Politicians nearly always support the candidate their party has nominated for president, but Donald Trump’s remarks about Mexicans, Muslims, and women have put some Republicans on the defensive.
Condemnations from the right have been there since the primaries. But the floodgates opened after the Oct. 7 release of a 12-year-old recording of the candidate bragging about groping women.
As tens of thousands of local voters flock to the polls, we wanted to know where our elected representatives stand on Trump.
“Those comments were wrong,” said U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Lakeville) whose district includes Wellington. “Wrong and disgusting,” said U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Urbana) whose district includes Amherst and Oberlin.
Most conservative politicians, like Gibbs and Jordan, continue to reluctantly support Trump, although a few have refused to support him or have dropped their support.
For example, Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Monday cast a protest vote for Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), fulfilling a pledge that he would in no way back Trump’s candidacy.
Gibbs and Jordan continue to back Trump, saying he would make a better president than Hillary Clinton. Gibbs said Trump’s tax plan — which the Tax Foundation said would increase the national debt by $5.9 trillion over the next decade and cut annual taxes for people making $5 million or more by $800,000 — is superior to Clinton’s and Trump would balance the budget.
Gibbs also said Trump — accused of exaggerating personal donations to veterans’ groups — would treat veterans better than Clinton and would be better at securing the border. He said Trump would also nominate more conservative judges to the Supreme Court where Republicans, in an unprecedented move, have refused to allow a hearing for President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland.
Gibbs also mistakenly cited FBI director James Comey as saying Clinton “broke the law” for mishandling classified emails on her private email server while Secretary of State.
Comey in June called Clinton’s handling of the emails “extremely careless” and said there was evidence of possible statute violations, but said no “reasonable prosecutor” would prosecute her. “We cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges,” he said in a written statement.
On Friday, Comey indicated the FBI is investigating many more emails linked to a top Clinton aide. Quoting an anonymous source, Newsweek reported none of the emails were sent or received by Clinton.
Gibbs also said allegations by about a dozen women who said Trump groped them were unproven.
“There’s no witnesses (and) I wouldn’t put it past the Clinton campaign to be pushing those along,” Gibbs said. “And some of those (allegations) were 10, 20 years ago.”
The groping allegations are among a litany of actions or comments by Trump that likely would’ve ended the campaigns of past candidates.
He has supporting torturing terrorism suspects and killing their families to discourage terrorism; banning Muslim immigrants and refugees from entering the U.S. based on their religion, due to terrorism concerns; criticizing a Muslim Gold Star family; saying most Mexican illegal immigrants were drug dealers and rapists; and saying an American judge of Mexican descent would be biased against him.
Trump has refused to release his tax returns, bragged about not paying federal income tax, and called for protestors at his rallies to be beaten. Trump also quoted Mussolini favorably, re-tweeted white supremacists, and joked about Clinton possibly being assassinated by “Second Amendment people.”
He questioned whether Obama was a U.S. citizen and said Obama was the “founder of ISIS.” He mocked a disabled reporter and speculated that another reporter was menstruating when she asked him about derogatory comments he’s made about women in the past.
Trump in the past said it was OK for a radio show host to refer to his daughter, Ivanka Trump, as a “great piece of ass.” And in an interview shortly after she was born, Trump joked about the breast size of his daughter, Tiffany Trump.
Gibbs said some Trump comments have been taken out of context but he doesn’t condone many of his past actions and statements.
“I’m not saying he’s a saint, but it is what it is,” he said. “We’ve got him and Hillary who’s a crook.”
Asked whether Trump’s behavior contradicted Republican claims about the virtues of character and “family values,” Jordan said he was supporting Trump because Clinton “misled the entire nation” about handling of the Benghazi embassy attacks in 2012.
“When you compare (him) to her, I’m supporting Donald Trump,” Jordan said, adding that he supported Gov. John Kasich in the Republican primary.
Gibbs and Jordan are heavy favorites to be re-elected as is Sen. Rob Portman (R-Cincinnati). However, Portman on Oct. 8 said he was no longer supporting Trump and would vote for his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.
“Donald Trump’s comments were offensive and wrong,” Portman said in a written statement. “While I continue to respect those who still support Donald Trump, I can no longer support him.”
The decision of Portman and some other Republican candidates to disavow Trump, and their timing a month before the election, were derided by Obama.
“I guess it was OK when Trump was attacking minorities, suggesting that Mexicans were rapists and Muslims were unpatriotic, insulting Gold Star moms, (and) making fun of disabled Americans,” Obama said during a campaign stop for Portman’s Democratic challenger and former Gov. Ted Strickland on Oct. 13 in Columbus. “I guess that didn’t quite tip them over the edge.”
Obama accused Portman and fellow Republicans of political cowardice, saying they only bailed on Trump after the polls began showing that he will likely be a landslide loser. “They knew better, and they stood by silently because it was politically convenient,” Obama said.
Some local and state Republicans won’t say whether or not they support Trump.
State Sen. Gayle Manning, (R-North Ridgeville) whose district covers our readers in Amherst, Oberlin, and Wellington, said she’s focused on district issues.
“I have no desire to be talking about the presidential elections,” said Manning, who wouldn’t say if she has endorsed past Republican presidential candidates. “I’m going to let everybody else make their own decisions.”
However, Amherst city councilman Phil Van Treuren has been a vocal critic of Trump including during the primary. Besides opposing free trade deals and praising Russian President Vladmir Putin, Trump’s policies are similar to the other Republican presidential candidates and the party’s platform.
Nevertheless, Van Treuren said Trump, who supported abortion and a semiautomatic rifle ban before becoming a candidate, isn’t a “true Republican.” Van Treuren said Trump is dangerous, a liar, and a “disaster” for the Republican party and potentially the nation.
Despite his concerns about Trump, Van Treuren said he won’t vote for Clinton because he doesn’t believe in choosing between the lesser of two evils. Van Treuren said many of his friends and relatives are voting for Trump and he respects their choice despite Trump’s numerous “despicable” comments and behavior.
“He’s pulled the wool over the eyes of a lot of good Republicans,” he said. “He’s a con man who has fooled a lot of people.”
Van Treuren said Trump’s message is divisive and not a winning strategy. He said Republicans need to expand the party with a positive message to younger voters.
“We need to work hard to prove to them that his kind of attitude is not what the Republican party is all about,” he said. “I’m committed to helping to rebuild the Republican party in coming months and years.”
Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter