What it’s like to be on the shrinking island of Donald Trump political backers — Washington Post
These days, being a Republican and supporting your presidential nominee can be a lonely place. A new USA Today survey finds that more than a quarter of top elected GOP officials won’t endorse or have rescinded their endorsement of Donald Trump. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) thinks pulling away from Trump this close to an election is “ludicrous.” He was one of the first GOP members of Congress to endorse Trump, back in February, and he’s still very much on board. The Fix caught up with Hunter to hear what it’s like to be on an increasingly shrinking island of Trump backers. Our conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
THE FIX: A lot has changed since we last talked in February about your initial Trump endorsement. Has your support shifted in any way?
HUNTER: No. We need to do what’s right for the nation. Period. And we’ve seen even if Republicans hold the House and the Senate, we see hardly anything can get done. The president has veto power. We know he has the power of the administration. I would say it’s much more important to have a Republican president than it is to have a Republican House and Senate
Especially to us partisan Republicans, Hillary Clinton is just about literally the worst person who could be president ever. So to pull back away from Donald Trump at this point, with 30 days left in the [campaign], I think is ludicrous. We’ve got to keep on fighting to the end. He’s our guy, our candidate, and something somebody said 11 years ago off the record, I think, is clearly wrong the media can use that against somebody.
THE FIX: So were you surprised when you hopped on a GOP House conference call Monday and heard House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) essentially say that he doesn’t think Trump can win and that he’s going to stop campaigning for and defending him?
HUNTER: I don’t think Paul wanted to support Donald from the very beginning. But that was easily seen. I think most politicians, whether they’re Republican or Democrat, have their fingers in the wind. They do what’s best for them and their political careers.
Obviously someone like me who comes out and supports Donald Trump in the very beginning doesn’t worry about their political careers.
THE FIX: Ryan’s decision unleashed a lot of chaos in your party — congressional Republicans left to decide whether to follow his lead or stick with him, or something in the middle.
HUNTER: I don’t think this is chaotic. I think it’s totally unfair, you can take anybody’s comments off the record from a decade or more prior and pull them up at your convenience. And I was in the Marine Corps, and I’ve been to war three times. If you had recorded the stuff my Marines and I were talking about, after not seeing a woman for seven months — but let’s just leave it at that. And so I find this completely unfair.
And it has nothing to do with the election. It has nothing to do with people’s choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and their differences in policy. And it has no impact to me whatsoever.
THE FIX: And yet it feels like fewer and fewer of your GOP colleagues agree with that sentiment.
HUNTER: That’s probably true. I find myself increasingly on an island. But everybody lives on their island in terms of Congress, because we’re all together in session, but when it comes down to election time, it is kind of every man for themselves. That’s kind of how politics works.
And I think that Ryan in a way was alluding to that, like: ‘Hey, what I want to see is you guys returning back to the House of Representatives, maintaining a Republican majority. If we have a Trump presidency, we can get stuff accomplished. And if we have a Clinton presidency, we can stop her most egregious actions.’
THE FIX: You’ve been a Trump supporter for eight months now. Were you surprised when something from his past came back to haunt him?
HUNTER: No, not really. I think everybody knew this would happen, that some stuff would come out on some things, that somebody who is not in politics said a decade ago. I think a lot of my colleagues have not necessarily been looking for a reason to not support him but are happy to not support him given something like this.
THE FIX: Not that you have to defend everything Trump says or tweets, but he’s spent Tuesday attacking your colleagues, like Ryan and John McCain. Here’s one of them:
HUNTER: The way he phrased the conference call, that’s a fairly correct way to describe it.
THE FIX: So people went “wild”?
HUNTER: Not wild, but majority of them were like, ‘Hey, this isn’t about you and Trump. This is about the country right now. This is about the presidential election.’
THE FIX: Fair point. Final question: Can Trump still win?
HUNTER: Yes. I’m not as optimistic as I was two weeks ago, but I still think he will win. I think it’ll be a big surprise to all the media outlets.
THE FIX: We’ve been surprised by a lot lately.