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Daines, head of powerful Senate GOP fundraising arm, endorses Trump

Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) announced he was backing former president Donald Trump in the 2024 race on Monday. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
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Donald Trump received a powerful endorsement on Monday when Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), chair of the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, said he’ll back the former president’s 2024 presidential bid.

Daines made his endorsement during an interview on Donald Trump Jr.’s podcast. The senator told Trump’s son that the “best four years” he had in the Senate were those he served during the Trump administration.

Because he’s chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Daines has a powerful sway over Senate Republicans, making his endorsement a key victory for the former president’s efforts to return to the White House. Daines is, so far, the only member of Senate GOP leadership who has endorsed Trump.

“He talked about results,” Daines said. “We passed and signed into law the greatest tax cut in American history, we transformed the courts … We had a country that was respected.”

That’s why, Daines said, he’s “proud to endorse Donald J. Trump for president.”

“That’s absolutely awesome,” Trump Jr. replied.

Trump Jr. had earlier described Daines as a “very good friend” whom he met through a hunting camp. Daines’s personal connection to people close to Trump, including Trump Jr., has lent him credibility with the former president’s base, which boosted his reelection effort in 2020, when he defeated Democrat Steve Bullock, who was Montana’s governor.

The former president’s allies have called Daines’s endorsement one of the most consequential to date, with one suggesting that it signals openness to Trump among the party’s largest donors who fund the NRSC — and whom Daines would not risk alienating.

Spokespeople for Trump did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Trump is running against former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley and business executive Vivek Ramaswamy — though Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) announced an exploratory committee ahead of an expected presidential run and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former vice president Mike Pence are expected to enter the 2024 race.

Daines’s endorsement also marks a departure from top Senate Republicans — namely Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who not only has refrained from issuing an endorsement in the early stages of the GOP presidential primary but who also has openly sparred with Trump in recent months.

In November, in the wake of news that Trump had met with a white nationalist, McConnell warned that keeping such company could end a presidential candidate’s White House ambitions.

“Anyone meeting with people advocating that point of view, in my judgment, are highly unlikely to ever be elected president of the United States,” McConnell said.

Despite McConnell’s hesitation, however, a number of Senate Republicans have already backed Trump’s campaign, including Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), Markwayne Mullin (Okla.), Eric Schmitt (Mo.), Tommy Tuberville (Ala.) and J.D. Vance (Ohio). And dozens of House members announced their backing of Trump.

Daines’s endorsement also likely means Trump will back his picks for Senate races nationwide. While in 2022 the NRSC — then chaired by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) — remained neutral in primaries, an approach that frequently clashed with that of McConnell and his outside political advisers, Daines pledged to take a more active role to ensure the best candidates emerge from Republican primaries, saying in a statement that Republicans have told him they are “sick and tired of losing” and he plans to change that with strong recruiting.

Liz Goodwin contributed to this report.