“Even though he has not yet announced that he is running, and I certainly hope he does, I am giving my Complete and Total Endorsement to Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin,” Trump wrote Thursday in a statement released by his Save America leadership political action committee.
The former president praised Johnson, writing “He is brave, he is bold, he loves our Country, our Military, and our Vets. He will protect our Second Amendment, and everything else we stand for. It is the kind of courage we need in the U.S. Senate. He has no idea how popular he is. Run, Ron, Run!”
Johnson, a business executive who was first elected to the Senate in the 2010 Tea Party wave election, pledged during his successful 2016 reelection that he wouldn’t seek a third term in 2022. But he has walked back from that pledge and in recent weeks he has said that he may not make a decision for several months on whether to seek reelection.
The senator, a fiscal conservative who became a major Trump supporter over the past four years, sparked controversy recently for saying he wasn’t afraid of insurrectionists who took part in the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in an attempt to disrupt congressional certification of now-President Biden’s Electoral College victory over Trump, but that he would have been concerned if they had been Black Lives Matters protesters.
Johnson’s comments were denounced as racist, while the senator defended himself, saying because he’s attended Trump rallies and been around the former president’s supporters, he never felt threatened during the attack on the Capitol by right-wing extremists and other Trump supporters.
The senator accused his detractors of “playing the race card” against him and has said “it’s going to backfire on them because this just fires me up more.”
More than two months since he’s left the White House, Trump remains extremely popular among Republican voters – according to the latest data – and immensely influential among GOP politicians. He has vowed to continue to play a kingmaker’s role in Republican Party politics as he flirts with a 2024 White House run – and has been making a slew of endorsements through his Save America PAC. Earlier this week, the former president endorsed Rep. Mo Brooks – a top Trump supporter in the House – in the GOP Senate primary in Alabama.
The Senate is currently split 50-50 between the two parties, but the Democrats hold a razor-thin majority, due to the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris, who serves as president of the Senate. That means the GOP only needs a one-seat pickup to regain the majority the just lost in the 2020 cycle.
But Republicans are defending 20 of the 34 seats up for grabs in 2022. And they are defending five open seats due to retirements in the key battlegrounds of North Carolina and Pennsylvania, as well as Ohio, Missouri, and Alabama. Besides Johnson, longtime Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa – who is 87 – has yet to say if he’ll run for reelection next year.
Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report