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Inside Donald Trump’s clandestine endorsement campaign


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., took advantage of face-to-face contact with former President Donald Trump when he headlined a fundraiser for the House Republicans’ campaign arm in Tampa, Fla., in November.

Trump said, “Yeah, yes, yes.” Then he stated he’d discuss it with his team.

The following day, the former president called Bilirakis to provide the GOP‘s most coveted endorsement. While driving to an event in north Hillsborough County, Trump read a draught statement to Bilirakis over the phone and asked if he had any revisions.

Bilirakis, who could face a tough re-election battle, was overjoyed to receive the endorsement. He didn’t make a single comma adjustment. In an interview with NBC News in the Capitol on Tuesday, Bilirakis said, “Of course, it’s important to me.” “We’ll see,” said Bilirakis, whose district should become more Republican in a forthcoming revision of Florida’s congressional lines, when asked if Trump’s endorsement will deter potential primary rivals.

‘There are those who live in a whole other reality,’ says Kinzinger.

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The eight-term lawmaker’s experience reflects a sometimes covert approach recounted to NBC News in conversations with more than half a dozen people acquainted with portions of the endorsement effort by his father, who held the seats for 12 terms before him. According to an NBC News investigation, Trump has endorsed 91 candidates for House, Senate, governorships, state legislative seats, and a range of statewide posts, including secretary of state, attorney general, and Texas lands commissioner.

And when he hits the stage in Florence, Ariz., for his first rally of 2022 on Saturday night, he’ll be surrounded by a posse of hand-picked supporters who deny that he lost their home state in 2020. The election in Arizona was the closest in the US, with Trump losing by less than 10,000 votes, and the result stayed unchanged after a partisan GOP review failed to overturn the decision.

Despite this, Trump pledged he would make his argument at Saturday’s rally when he unexpectedly canceled a planned Jan. 6 speech geared to counter the actual election results. Candidates who agree with him have been given the opportunity to speak at the event.



The most prevalent thread running across Trump’s endorsements, especially at the state level, is that he is endorsing politicians who have shown support for his claim that the 2020 race is rigged against him. According to an NBC News investigation, 59 of the 91 have expressed doubts about the 2020 election results, including those who voted against recognizing President Joe Biden’s victory in Congress.

He’s also gotten into the anti-endorsement game, slamming at Republican incumbents who criticize him or his election-day deception.

“Rumors suggest that Doug Ducey, Arizona’s weak RINO governor, is being urged to run for the U.S. Senate by Old Crow Mitch McConnell,” he stated in a Friday statement, ahead of his weekend rally in that state. “He will never have my endorsement or MAGA Nation’s backing!”

After Sen. Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota, declared the election fair, he remarked, “I will never endorse this jerk again.”

Tony Fabrizio, a Trump pollster, conducted a survey of South Dakota voters for a conservative group aiming to show that Republican John Thune, the state’s other senator, has enough support to lose a primary. While Rounds will not be up for re-election for another five years, Thune will be up for re-election in 2022.

Three House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump last year have decided not to fight for re-election after facing political and personal damage at Trump’s hands. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., is in danger of losing a primary to Trump-endorsed Harriet Hageman, who is a member of the Democratic-led House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

In Alaska, Trump endorsed Gov. Mike Dunleavy on the condition that he does not support Senator Lisa Murkowski’s re-election campaign. Trump has endorsed Kelly Tshibaka, who is running for the Republican nomination against Murkowski.

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