Republican candidates on the GOP ticket have split into three camps when it comes to their nominee: the #NeverTrumps, the #SortaTrumps and—a somewhat newer group—the #AlwaysTrumps.
The #NeverTrumps, like Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), are few and far between, but unambiguous in their refusal to get aboard the Trump train. The #SortaTrumps are the ones who want Trump’s voters, but not Trump’s crazy. They support Trump, but won’t endorse him. Or do they endorse him, but not support him?
But not to be forgotten are the #AlwaysTrumps, the hell-yes glass breakers ready to wrap themselves in all of Donald Trump’s glory like Katy Perry wears the Stars and Stripes.
To understand their steadfast loyalty to the Trump train, look no further than Carlos Beruff, the Florida homebuilder running against Marco Rubio in the GOP Senate primary, who has been called “little Trump of Florida.”
Where did that nickname come from, you ask?
It could be Beruff’s proposal to temporarily keep “anybody from the Middle East” out of the United States. It could be his multi-million dollar self-funding, outsider campaign. Or it might be Beruff’s commitment to get behind Trump “100%.”
“I’m happy to take Marco Rubio’s slot at the Republican National Convention,” Beruff said recently. “Because I’m not ashamed of Donald Trump as our nominee.”
Likewise for newly minted GOP Senate nominee Colorado, Darryl Glenn, who will take on Michael Bennet in November. At the Western Conservative Summit earlier this month, Glenn declared to the crowd, “I proudly stand with Donald Trump.” The Cruz-endorsed Glenn also said the rest of the state’s GOP needs to get with the program.
“I’m taking it as a personal responsibility to deliver Colorado for Donald Trump,” Glenn said. “I’m calling you on to stand with me, and to stand with Donald Trump, and let’s win this election.”
While Beruff and Glenn are Senate challengers new to the national stage, plenty of sitting members of Congress up for reelection are hugging not just Trump, but the America he is busy making great.
Rep. Ryan Zinke, the former SEAL Team 6 commander from Montana, has called Hillary Clinton the “antichrist” and floated himself for Trump’s V.P. or cabinet in an interview with Breitbart.
“I know my name’s been floated around and I would be honored to (sic.) the duty in any capacity,”he said.
At the end of May, Rep. Darrell Issa penned an open letter in The Hill excoriating all the GOP bedwetters who hadn’t yet gotten behind the Republican voters’ pick.
“Memo to Bushes and Other GOP Hold Outs” he wrote. “Get on the Trump Train.”
Even some senators and House members with tough races ahead of them have made the calculation that they are better off helping Trump than going it alone.
Sen. Richard Burr in North Carolina, who was just outraised by his Democratic challenger last quarter, has said he will both support and campaign with Trump in the Tar Heel state.
“I think Donald Trump is Hillary Clinton’s worst nightmare,” he said. Burr also recently told his own state Republican convention that he hoped Trump would pick not just the next Supreme Court justice, but the next three.
Rep. Lee Zeldin, a New York freshman, has predicted Trump will “annihilate” Hillary Clinton in his Buffalo-area district. Ostensibly looking to give Trump a head start, Zeldin came to Trump’s defense on CNN after Trump attacked the Latino judge in the Trump University case, calling Trump’s attacks “a regrettable legal strategy.”
But, Zeldin added that maybe it’s Barack Obama who is the real racist here. “You can easily argue that the president of the United States is a racist with his policies and his rhetoric.”
Ignoring that fact that Hillary Clinton’s negatives in nosebleed territory from North Carolina to New York along with Trump’s, Democrats think they have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to tether even strong Republicans to a man who is historically unpopular with Democrats and independents, and even with many Republicans.
To that end, the DCCC has begun a multi-million dollar ad buy with spots asking voters about Trump and their congressman, “If he’s our standard bearer, what the heck happened to our standards?”
One of the pro-Trump Republicans getting extra money spent against him is Rep. John Mica, whose suburban Orlando district Democrats have long eyed as a pick-up opportunity. “Sometimes (Trump) has a little potty mouth,” Mica has said in defense of the billionaire. “But he’s not the only offender in this race.”
The man in charge of getting not just Mica, but all Republicans in the House reelected says Democrats’ attempts to marry Trump and GOP candidates in voters’ minds won’t be enough to win races.
“There is this narrative coming out of the DCC that all they have to do is morph the image of one of our candidates’ heads up against the image of our presidential nominee and the race is over,” Walden told reporters last week at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast. “I hope that’s their entire game plan because we’ve seen absolutely no data to indicate that that strategy works.”
But Democrats are working every day to convince voters otherwise, tying Republican candidates to Trump whether they vocally support Trump or not.
“No matter if Republican Senate candidates are calling Donald Trump a “patriot” or sneaking out of meetings with him through the back door, they have allowed Donald Trump to take over their party, aligned with him on his out-of-touch policies, and are keeping a Supreme Court seat vacant for him to fill,” said Sam Lau, spokesman for the DSCC. “They are standing behind their party’s standard bearer as he spews his racist, xenophobic, and sexist rhetoric on a daily basis, and voters will hold them accountable for their support from now until November 8th.”
In truth, only the election will really tell if running with Trump on the ballot will help Republicans sink or soar, but an early test case for an #AlwaysTrump candidate didn’t end pretty.
Rep. Renee Elmers from North Carolina was the first woman in Congress to endorse Trump this year. In turn, Ellmers won Trump’s first congressional endorsement. Days later, Ellmers achieved another “first” when she became the first Congressional Republican to lose reelection this cycle, an early warning for Democrats and Republicans alike that it’s hard to ride the Trump train once it goes off the rails.