No. 2 Republican in Senate Endorses Trump for President After South Carolina Win

Sen. John Thune of South Dakota publicly endorsed the former president on Sunday.
No. 2 Republican in Senate Endorses Trump for President After South Carolina Win
President Donald Trump takes the stage at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds in Columbia, S.C., after defeating Nikki Haley in her home state on Feb. 24, 2024. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)
Jack Phillips

The second-highest-ranked Republican in the Senate on Sunday endorsed former President Donald Trump after he secured a GOP primary win in South Carolina, further imperiling rival Republican candidate Nikki Haley’s election chances.

Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) told multiple news outlets Sunday that he will back the 45th president. Previously, he endorsed Sen. Tim Scott’s (R-S.C.) campaign before he dropped out several months ago. President Trump recently mentioned that Mr. Scott is on his shortlist of potential vice presidents.

“The primary results in South Carolina make clear that Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee for president in this year’s pivotal presidential election. The choice before the American people is crystal clear: It’s Donald Trump or Joe Biden,” Mr. Thune said in a statement.

Mr. Thune then said that he backs President Trump’s “campaign to win the presidency, and I intend to do everything I can to see that he has a Republican majority in the Senate working with him to restore American strength at home and abroad.”

The senator said that Republicans should side with President Trump to “put an end to the disastrous Biden-Schumer agenda,” adding that the United States “cannot endure another four years of Bidenomics, continued lawlessness at our southern border, and American weakness on the global stage.”

According to Ballotpedia, President Trump has obtained endorsements from more than half of Senate Republicans, and about 130 endorsements from House Republicans, including the top GOP leaders, along with numerous Republican governors. As for Ms. Haley, she’s received endorsements from two GOP governors—Chris Sununu of New Hampshire and Phil Scott of Vermont—as well an endorsement from Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), her lone congressional supporter.

So far, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are the only two Republicans in the Senate leadership who haven’t publicly backed President Trump.

When asked about President Trump’s campaign in February, Mr. McConnell, who has publicly sparred with the former president numerous times in recent years, told reporters that he has “stayed essentially out of it and when I change my mind about that, I'll let you know.”

The former president, meanwhile, has not responded to Mr. Thune’s endorsement Sunday.

Previously, he criticized both Mr. McConnell’s and Mr. Thune’s claims that he didn’t properly handle the events of Jan. 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol. He also called in 2022 for a primary challenger against Mr. Thune, who later won his election by a significant margin.

Election Status

During Saturday’s primary, President Trump received about 60 percent of the vote, while Ms. Haley, a former governor of South Carolina, obtained about 40 percent. President Trump received 47 delegates, while Ms. Haley got three.
After the primary elections in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina, President Trump has obtained 107 delegates while Ms. Haley has 17, according to a tracker. A presidential candidate needs 1,215 delegates to obtain the GOP nomination.
Despite losing every state so far, Ms. Haley said Saturday that she will stay in the race, drawing ridicule from the former president. “Nikki Haley loses to Joe Biden in almost every single Poll - I WIN,” he wrote on Truth Social.

“I have never seen the Republican Party so unified as it is right now,” President Trump also said during a Saturday celebration in Columbia, South Carolina.

But Ms. Haley, also a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, insisted over the weekend she will stick around despite escalating pressure to withdraw her candidacy to allow President Trump and the GOP to focus on President Joe Biden.

Reports have indicated that she will attend a rally in several places in Michigan this week. And earlier, she vowed to keep her campaign afloat through at least the batch of primaries on March 5, known as Super Tuesday.

“I’m grateful that today is not the end of our story,” Ms. Haley told supporters Saturday. “We’ll keep fighting for America and we won’t rest until America wins.”

After the loss on Saturday, the director for the “No Labels” political group, Joe Cunningham, told Fox News that his organization would be open to tapping Ms. Haley to a third-party bid.

“We’re looking for great quality people, folks that have broad appeal to independents, Democrats, Republicans. And, yeah, I mean, Nikki Haley is somebody we’d definitely be interested in,” Mr. Cunningham told Fox News’s “Fox and Friends Sunday.” Previously, the group has suggested it would try to convince centrist Republicans and Democrats to join a campaign as it gathered signatures.

But the Haley campaign told The Hill on Sunday that she’s not interested and wants to remain a Republican.

Last week, Ms. Haley also explained her reasoning to Fox News, saying she is a “Republican option that people can realize when you see Donald Trump can’t win, and you know that we have to turn this country around, then I am your alternative.”

Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter with 15 years experience who started as a local New York City reporter. Having joined The Epoch Times' news team in 2009, Jack was born and raised near Modesto in California's Central Valley. Follow him on X:
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