Donald Trump

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The Hill

By Scott Wong
07/15/15 – 06:35 PM EDT

Conservatives on Capitol Hill say Donald Trump has tapped into the right’s growing frustration with Washington, propelling him to the front of the GOP’s 2016 presidential pack.

But no one’s rushing to endorse him.

Instead, they’re flocking to conservative favorites like Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Others, including Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), say they’ll sit out of the 2016 primary completely.

Trump’s bombastic straight talk on the campaign trail — and his rapid ascent in the polls — has made the billionaire business mogul and reality TV star almost impossible to ignore. Trump’s name was brought up at a conservative forum at the Capitol on Wednesday without any prompting from reporters.

“I think you see, with Donald Trump’s success, the American people’s frustration with Congress. It’s as much about Congress as it is the illegal immigration,” Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), a Paul supporter, said at a “Conversations with Conservatives” event that was moderated by the Heritage Foundation.

“Our constituents are over-the-top frustrated with us,” added Rep. John Fleming (R-La.), a co-founder of the new conservative Freedom Caucus who hasn’t picked a candidate yet. “Whether you agree with Mr. Trump or not, whether you like his style or not, he’s definitely tapped into a pent-up demand, a frustration.”

Another Freedom Caucus member, Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), announced Wednesday she also was joining Team Rand. But she conceded that Trump certainly is “striking a chord and hitting a nerve” among Republican voters.

“Republicans kept saying if we get the House things will be different, and if we get the Senate things will be different. And they’re not different,” Lummis told The Hill. “The agenda that is being offered by Republican leadership is the same old, big business, big unions government agenda.”

For the second straight week, polls showed Trump leading the crowded GOP presidential field. A USA Today/Suffolk University poll said 17 percent of GOP voters favored Trump, while 14 percent backed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker came in third with 8 percent.

Trump’s harsh rhetoric on immigration — he suggested most Mexican immigrants were “rapists” and criminals — is causing heartburn for a party that’s desperately trying to make inroads with Latino voters.

But his outsider status and broader message about D.C. dysfunction is resonating with GOP primary voters, Republicans acknowledged.

“I think he’s touched a desire of a lot of people for straight talk and dealing with difficult issues that a lot of people have not been willing to address,” said Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), who has not endorsed yet. “I don’t know if his solutions are correct but I think it’s been refreshing for people to have somebody speak their mind openly.”

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