With anti-Washington fervor playing a huge role on the campaign trail, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) and ex-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) have done little to court Capitol Hill, according to lawmakers interviewed for this article.
The number of member endorsements is way down compared to four years ago. At this point in the presidential cycle last time around, 87 congressional Republicans had endorsed a candidate in the primary. But now, only 30 have done so, with 13 backing Romney, 10 for Perry, five for former Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) and two for Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas).
Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), who has not endorsed a candidate, said the press from the campaigns is not as intense as it was in 2007 and 2008. Brady added that he suspects that the anti-Washington mood of the country is a leading factor.
Rep. Cynthia Lummis said, “There is less emphasis on congressional endorsements.”
The Wyoming Republican, who indicated she will endorse Romney or Perry, said it is politically deft for the frontrunners to focus on governors and give members of Congress short shrift.
Romney earlier this week announced that former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) had endorsed his candidacy. Hours later, the Perry campaign countered with an endorsement from Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R). Both Pawlenty and Jindal made multiple television appearances this week, praising their respective candidates for the White House.
Meanwhile, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) has endorsed Perry while Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman (R) and Idaho Gov. Butch Otter (R) are backing Romney.
By and large, lawmakers are not getting wooed by either the Romney or Perry campaigns.
A Republican lawmaker who requested anonymity said Romney and Gingrich’s campaigns launched aggressive efforts for congressional endorsements “months ago,” but since then, it’s been quiet.
And lawmakers who have endorsed in recent weeks have indicated they did so on their own, not at the request of campaigns.
Most of Romney’s and Perry’s supporters on Capitol Hill are rank-and-file members. Romney’s biggest gets are Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.). Perry has snagged Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas), House Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.) and freshman Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R), who hails from the pivotal state of South Carolina.
Among public supporters, the Texas delegation has been split between Perry and Gingrich. Reps. Sessions, John Carter (R-Texas), Mike Conaway (R-Texas), John Culberson (R-Texas), and Mike McCaul (R-Texas) have endorsed Perry while Reps. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and Michael Burgess (R-Texas) are backing Gingrich. Carter and Conaway endorsed Romney in the 2008 presidential primary.