WASHINGTON (AP) — Governors and senators are often regarded as political bellwethers in their states during the presidential primaries. But 2016 is no typical election year, with Donald Trump as the GOP front-runner.
The Associated Press surveyed some of America’s Republican governors and senators, and looked at their public statements about Trump. Here’s what they had to say:
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“Obviously he must have thought that David Duke, and that type of person, was OK with people in Alabama and the South. I want to tell you they are not OK with us,” said Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley.
Bentley said Trump’s rival Ohio Gov. John Kasich was “really the only grown-up in the room,” but that at the end of the day he will back whoever is the final GOP nominee.
GEORGIA, INDIANA, KANSAS, MISSISSIPPI, TEXAS:
Each of the governors from these states, all Republicans, said they would support whoever wins the GOP nomination but stopped short of expressing any enthusiasm for Trump.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback put it this way: “I’ll support the Republican nominee over Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott offered this twist: “I will vote for whoever the Republican nominee is going to be. But that Republican nominee is going to be Ted Cruz.”
Indiana Sen. Dan Coats said: “I am increasingly concerned by Donald Trump’s statements and behavior, and I have serious concerns about his ability to win the general election and provide presidential leadership.” His comment about Trump came in a statement endorsing Trump rival Marco Rubio.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott has said he doesn’t plan to make an endorsement before his state’s March 15 primary. But writing in USA Today in January, he said the excitement for Trump among voters comes from more than his “ability to give the most interesting interviews or speeches.”
“I think he is capturing the frustration of many Americans after seven years of President Obama’s very intentional government takeover of the U.S. economy,” Scott wrote.
Maine Gov. Paul LePage said in a radio interview that Trump “wants to make America great again” and that the candidate “is the only one doing that right now.” But Sen. Susan Collins had backed Jeb Bush. A spokeswoman for the GOP moderate said Collins won’t “be making any further endorsements until the nominating process has concluded.”
Gov. Larry Hogan’s chief of communications, Matt Clark, said in a telephone interview he was declining “to answer a hypothetical” on whether Hogan would support Trump, because Trump is not yet the nominee. He added in an email follow-up: “It’s premature to speculate on who the Republican nominee will be. The overwhelming majority of Americans have not cast a vote for any candidate in a primary, and that includes Governor Hogan.”
Gov. Charlie Baker has ruled out voting for Donald Trump in the Massachusetts Republican primary, saying “he’s not my guy and he’s not my candidate.” The Republican on Monday indicated he was choosing between Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
Baker wouldn’t say whether he would support Trump if the New York billionaire emerged as the party’s nominee and says he isn’t willing to concede that Trump will win the nomination at this point.
These Republican governors provided mostly non-answers on whether they’ll back Trump if he’s nominated.
“We’re not there yet. One of the important things about the democratic process is that you let it happen. And we’re in the middle of that,” said Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s spokesman Ari Adler said: “We are not answering a hypothetical question about an election in November for which we don’t even know who all the candidates will be.”
Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who ended his own bid for the nomination last fall, said he signed a pledge that he wouldn’t support anyone other than the GOP nominee “and I’m a person of my word.”
But when Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson was asked on a radio show whether he would support Trump, the Republican would only say that he goes to bed every night praying that the GOP nominee is a “person of integrity, intelligence, ideas and courage.” He added that “these elections are just … it’s just depressing.”