Washington: The Republican leadership today appeared to be bitterly divided on Donald Trump, who is emerging as the party’s presumptive presidential nominee.
While a top section of the party’s established leadership openly said that they would not support 69-year-old Trump, the real estate mogul from New York gained more endorsement including the former presidential nominee Bob Dole.
At least two of the former presidential candidates – Jeb Bush (the former Governor of Florida) and Senator Lindsey Graham – have openly said that they would not support Trump in his race to the White House.
But Trump received major boost to his campaign as Rick Perry the former Texas Governor endorsed him, so did Bob Dole, the party’s presidential nominee for 1996.
“The voters of our country have turned out in record numbers to support Trump. It is important that their votes be honored and it is time that we support the party’s presumptive nominee, Donald J. Trump,” Dole said in a statement.
Dole said he plans to attend the Cleveland Convention in July where Trump would be formally designated as the party’s presidential nominee.
“We must unite as a party to defeat Hillary Clinton. Trump is our party’s presumptive nominee and our best chance at taking back the White House this November,” Dole said. But two former Republican presidents – George H W Bush and George W Bush – along with the 2008 presidential nominee Senator John McCain have announced that they would not attend the Cleveland convention.
Jeb, who is the son and younger brother of two former presidents, today said that he would not vote for Trump.
“In November, I will not vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, but I will support principled conservatives at the state and federal levels, just as I have done my entire life,” Bush wrote on his Facebook Page.
“The American Presidency is an office that goes beyond just politics. It requires of its occupant great fortitude and humility and the temperament and strong character to deal with the unexpected challenges that will inevitably impact our nation in the next four years,” he said. “Donald Trump has not demonstrated that temperament or strength of character. He has not displayed a respect for the Constitution. And, he is not a consistent conservative.
These are all reasons why I cannot support his candidacy,” said Jeb, who raised a record USD 140 million for his presidential campaign but was humiliatingly defeated by Trump in the primary elections.
Jeb was joined by South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham, who said that he would not vote for Trump.
“I cannot in good conscience support Donald Trump because I do not believe he is a reliable Republican conservative nor has he displayed the judgement and temperament to serve as commander in chief,” said Graham, who also was badly defeated by Trump during the primaries. Trump fired back and described Graham as incompetent.
“While I will unify the party, Lindsey Graham has shown himself to be beyond rehabilitation. And like the voters who rejected him, so will I!” Trump said.
The statement from Jeb and Graham came a day after Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan said that he is not ready yet to support Trump.
Ryan has invited Trump for a meeting next week. “Having both said we need to unify the party, Speaker Ryan has invited Trump to meet with members of the House Republican leadership in Washington on Thursday morning to begin a discussion about the kind of Republican principles and ideas that can win the support of the American people this November,” Ryan’s political office said in a statement today.
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee lashed at Ryan for not respecting the verdict of the party’s members.
“Lead, follow or get the heck out of the way. I’m sorry to be so blunt, but he’s the Speaker, that means he’s the leader. Then lead,” he told Fox Business News.
Meanwhile, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney continued with his anti-Trump drive. This week, he is reported to have met William Kristol, who is pushing for a third-party alternative to Trump and Clinton, the Democratic presidential front-runner.