WASHINGTON (AP) — No. 3 House Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik is endorsing Donald Trump for president in 2024, becoming the highest-ranking congressional leader Friday to publicly back the former president, even as he's being widely blamed by other Republicans for failures in the midterm elections.
Stefanick, of New York, has been mentioned as a possible vice presidential contender on an emerging Trump ticket. The former president has promised a Tuesday event at his private Mar-a-Lago club that is widely expected to be an announcement of his intentions to run again for the White House.
"It's very clear President Trump is the leader of the Republican party," Stefanik said in a statement.
"I am proud to endorse Donald J. Trump for President in 2024," she said. "It is time for Republicans to unite around the most popular Republican in America, who has a proven track record of conservative governance."
But Stefanik is an outlier among leading Republicans who are mostly reluctant to see Trump jump in the presidential race as his MAGA-styled candidates — MAGA is shorthand for Trump's 2016 "Make America Great Again" campaign slogan — are being blamed for the GOP's setbacks in the midterms.
Republicans had been expecting a midterm "red wave" that would give them big wins in races for governors, Congress and beyond this week in a rebuff of President Joe Biden and the Democratic agenda.
Instead, Republicans made only modest gains in the House and lost a crucial Senate seat in Pennsylvania when Democrat John Fetterman defeated Trump-backed celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz.
With votes still being counted as of midday Friday, control of the House and Senate remained too early to call.
Other Republicans are calling for the party to move on from the Trump era.
Stefanik easily won her own reelection to another two-year term from New York, and is expected to cruise to her spot as chair of the House Republican Conference in Tuesday's internal party elections. If Republicans win the majority, hers would become the 4th ranking leadership position.
She launched her career as a more moderate conservative voice and as one of the youngest members of the House, is seen as a rising star in Trump's orbit. She has not tamped down talk of a potential vice presidential nod.
Stefanik and Trump remain close and work together, according to a person familiar with the situation and granted anonymity to discuss it. She helped raise money and backing for several newly elected members of Congress.
Follow the AP's coverage of the 2022 midterm elections at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections. And learn more about the issues and factors at play in the midterms at https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections.