Good lord. Someone took “the off-ramp.”
Kirk’s seat is up this fall and he’s running in deep-blue Illinois, a major challenge for a Republican under the best circumstances but near impossible in a presidential election year when Democratic turnout will be high. He’s a likely goner in November. I wonder if he threw Trump overboard today for strategic reasons, fearing that his chances would shrink from slim to none if he didn’t keep his distance, or for reasons of principle. If Kirk’s destined to be out of the Senate next year, he might as well let it rip and follow his conscience. Right, Marco?
He’s ripping pretty good here:
I have spent my life building bridges and tearing down barriers–not building walls. That’s why I find Donald Trump’s belief that an American-born judge of Mexican descent is incapable of fairly presiding over his case is not only dead wrong, it is un-American.
As the Presidential campaign progressed, I was hoping the rhetoric would tone down and reflect a campaign that was inclusive, thoughtful and principled. While I oppose the Democratic nominee, Donald Trump’s latest statements, in context with past attacks on Hispanics, women and the disabled like me, make it certain that I cannot and will not support my party’s nominee for President regardless of the political impact on my candidacy or the Republican Party.
It is absolutely essential that we are guided by a commander-in-chief with a responsible and proper temperament, discretion and judgment. Our President must be fit to command the most powerful military the world has ever seen, including an arsenal of thousands of nuclear weapons. After much consideration, I have concluded that Donald Trump has not demonstrated the temperament necessary to assume the greatest office in the world.
Kirk said as far back as March that he’d support Trump if he ended up as the nominee. A few weeks ago, after Trump did in fact become presumptive nominee, he told CNN, “Donald Trump is kind of a riverboat gamble. He won the Illinois primary, in this case we have seen the Republican vote up and the Democratic vote down, so it looks like it’s a net benefit.” Kirk, in other words, was wagering that Trump’s vaunted appeal to working-class whites in the midwest would make him more of an asset to Kirk’s own campaign than a liability. By aligning himself with the “radical centrist” nominee, the not-so-radical centrist Kirk might pick up some down-ballot crossover votes from white working-class independents and Democrats who intend to vote for Trump this fall. Interesting that he’s suddenly rethought those assumptions and feels obliged to cut Trump loose. Does he really think working-class voters will punish Trump for what he said about the judge? (I sure don’t.) Or is this more a case of Kirk fearing that the judge comments will be used to galvanize Democratic turnout in Illinois against Trump? If that happens, I’m not sure how un-endorsing Trump will save his Senate seat.
It’s not big news that the most vulnerable incumbent in the Senate this fall is especially leery of Trump right now. What is sort of newsy is that a Republican senator would rescind an endorsement, which may create political cover for some of his colleagues to abandon Trump. A fellow centrist, Susan Collins, sounds like she’s ready to pass on the Trump train too:
“So, in my view, these latest comments are of a different magnitude from the terrible and gratuitous insults that Trump has offered up before because they speak to his view of our government,” she continued. “The three branches of a government and a complete lack of respect for judges.”…
“The comments like the comments Trump made about the judge make it very difficult for me. It makes the decision a hard one,” Collins said.
“This is discouraging because it is so serious in what it says about his worldview,” she added. “Now there have been many other issues where I’ve disagreed with Donald Trump, but this speaks to how he would approach the separation of powers doctrine if he were president and that’s an issue that I care deeply about.”
Jeff Flake has already said he’s not voting Trump, as of course has Ben Sasse. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee are both mum right now. It’s unclear where the other Kirk-style centrists, like Kelly Ayotte, and endangered blue-staters, like Ron Johnson, are. None of them has ruled out voting for Trump yet but this week’s just getting started. If Trump is true to his promise in the statement he put out this afternoon about refusing further comment on the Trump University lawsuit, maybe it’ll calm the herd. If not, who knows where this goes. Here’s Graham, whose voice in talking about this has taken on the tone of someone so agitated by what he’s observing that he needs to manufacture calmness by speaking in a careful, overly deliberate way. You’ll see what I mean. Exit question: The second clip below is a new Super PAC ad targeting Trump for mocking a disabled reporter. You’ll notice that Kirk’s statement today also refers to Trump’s statements about people who are “disabled like me” as a reason to un-endorse him. The episode with the reporter happened in November, though. Why did Kirk spend the last few months reiterating that he’d back Trump if the reporter thing bothered him so much?