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In Universe of Endorsements, Handful Are Coveted Most

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

In the great GOP scramble to win the nod to challenge President Barack Obama, there are a handful of coveted endorsements any of the contenders would probably be thrilled to get.

Some people endorse just to get their names in the paper. Some candidates collect endorsements to demonstrate strength in numbers, others to showcase tea party credentials.

As he was among the 2008 field, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is again the dominant candidate when it comes to Member support on Capitol Hill, leading his main rival, former Speaker Newt Gingrich, 57 to 8. (Texas Gov. Rick Perry is in second place, with 14 Hill backers.)

Here’s a look at some of the prominent Republicans who have stayed out of the primary fight and how coveted each person’s backing might be in the lead-up to the first nominating contests.

Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.)

The top two Republicans on Capitol Hill are staying neutral, at least for now. That will make their jobs easier once the party settles on the nominee, who will then become the de facto head of the Republican Party.

Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C.) and Rep. Steve King (Iowa)

These two conservative Republicans from critical early nominating states have withheld endorsements this time around. Their respective blessings would mean a lot to any of the contenders, and that’s one reason Gingrich name-dropped King during the final Iowa debate. DeMint, who supported Romney in 2008, has left open the possibility he will back someone. King, one of Rep. Michele Bachmann’s close friends, scrapped his summer plan to endorse someone after Labor Day. But it’s not too late. King waited until a few weeks before the caucuses four years ago and threw his support behind former Sen. Fred Thompson (Tenn.).

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee

The winner of the 2008 Iowa caucuses made clear earlier this year he is more interested in his television career than running for president. But he isn’t planning on endorsing anyone before Iowans head to their local precincts Jan. 3. Should Huckabee reverse that pledge, his backing could be a game-changer in the Hawkeye State.

Sen. John McCain (Ariz.)

The 2008 presidential nominee isn’t D.C.’s favorite Republican, though he could play kingmaker and be influential in the process, especially in New Hampshire. But the candidates shouldn’t hold their breath. McCain recently told the Hill newspaper it could be “several months” before he gets involved.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin

McCain’s 2008 running mate isn’t done with politics, even though she opted against her own bid. Palin will remain one of the most prominent voices in the GOP, and her endorsement at the very least would generate more headlines for the lucky contender than the backing from any other Republican. Palin said over the weekend that she would not endorse anyone “with the field as it stands.”

Herman Cain

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