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Some Texas Lawmakers Hold Out on Endorsing

Some Texas Republicans in Congress still have not endorsed a candidate in the contest for the party's presidential nomination. What are they waiting for?

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WASHINGTON — As the long slog toward the presidential nomination continues, at least 10 Texas Republicans in Congress have yet to pick a candidate.

Some quickly endorsed Gov. Rick Perry when he jumped into the race in August. Two decided, before that, to back former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Rep. Lamar Smith of San Antonio made a high-profile endorsement of former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts in October. And Rep. Ron Paul is a candidate.

That leaves at least eight Republicans in the House, plus Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, both Republicans, in the undecided column. The indecision, experts say, could reflect lawmakers’ allegiance to fellow Texans, or they may just be waiting for the perfect moment to strike a deal in exchange for their support.

Hutchison, who challenged Perry for governor in 2010, told The Texas Tribune last week that she was leaning toward not endorsing anyone. She has said she will support whoever becomes the Republican nominee.

Cornyn has said he will not make a primary endorsement because he does not want to be distracted from his work leading the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

A few of the undecided members have hinted at who they support with their donations. Rep. Louie Gohmert of Tyler has given $2,500 to Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. Perry has received $5,000 from Rep. Bill Flores of Bryan and his wife and $2,000 from Rep. Kay Granger of Fort Worth.

Representatives for all three lawmakers said the contributions did not signal formal endorsements.

Other undecided Texas Republicans include Reps. Pete Olson of Sugar Land, Ted Poe of Humble and Mac Thornberry of Clarendon. A spokeswoman for Rep. Francisco Canseco of San Antonio did not return requests for comment on whether he is still undecided, as he was in October.

Those who have not made up their minds give varying reasons.

“I don’t want to take the fun out of watching the race by picking somebody right now,” said Rep. Blake Farenthold of Corpus Christi. He is leaning toward endorsing Perry, but “you worry he’s not going to be able to pull it off,” he said.

Representative Kevin Brady of Conroe said he was still anxious to hear the candidates’ ideas on Social Security, Medicare, tax reform and trade and he has not decided whether to endorse anyone.

Lawmakers may be holding on to their endorsements as bargaining chips, or they may be torn between the candidate they favor and the one who seems more likely to win, said Bruce Buchanan, a government professor at the University of Texas.

The landscape may also reflect something about state politics for lawmakers who find neither Paul nor Perry palatable.

It could be “some sort of allegiance to Texas,” said Sherri Greenberg, the interim director of the Center for Politics and Governance at UT’s LBJ School of Public Affairs and a former state lawmaker, "with the feeling of, ‘Well, if I’m not going to affirmatively endorse a Texan, I’m just going to stay out altogether.’”

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Bill Flores Blake Farenthold Griffin Perry John Cornyn Kay Granger Kevin Brady Lamar Smith Louie Gohmert Mac Thornberry Pete Olson Rick Perry Ted Poe