Let’s start the day right with an irresponsible-speculation thread. For Trump-lovers it’s a chance to begin building buzz. For Trump-haters it’s a chance to set expectations unrealistically high. Maybe the mystery endorser is Mitt Romney! Or George W. Bush!!!
Typically when a candidate touts a big endorsement you need to allow for the possibility that it’s the vice chairman of the state party or whatever and he’s overselling it to ingratiate himself to the voters. I don’t think Trump would puff this up unless the endorsement really was yuge, though. Local guys are small ball to him.
“I talk to senators that frankly want to come out and endorse me, it’s amazing what’s happened over the last two weeks,” he continued. “Over the last two weeks, so many people are calling and saying, ‘We want to get involved with you, we want to endorse you.’ We have a powerful endorsement coming down today.”
But Trump wouldn’t elaborate on who this powerful endorser was. “You’ll find out a little bit later,” he teased. “We have a powerful endorsement coming down today. So many people want to endorse us because they say Ted Cruz is wacky.”
It’s telling that he mentioned the endorsement in the context of Senate opposition to Cruz, I think. The endorser’s probably … Jeff Sessions, no? Sessions’s communications director joined Trump’s campaign as a policy advisor literally yesterday. Sessions himself turned up at a Trump rally in August and briefly donned a “Make America Great Again” baseball cap onstage next to Trump. He’s never endorsed in a GOP presidential primary since joining the Senate — but when asked about it last fall, he said in the course of a conversation about how he feels vindicated by Trump’s appeal that he might endorse this time. Trump also met with Sessions last year to consult with him on immigration policy. Coincidentally, a splashy piece about Sessions praising Trump’s position on trade appeared within the last 24 hours at Breitbart, which has had a pipeline to Trump throughout the campaign. A little pre-endorsement teaser to get Trump fans excited for today’s announcement? Or … is the Sessions speculation wrong? Note this bit from the Breitbart piece:
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the intellectual leader of the modern conservative movement and the catalyst behind much of the rise of nationalist populism in this election cycle, told Breitbart News exclusively that he thinks there’s much about 2016 GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump for voters to like when it comes to the issue of trade negotiations.
While Sessions is, again, not officially endorsing anyone in the 2016 GOP presidential primaries, his top aide Stephen Miller, the Washington Post reported on Monday afternoon, is joining Trump’s presidential campaign as a senior policy adviser…
The decision that lays before voters in Iowa in just seven days, voters in New Hampshire eight days later, and South Carolina a couple weeks after that, couldn’t be clearer according to Sessions—who, again, just had his top aide Stephen Miller join the Trump campaign. Sessions noted that Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and 2012 GOP presidential nominee, fought for American workers on this issue in the 2012 GOP presidential primary but abandoned it in the general election. That’s why he believes it’s so important that Trump – should he or anyone else who’s tough against currency manipulation win the nomination—continue to discuss the matter when they face off against whomever the Democrats nominate, which is still expected to most likely be former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
If Sessions reiterated this week to Breitbart that he’s not endorsing then he’s not endorsing. Or maybe he’ll do for Trump what Joni Ernst did for Rubio yesterday, a “non-endorsement endorsement” where you formally maintain your neutrality but praise the candidate lavishly enough that it’s clear you’re in his corner. (Trump, ever the salesman, naturally wouldn’t observe such niceties in describing what’s about to happen.) Rick Wilson thinks that Sessions backing Trump is no big deal since any vote that might conceivably be moved by his support is already accounted for. If you care enough about immigration that Jeff Sessions might sway you, chances are you’re already with the guy who’s pretending that he’s going to deport all illegals. I don’t know, though: Cruz has been straining since November to portray himself as just as tough as Trump is on amnesty, even reaching the point of categorically ruling out legalization for illegals. Cruz has also been touting the fact that his own immigration plan was conceived after consulting with — ta da — Jeff Sessions. In fact, Sessions stood onstage with Cruz at a rally last month in Alabama and gave him cover in his war over immigration with Marco Rubio, saying of the Gang of Eight bill, “I believe, without the vigorous opposition from Ted Cruz, this bill very likely, would have passed.” If, after all that, he turned around and endorsed Trump, it’d be a strong signal on top of Palin’s that it’s okay for grassroots righties to prefer Trump to the “true conservative” Cruz. Gotta be some conservatives left in Iowa who like them both and haven’t decided yet, partly because they don’t know if they can trust Trump. Sessions endorsing Trump would be code for “Trust him.”
But maybe I’m wrong. In which case, if it’s not Sessions, who is it? While you mull that, note that Marco Rubio landed an endorsement himself today: It’s, er, George Pataki. So, yeah.
— Morning Joe (@Morning_Joe) January 26, 2016
Update: Ah, I should have guessed this. It’s Jerry Falwell Jr, who praised Trump as a man of God by his deeds in his introduction to Trump’s convocation speech at Liberty University this month. Falwell’s name was also thrown around the last time Trump teased a mystery endorsement, which turned out to be Palin’s. The strategy here is obvious: Try to blunt the overwhelming support Cruz has gotten from evangelical leaders in Iowa. But that’ll have to wait for another post.
Here’s an early quote of the day: “In my opinion, Donald Trump lives a life of loving and helping others as Jesus taught in the great commandment.”
Update: Aaron Gardner reminds me of something I’d forgotten: Cruz launched his presidential campaign at Liberty University to signal his unity with social conservatives. It worked like a charm, as he’s locked up most major evangelical leaders. Just not the guy in charge at Liberty.