On Trump: Some GOP say yes, some say never

AP News
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Posted: Jul 06, 2016 2:58 PM
On Trump: Some GOP say yes, some say never

WASHINGTON (AP) — There are the enthusiastic supporters, and there's the Never Trump crew. But most congressional Republicans fall somewhere in between when it comes to Donald Trump, offering a lukewarm endorsement or a "yes, but" embrace.

So when the presumptive presidential nominee visits Capitol Hill on Thursday to meet, for the first time, with rank-and-file House Republicans and then GOP senators, he will encounter many Republicans eager to get behind anyone who can beat Democrat Hillary Clinton, and open to hearing what he has to say.

Many have questions for Trump and some have been offering advice to the New York businessman, despite scant evidence that he pays much heed to what lawmakers have to say.

A look at the divisions among congressional Republicans over Trump:

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NEVER TRUMP

A few GOP lawmakers have ruled out voting for Trump, now or ever, and have little or no intention of changing their minds. They include Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a former presidential candidate whom Trump ridiculed on the campaign trail, and Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, who has openly searched for an alternative to Trump and has criticized him repeatedly.

"Which is scarier: If Trump doesn't know he's urging something illegal; OR if he knows, but urges it at rallies anyway?" Sasse asked over Twitter earlier this month, apparently referring to Trump's embrace of waterboarding and other torture techniques.

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BRING IT ON, TRUMP

Trump does have enthusiastic backers on the Hill, including a core group of more than a dozen House Republicans who meet weekly with Trump's campaign staff to stay up to date on what's being planned and how they can help.

Leaders of this group include Rep. Chris Collins of New York, Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania and Duncan D. Hunter of California.

In the Senate, Jeff Sessions of Alabama has been strongly behind Trump from early on, introducing him at rallies, advising his campaign and sending his own aides to help Trump's campaign.

"I think it ought to be self-evident to every American we cannot continue down the road we've been on these last eight years," another supporter, Rep. Tom McClintock of California, said Wednesday. "I am enthusiastically behind him."

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FOR HIM BEFORE THEY WERE AGAINST HIM

Trump has been unendorsed by at least one lawmaker, GOP Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, the Republican most at-risk of losing his Senate seat this election cycle.

Kirk made his announcement that he no longer could back Trump amid the controversy over Trump's comments about a U.S.-born judge of Mexican heritage who was presiding over a case involving Trump University.

Kirk has now recorded a campaign ad citing his opposition to Trump as a measure of his independence.

Another vulnerable senator, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, also backed off plans to support the eventual GOP nominee once it became clear that person was Trump. Toomey has been detailing his concerns with the billionaire and hedging on whether he might ultimately be able to back him.

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THANKS BUT NO THANKS

Trump has been eyeing a couple of Republican senators as potential vice presidential prospects, but two of these lawmakers politely turned him down on Wednesday, or came close.

Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee told The Washington Post that the job was too political for him, while Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa suggested Trump should pick Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.

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MAYBE LATER

A number of GOP lawmakers have not yet backed Trump but say they hope to, perhaps, one day, depending on how the campaign plays out or in some cases whether Trump meets criteria they've laid out.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida said he's not "hell no, or hell yes" but has laid out some fundamental GOP principles he would like to see Trump adhere to, including supporting U.S. allies and providing an economic platform for growth.

"I'm a Reagan Republican. It's OK to have disagreements but there are some very basic things I expect our nominee to adhere to, and we'll see," said Diaz-Balart.

Diaz-Balart said he'd have to check his schedule to determine whether he'd be able to attend Thursday's meeting with Trump.

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YES, BUT ...

Most Republicans in Congress fall into the "yes, but" camp, having offered their endorsement or at least lukewarm support for Trump, along with caveats and occasional criticism.

They include House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who hesitated more than a month before backing Trump; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky; House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, and other congressional leaders and members of the rank and file.

In one of the more intricate maneuvers, Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, locked in a tough re-election race, said she would be supporting Trump but not endorsing him.

McConnell and others have called on Trump to get more disciplined; Ryan criticized him for recent use of an anti-Semitic image in a retweet.

Whether he takes any such advice is less clear. "I always look for constant improvement," McCarthy said.