Most of the Republican superstars in Congress have yet to endorse a presidential candidate, with Arizona Sen. John McCain, who backs Mitt Romney, representing a notable exception.
The candidates are working hard to gain the backing of the uncommitted members of Congress. So far, Romney has earned the endorsement of 64 members, compared with 13 for Rick Perry, nine for Newt Gingrich, and three each for Ron Paul and Rick Santorum, The Hill
Here is the news service’s list of the top congressional endorsements still on the table:
- House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin — He’s a conservative favorite for his willingness to take on entitlements to reduce the government’s crushing debt burden. This will be a tough one for Newt Gingrich to win, as he blasted Ryan’s Medicare reform plan in May as “right-wing social engineering.” Ryan’s name probably will appear on any shortlist of vice presidential possibilities. But the presidential candidates shouldn’t hold their breath for his endorsement. Ryan stayed neutral in 2008.
- Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina — If anyone can lay claim to the mantle as leader of the tea party movement, it’s DeMint. He has promised to stay neutral through his state’s primary Jan. 21. DeMint backed Romney in 2008 and has offered up praise of the former Massachusetts governor in recent days, predicting he will win the South Carolina vote.
- Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut — As a former Democrat turned independent, Lieberman carries some weight among independents. He supported John McCain in 2008, even making a speech at the Republican convention, which sent his former party into apoplexy. The 2000 Democratic vice-presidential candidate is a bit of a wild card, and both parties will approach him.
- Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana — The former chairman of the Republican Study Committee is a favorite of social conservatives. He contemplated running for president himself but decided to opt for the Indian gubernatorial race instead. Pence didn’t endorse anyone in 2008.
- Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota — This true-blue, tea-partying conservative didn’t get too far in her own presidential bid after a fast start. But her campaign certainly increased her prominence. Given her conservative views, it seems unlikely that Bachmann would endorse Romney, especially after accusing him of implementing socialized medicine when he was governor of Massachusetts.
- Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma — He’s a favorite of fiscal hawks and supported McCain over Romney in 2008. It’s unclear who, if anyone, he’ll back this time around.
- House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky — Don’t expect an endorsement from either of these two leaders while there is still a live race. They have promised as much, and it makes no sense for them to alienate any of their rank-and-file with an endorsement. To be sure, a few of their lieutenants are backing Romney.
- Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio — As White House budget director under President George W. Bush, Portman has strong economic credentials in a race where the economy will almost certainly be issue No. 1. He has a good chance to end up as the vice-presidential nominee, especially if Romney wins. Portman signaled last week that he’ll hop on the Romney train soon, though he said he’s not interested in being vice president.
- Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida — He may be the top vice-presidential choice of nearly all the presidential candidates, as he would bring support from conservatives, tea partyers, Hispanics and one of the biggest states in the nation. If he endorses Romney before the Jan. 31 Florida primary, that could seal a victory for the former Massachusetts governor in the Sunshine State.
- Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina — This moderate criticized Romney sharply while campaigning for his buddy McCain in 2008, and he recently questioned Romney’s foreign policy views. Graham has said he will stay neutral, but some speculate that McCain’s support for Romney could draw Graham that way.
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