Who still likes Donald Trump? Not GOP officeholders
The fallout from the GOP results of the Iowa caucuses is still being felt. With one second-place finish under his belt, real estate mogul Donald Trump predictably claimed that the media were not being “fair” to him. He says he “really won,” and he’s threatening to sue Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the Iowa GOP winner, for “cheating.”
Trump is still claiming momentum in the Republican presidential race. National and other state polls continue to show him ahead, although some have narrowed. How things change after actual votes have been cast.
When Trump looked like an unstoppable force, there were multiple reports of GOP leaders reluctantly willing to fall in line should Trump become the nominee. The reasons for this were twofold: Republican leaders heartily dislike Cruz and feel that he would be even worse at the top of the ticket than Trump. GOP leaders also didn’t want to be left behind if Trump wins it all.
“Has the time come to accept Trump as the likely GOP nominee?” asked former Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele in an MSNBC story. Trump’s “durability atop preference polls has pushed some donors, strategists, and party elders to grudgingly accept the prospect of his winning the nomination,” said an AP story. “We’d better stop hoping for something else and accept the possibility that he’s our nominee and be prepared to rally around him if that’s the case,” said Fred Malek, a top Republican presidential fundraiser.
With Trump’s “loser” showing in Iowa, what are Republican leaders supposed to think now? Do they stick with the earlier “inevitable” Trump candidacy, or do they move to third-place winner Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, now considered the strongest “establishment” candidate and the new media darling? Might some GOP leaders still see the Donald as a Trump card?
Here’s the dilemma: Republicans running lower down on the ballot don’t want to be Trumped.
According to a story from Reuters, many Republicans attending the annual GOP retreat in January—even though not all of them were willing to be quoted—weren’t enthusiastic about running on the same ticket as the would-be narcissist-in-chief.
Trump would not help Republicans if he topped the ticket, despite his appeal to Americans fed up with politicians, said Representative Justin Amash, a favorite of the conservative Tea Party movement who has endorsed Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul for president.
“He does appeal to the anger,” Amash said of Trump, the outspoken real estate mogul who is front-runner to be the party’s presidential nominee.
But he said Trump’s “policy prescriptions will take us in the wrong direction, and it won’t be long before many of those people are angry at him and angry at Republicans again.”
The reaction from Illinois Rep. Peter Roskam about a Trump candidacy was “Heaven help us,” according to the Reuters story. But Roskam quickly added, “I’m not going to comment on the presidential candidates at this point.”
Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who is backing Rubio, went so far as to say that it was important to have a presidential nominee who will not “embarrass” the rest of the party’s candidates, the Reuters story said.
Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole said Republicans’ fate will be linked closely to the Republican nominee, whoever it is, and that Trump would be a “wild card.”
“I don’t know what he (Trump) will do. I can see a situation where he could be a great asset, because I do think he will bring some people out (to vote) who have not been brought before.”
New York Rep. Peter King agreed that Trump is “more of a gamble” at the top of the ticket. “The conventional wisdom is that he would hurt more than he would help,” King told Reuters. “But on the other hand, he is tapping into something (among voters) out there.”
The list of Trump endorsements from Republican current and former elected officials is thinner than the orange hair on his head. There are a few low-level GOP officials. He’s got former half-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, and her rambling word-salad support doesn’t seem to have helped. Also in Trump’s corner is South Carolina Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster, whose boss, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, alluded to Trump’s deficiencies with her reference to “the angriest voices” during her GOP response to the State of the Union address. Now there’s former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown—he’s used to coming in second, so he’ll fit right in.
Other than that, Trump has ZERO endorsements from current lawmakers, according to a story from the Maddow Blog. Zero as in none, zilch, zip, nada.
For the first time in the modern era, a Republican front-runner, leading in each of the first three nominating contests, is heading into Iowa with a grand total of zero endorsements from governors and/or members of the House and Senate. Literally, none.
Trump isn’t alone in his lack of support. Cruz has the backing of 18 Republicans in the U.S. House, including such luminaries as Rep. Steve “Cantaloupe Calves” King of Iowa and Rep. Louie “Terrorist Border Babies” Gohmert of Texas, but none in the Senate (hey, they work with him and know what an insufferable jerk he is).
As a matter of fact, official GOP endorsements have been few and far between in this election cycle, according to the Maddow Blog story, although more are now swinging Rubio’s way — he’s gotten two more senators and two more representatives since that story was published.
The one exception might be Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who strongly backs Trump’s immigration plan of the “Mexican-funded” wall and could be ready to support Trump.
Most early GOP endorsers jumped on the Jeb! Bush bandwagon or that of Rubio, who now leads the endorsement game and picked up the support of former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum when he dropped out of the presidential race. But the former Florida governor’s campaign is faltering.
“If endorsements mattered, Jeb Bush would be in first place,” said Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks, according to a story in the Washington Times. “The only endorsement we are seeking is that of the American people.”
Palin, McMaster, and Brown may not count in the tally of what FiveThirtyEight calls the “Endorsement Primary,” but at least Trump has more GOP endorsements than one former GOP front-runner. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson doesn’t have any GOP official endorsements at all.
And don’t forget the all-important Duck Dynasty beard primary. The Duck patriarch, Phil Robertson, is backing Cruz, while his son, Willie Robertson, is quacking for Trump.
if Trump does capture the nomination, I suspect everyone in the GOP will join the effort. Remember the saying: “Democrats fall in love; Republicans fall in line.” But that doesn’t mean they’re going to like it.
UPDATE: OK, Trump has now received a few endorsements. After dropping out of the race himself, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gave him a formal endorsement, despite all of the nasty things Christie said about him while he was still a candidate. Whack-a-doodle Maine Gov. Paul LePage is in Trump’s corner, and Sessions made his endorsement official. A few Tea Party congressmen are on board, as is Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is trying to lead the nation in limiting voting rights. Let’s not forget about Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona, who has famously cost taxpayers millions in legal fees while he keeps losing court cases regarding his treatment of Hispanics. And what Republican wouldn’t want the backing of former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke? ‘Cause he’s backing the Donald, too. They say you can tell a lot about a man by the company he keeps.
NEW UPDATE: Now that Trump has become the de facto GOP nominee, some Republican officials are slowly — slowly — jumping on the Trump train. Talking Points Memo has a changing, continuously updated list of who’s backing Trump.
YET ANOTHER NEW UPDATE: Now that we’re only a few weeks from the election, Trump’s brand has turned toxic, with the release of the infamous Access Hollywood tape of him bragging about sexual assaults on women. Now USA Today has a list of the Republicans who have dumped Trump — fully one-quarter of GOP officeholders nationwide.