate Republicans have endorsed Rubio, including Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Trey Gowdy and former House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who campaigned with Rubio earlier this week in New Hampshire. In that same time period two House members and Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) have endorsed Bush, according 538’s endorsement tracker.
Senior Republican lawmakers and aides in Congress believe that Rubio is in line for more Senate endorsements now that Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has dropped out of the race, but to date just three of Rubio’s Senate colleagues have endorsed him.
As far as this goes, it’s good news for Rubio. Given how Trump went on the attack against Gowdy after his endorsement last month, Chaffetz might want to prepare for a short onslaught — but then again, Chaffetz is already pretty good about returning fire as it is. No one can say that Chaffetz doesn’t fight, and Rubio can benefit from having him as a surrogate to maintain his own positive style, should Chaffetz decide to get that involved in the race.
The bigger question is whether any of this matters in the 2016 cycle. Endorsements in any cycle are more valuable for appeals to authority rather than bringing in significant numbers of voters, but even that seems limited in this environment. Politics in both parties is being driven by an anti-establishment fervor, which makes Congressional endorsements even less valuable than usual. Chaffetz and Gowdy may be valuable on the ground for campaign events, and their relatively recent arrivals in Congress may mitigate the “establishment” vibe that Capitol Hill endorsements carry, but this seems more like a game for insiders than anything that will impact the trajectory of the race.
It also seems a little odd to tout endorsements from Congress after Rubio’s statement about the futility of trying to change America with Senators and Congressmen, but YMMV. The best one can say is that this won’t hurt.