No one was more taken for a loop by Donald Trump becoming the GOP’s presumptive nominee than the Republicans who, months earlier, took the calculated risk of publicly ridiculing, criticizing and disavowing him.
Tepid endorsements have begun to trickle in awkwardly from party leaders like Mitch McConnell, who suggested months ago that if Trump did become the nominee, Republican senators up for reelection ought to run ads against him.
But other Republicans have remained eerily quiet. The day after the Indiana primary, as John Kasich was tearfully suspending his campaign, the vast majority of elected Republicans — 50 out of 70 contacted by the New York Times — were mysteriously unavailable to publicly congratulate their nominee. Among high-ranking GOP leaders, only House Speaker Paul Ryan has hesitated to fully embrace Trump. “I’m just not ready to do that at this point. I’m not there right now,” he said on CNN Thursday.
That was as good at shots fired to Trump, who sniped back, “I am not ready to support Speaker Ryan’s agenda. Perhaps in the future we can work together and come to an agreement about what is best for the American people.”
Here are eight top Republicans who would rather contradict themselves, and potentially see a President Trump take office, than risk a Twitter lashing by the Donald.
July 2015: “Let no one be mistaken – Donald Trump’s candidacy is a cancer on conservatism, and it must be clearly diagnosed, excised and discarded.”
May 2016: “He is one of the most talented people who has ever run for … president I have ever seen.”
May 2016: “I’ve always said I would support the nominee of the party, the party of Ronald Reagan and Teddy Roosevelt … I’m supporting the nominee of the party.”
July 2015: “I don’t support what he has done, and I don’t think he will be our nominee.”
May 2016: Via an Ayotte spokesperson: “As she’s said from the beginning, Kelly plans to support the nominee.”
February 2016: “I will lend my support between now and November in any way for Donald.”
March 2016: “He is actually a very intelligent man who cares deeply about America.”
May 2016: “I have great respect for the will of the people, and as I have always said, I will support the Republican nominee for president.”
February 2016: “[If Trump wins the nomination,] we’ll drop him like a hot rock.”
May 2016: “[Trump has] the opportunity and the obligation to unite our party around our goals.”
February 2016: Per the New York Times, at a meeting of Republican governors, LePage “erupted in frustration over the state of the 2016 race, saying Mr. Trump’s nomination would deeply wound the Republican Party [and urging] the governors to draft an open letter ‘to the people’ disavowing Mr. Trump and his divisive brand of politics.”
February 2016: LePage endorsed Trump one week later, saying, “I was Donald Trump before Donald Trump became popular. … I think he could be one of the greatest presidents if he sits down and puts together a good team.”