Top Michigan Republicans not entirely in Trump's corner
Aug. 14, 2016
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Donald Trump's inflammatory style is leading high-ranking Michigan Republican officeholders and candidates to take a hands-off approach to their presidential nominee with fewer than three months until Election Day.
Many continue backing his candidacy. But they are not exactly voicing full-throated support.
Endorse him and be accused of condoning rhetoric that the celebrity businessman's detractors say makes him unfit — his criticism of Muslim parents whose son died serving in Iraq, an off-script suggestion that Second Amendment supporters could maybe "stop" Hillary Clinton from appointing anti-gun justices to the Supreme Court if she becomes president and his claim that President Barack Obama is the "founder" of the Islamic State group.
Withhold support and risk alienating GOP voters who may blame establishment turncoats if Trump loses in November.
Many Republican leaders have settled on saying they will vote for Trump to stop a Clinton presidency.
"People want a change. They don't trust Hillary Clinton," said Attorney General Bill Schuette, a likely 2018 gubernatorial candidate who attended Trump's recent economic speech in Detroit.
Trump's pivot to jobs was eclipsed a day later by his controversial remarks about blocking Clinton's judicial appointments.
"Running for president is a serious task," Schuette said in response. "His recent comments, while appearing to be a poor attempt at humor, are not appropriate, period."
Gov. Rick Snyder, who cannot run for a third term because of term limits, has decided not to endorse Trump four years after the governor rallied with GOP nominee Mitt Romney in Michigan.
A spokeswoman for Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, another potential gubernatorial candidate who has endorsed Trump, said he would not comment on Trump's "day-to-day activities."
Of Michigan's nine Republican U.S. House members, six support Trump. Three others — Reps. Justin Amash, Bill Huizenga and Fred Upton — have reservations.
Amash, of Cascade Township in the Grand Rapids suburbs, said he will not vote for Trump or Clinton. He tweeted after Trump's national convention speech that he would "always defend liberty against fear-mongering politicians."
Huizenga, of Holland, is withholding an endorsement but could still vote for Trump. He told WHTC-AM on Thursday that Trump's decision to call Obama the founder and Clinton a co-founder of IS was "not helpful. I think the facts are damaging enough. We don't need over-the-top political rhetoric to point out the fact that this administration has failed when it comes to its dealings on the international level."
Upton, of St. Joseph, will not endorse anyone in the race.
"Fred is certainly not dismissive of the fact that Donald Trump is the Republican nominee fair and square, but right now his entire focus is on continuing to build a positive, governing agenda in Congress," spokesman Tom Wilbur said.
While Trump has turned off some prominent Republicans, state GOP chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel said "we need to support the voters" who nominated Trump.
"Donald Trump is authentic. He shoots from the hip when he speaks," McDaniel said. "I think that's refreshing to the American public. Does he always say things the way I would say them? Probably not."
She said Trump "has not perfected the art of political speech and figuring out how to parse your words together in a way where they actually mean nothing. Hillary Clinton has done that for decades."
Trump's exaggerated claims, however, are overshadowing issues that his campaign could possibly capitalize on — such as sluggish economic growth and newly released emails that show her interactions with lobbyists, political and Clinton Foundation donors and business interests as secretary of state. The former U.S. senator and first lady's lead over Trump has widened in national polls, alarming Republicans and buoying Democrats in a state where a Republican has not won the presidential race in 28 years.
Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Brandon Dillon said Democrats' bid to take control of the GOP-led state House this fall could be helped by Trump's "continuing display of reckless behavior. .... We're going to let people know across the state who stands with Donald Trump and who does not."
Democrats, for instance, already have called on retired Marine Lt. Gen. Jack Bergman, the surprise winner of the open 1st Congressional District Republican primary in northern Michigan, to repudiate Trump for tangling with the Gold Star family. A message seeking comment was left with Bergman's campaign manager.
Dillon said Republicans who back an "unhinged" Trump not only are putting at risk their personal reputations but also the GOP's future.
"They'll be better off in the long run if they do the right thing and disavow this person who's a historically disgraceful candidate for president."