Trump Candidacy Divides Republican Office Holders

Some are ready to make peace with the property tycoon, others can’t bring themselves to support him.

Republican House speaker Paul Ryan speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference National Harbor, Maryland, March 3
Republican House speaker Paul Ryan speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference National Harbor, Maryland, March 3 (Gage Skidmore)

Donald Trump is splitting Republicans between those who are ready to make peace with the Manhattan businessman and others who still struggle to accept he is now likely to become their party’s presidential nominee.

House speaker Paul Ryan, who twice broke with tradition to intervene in the presidential nominating contest this year to censure Trump for his divisive rhetoric, is the highest official to have declared himself “not ready” to endorse the former television personality.

“I’m not there right now,” Ryan, who was the party’s vice presidential candidate in 2012, told CNN.

His counterpart in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, by contrast, says he is “committed” to helping Trump defeat Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic candidate, in November.

Other prominent Republicans who have endorsed Trump — many since his victory in the Indiana primary forced this two remaining rivals, Ted Cruz and John Kasich, out of the race — include the party’s 1996 and 2004 presidential candidates, Bob Dale and John McCain, former Texas governor Rick Perry, whom some movement conservatives had hoped to recruit for a third-party bid, and the incumbent governors of Florida, Indiana, Texas and Wisconsin.

Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate who donated more than anyone to Republicans in the last election, has also voiced his support for Trump.

#NeverTrump

The #NeverTrump crowd includes such luminaries as both former presidents Bush and Mitt Romney, the party’s nominee four years ago.

Several senators, including Arizona’s Jeff Flake, Nebraska’s Ben Sasse, Nevada’s Dean Heller and South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, have also said they would rather vote for a third candidate or not vote at all than help elect Trump.

Relatively centrist Republicans like Senators Mark Kirk of Illinois, Susan Collins of Maine and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, as well as Governor Susana Martinez of New Mexico, have equivocated, neither endorsing nor rejecting Trump outright.

All of them are in a bind: affiliating with Trump could cost them reelection when their states usually favor Democrats, but refusing to support him could invite far-right primary challenges.

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