You can add Rand Paul to the list of Republicans who say they’ll support Donald Trump if he ends up being the GOP nominee. Paul made his pledge on Friday during a stop in Northern Kentucky. Via Cincinnati Enquirer:
Paul, during a visit to Northern Kentucky Friday morning, said he will support whoever is the Republican nominee, even if it’s Donald Trump. He said it’s better than supporting Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Paul criticized Clinton’s comments she made while campaigning in Ohio that she will “put a lot of coal companies and coal miners out of business.” Those words will likely reverberate around the state in the next few months and could hurt Clinton.
“I think we never get the candidate we exactly want unless you’re the candidate,” Paul said. “Think about it from this perspective. I’m from Kentucky, and Hillary Clinton recently said she would put coal miners out of business, and she would put coal companies out of business.”
Paul ended the press conference after that and didn’t take follow-up questions.
He isn’t the only libertarian-leaning politician to make the comments. Congressman Thomas Massie told Reason in January he’d vote for Trump, even though he doesn’t like him.
“Well, if it’s between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, I will most certainly vote for Donald Trump, I can tell you that. Or Bernie Sanders, or literally anybody on the Democrat side. So there you have it.”
Massie’s comrade-in-arms, Michigan Congressman Justin Amash, wasn’t as forthcoming only promising to Reason he won’t vote for Hillary Clinton because he thinks “she would be the worst president of my lifetime.” He was still pretty coy on whether he’d vote for Trump.
“But yeah, I’m not going to say who I would vote for on Election Day if Trump were the Republican nominee. I’ve always been a proud Republican and have voted for Republican nominees I didn’t always agree with on a whole bunch of issues, but I think we can do better.”
Paul’s decision to say he’d support Trump has gotten criticism. One libertarian I’m friends with took a shot at both Paul and Massie on her Facebook page writing “SOS” after I pointed out Massie’s comments (I’ll let you guess what “SOS” means). Eric Levitz wrote a piece at New York Magazine entitled “Principle Libertarian Pledges to Support Authoritarian Strongman in November.” I’m certainly not happy with Paul’s comments, and do not believe any conservative or libertarian should be supporting the authoritarian Trump.
So why aren’t Paul and Massie taking more of a Ben Sasse or Ron Paul approach and joining the #NeverTrump movement? The answer is simply politics. Both Paul and Massie are up for re-election this year in a state where Trump is enjoying a ton of support. Massie even told The Daily Independent how disturbing it was to see those who support him are also in favor of Trump.
“Donald Trump is a big middle finger to Washington, D.C.,” Massie said. “I understand. I have to be careful because the guy is polling at 30 plus percent and in the Fourth District, Donald Trump supporters are my supporters.”..
Massie is often described as Libertarian, but now he is unsure if the wave of support was actually for those ideas or it was, perhaps, something else that inspired voters.
“I’m thinking, ‘Wow, the American public really seems to like these Libertarian ideas,’ and then Donald Trump runs and he gets all of their (Rand Paul and Ron Paul) voters, he gets all of my voters. I’m thinking, ‘No, they’re just voting for the craziest guy in the race,’” he said and the audience laughed. “It was very sobering for me. I’m that guy.”
He said he understands Americans’ frustrations with government, which may lead some voters to rank Rand Paul as their first choice for president and Donald Trump as their second.
“I know a lot of people who are going to vote for Rand Paul for president who say Trump is their second choice. They couldn’t be more different in terms of substance. One (Rand) is all about substance and the other (Trump) is nothing about substance. It concerns me,” Massie said.
Massie understands the difference between people voting anti-establishment for the sake of being anti-establishment versus voting anti-establishment because they agree with the candidate’s principles. Paul understands this too, which is probably why he made the comment on Trump. Sasse and Ron Paul can make their #NeverTrump declarations because they’re not running for re-election. They’re allowed to stand on principle, while Massie and Rand Paul can’t exactly do that because they’ve got votes to think about. It’s an unfortunate case of having to play politics to stay in office. Massie is taking on Calvin Sidle and will hopefully win. Paul is taking on Lexington Mayor Jim Gray and will hopefully win. I don’t think either wants to see Trump ascend to the White House, but I can’t fault them for their comments. It also doesn’t mean they’ll actually vote for Trump come November, but it might depend on what the polls are saying IF Trump is the GOP nominee against Clinton or Bernie Sanders. I’m definitely disappointed in both of them for their comments, but I completely understand it. After all, it’s politics.