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Yes, maybe, never: Here’s what top Minnesota Republicans say about (eventually) supporting Trump

REUTERS/Scott Audette
Trump is now the prohibitive favorite to earn the GOP presidential nomination.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio may be the runaway first choice of Minnesota Republicans for president — he won Minnesota’s GOP presidential caucuses, topping his nearest rival, Ted Cruz, by eight percentage points.

But pretty much everywhere else, Republicans’ first choice is Donald Trump. The New York billionaire has picked up ten of the 15 states that have voted, and looks poised to pick up many more.

Trump is now the prohibitive favorite to earn the GOP presidential nomination, and the establishment wing of the party, which sees Trump as a one-way ticket to defeat in November, is mounting an all-out, last-ditch campaign to stop him. Many prominent Republicans have said they would refuse to vote for Trump if he were the nominee.

With a Trump nomination closer than ever, MinnPost checked in with prominent Minnesota Republicans to see what they would do if the controversial candidate became their party’s standard-bearer.

Note: MinnPost will update this story as we hear from more Republicans.

Third District Rep. Erik Paulsen

“The way I look at it is, at the top of the ticket, you want someone who can unify people, who can bring them together. Sen. Rubio is the person with the best capability of doing that.

“I wanna win in November. I’ve got concern about others in the race actually winning. I do think Senator Rubio has the capability, much like Speaker Ryan, a new generation leader, that’s a really good positive Republicans have been lacking right now. Some of the stuff going on with Trump, even Cruz, there are Republicans who don’t like it. I worry about unity.

“I expect to support the Republican nominee. I do think Rubio has the ability to unite. You wouldn’t see that bitterness or division if he were the nominee.”

Second District Rep. John Kline

“It’s my intention to support the Republican nominee, and we’ll keep working hard for Marco Rubio.”

Sixth District Rep. Tom Emmer

“[The Minnesota caucus] was surprising to me, it really was. Trump didn’t really place very well.

“I’ll support the Republican candidate, but let’s wait and see what happens with the process. We’ve got a little while to go yet.”

Minnesota GOP Chair Keith Downey

“Obviously [Trump] is the front-runner. He won most of the states outright. Trump has a nice lead on delegates, Cruz is competitive, Rubio is in the game in terms of delegates. Trump had a good night, but it’s way too early to call given the number of states and the number of proportionally allocated states… It’s a competitive time in the race. It’s sharp elbows time in the political season.

“We have one job, to try to elect our endorsed Republican candidates. The Republican Party will do everything it can to support all our candidates.”

Former U.S. Rep. Vin Weber

“I’ve been able to brag to all my friends about the good judgment of the people of Minnesota. Not only did Trump not win, he didn’t finish second. I hope that’s a result that’s going to be repeated in future primaries.

“I’m not trying to hedge, I genuinely mean the answer [to the question of whether he’d support Trump if nominee] is, I don’t know. It’d be very difficult to vote for someone who believes what he believes and says what he says. I wish the Democratic Party was moving closer to the center, which is what Bill Clinton did in 1992, but Hillary Clinton, urged on by Bernie Sanders, is moving to the left. That makes it a harder decision for someone like me. It’s not out of the question to [support Clinton]. I’ve never voted for a Democrat for president, and it’d be a hard thing for me to do.

“You’ve gotta put country first, and what Trump wants to do with the country would be pretty disastrous. Those of us who aren’t for Trump don’t have a lot of great options… We have to hope Rubio will beat him in Florida and Kasich will beat him in Ohio.

“It’s a crisis for the party [if Trump becomes the nominee]. A crisis that leads to a substantial defeat for the party.”

Former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman

In an op-ed for the Star Tribune, former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman wrote:

I won’t vote for Donald Trump… He isn’t a Republican. He isn’t a conservative. He isn’t a truth teller.

I also won’t vote for Donald Trump because of who he is. A bigot. A misogynist. A fraud. A bully… We have been deceived by a con artist. A fraud wrapped in the veneer of being a businessman, who has slapped a slogan on a baseball cap and is closer to being president of the United States than any bigot, misogynist, fraud and bully in modern American history.

Who my choice may be if Donald Trump is the standard bearer under the rules of the Republican Party, I do not know. I know it won’t be Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. And I know it will never be Donald Trump.

Former MNGOP and Coleman for Senate Communications Director, Mark Drake

“I was very pleased with the results from our caucuses, I’m a Rubio supporter, I was pleased to see Trump have his worst showing in the country. I think for a lot of Republicans here… People are uncomfortable with him, leery of him, obviously, he’s not a conservative.

“When he feigns that he didn’t know who David Duke is, that really drove people out. I’d put myself in that camp of people being horrified by that. I would not be able to support him. If he can’t be stopped, I’d hope there’d be a third-party, conservative alternative to him.

“Everyone is gonna have to make their own decision on this one. Anyone who supports an alternative, third-party candidate, I think people would recognize we’re in extraordinary circumstances. People will have to do what they think is right. I can’t bring myself to do it under any circumstances.”

Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-Crown)

“I haven’t formally backed anyone, I was with Scott Walker’s campaign, but I haven’t backed anyone since. I didn’t make it to my [caucus] location, but I would’ve likely voted for Rubio. Trump came in third where in most states Trump is one or two. It’s kind of interesting, he’s not resonating as well here.

“My job this cycle is to hold onto the House. We’re watching the top of the ticket closely. I probably would [support Trump if he were the nominee]. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what-ifs… I wouldn’t call it a done deal. But the further we get without some clarity makes it difficult for a non-Trump candidate to be successful.”

State Sen. Dave Thompson (R-Lakeville)

“I’m shocked. I understand there is frustration out there among Republicans and many times, that frustration is directed at the ‘establishment’ and the people who have failed to carry forward a conservative agenda.

“What’s shocking to me, one, is that Trump has been able to overcome behaving in such a way and acting in such a way and saying things that, I don’t think it’d be going too far to say no prominent politician or candidate in history has been able to defy gravity like that.

“Two, typically people who are disaffected with the establishment are on the conservative end of the party, and they’re supporting a guy whose public pronouncements and opinions have been leftist positions. I don’t think it’s a lock yet, but if I had to go to Las Vegas and put money on him, how could I not?

“You know, if Donald Trump is running against Hillary Clinton, yes, I’ll vote for Donald Trump. I fear Donald Trump is a closet leftist. I know others are out-of-the-closet leftists.”

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Comments (18)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 03/03/2016 - 11:07 am.

    It’s a nice change

    Usually, it’s the Democrats who form the circular firing squad, so it’s a pleasure, just for the sake of variety, to watch the Republicans slide into self-destruct mode this time around. Adding to that pleasure, of course, is a certain amount of schadenfreude, given the constant, usually racist, obstructionist tactics the GOP has followed at the national level regarding the moderate Republican who currently occupies the White House. That is, a generation ago he’d have qualified as a moderate Republican. Since taking office, however, he’s mostly been characterized as Beelzebub by people who like to call themselves “conservative,” but are, in fact, radical reactionaries who would like to drag us back to (take your pick) the 19th, 17th or 15th centuries, depending upon their views of science, slavery, racial discrimination, women as chattel slaves, social and economic equity, etc.

    • Submitted by Bruce Johnson on 03/03/2016 - 02:41 pm.

      This is the most succinct description of the Republicans’ dilemma I’ve seen.
      With all due respect to Vin Weber, Hillary Clinton is the sane Republican in the race. Most people who object to her do so on other grounds, not her moderation or lack thereof.

  2. Submitted by Tom Karas on 03/03/2016 - 12:23 pm.

    My Republican friends, its an easy answer…….

    The least painful option you have is to go into that booth and resist the automatic urge to grab the straight ticket lever. Just sit out the presidential race for a cycle, vote for your locals and sleep well at night. Good luck with that.

  3. Submitted by joe smith on 03/03/2016 - 01:58 pm.

    I am not a Trump fan but the more I hear that we shouldn’t vote for him by the GOP elites the more I like Trump. Usually it is not the GOP claiming voters are misinformed, misguided or just plain stupid when there is a disagreement on candidates, policy or issues (the other party has that market covered). Drives me crazy when the DC elites tell us how we should feel or vote. 8M plus GOP voters turned out in the 2016 primary versus 5M plus in 2008 primary (there is your answer RB) so Trump must be pressing the right button. America is 19TRILLION in debt, has a tax code set up to be bought by the highest bidder, losing good paying middle class manufacturing jobs to other countries left and right, has a broken educational system that is just fed more money yearly, record amount of folks on welfare, 94M workers out of job market, directionless in Mid East policies and that is just naming a few of the problems. Maybe the GOP elites should listen to the regular Joe 6-pack guy to find out why they support Trump instead of telling Ole Joe how to feel or vote.

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 03/03/2016 - 03:01 pm.

      Amen brother

      People are still in denial about the Trump phenomenon, rationalizing it away with excuses that range from the merely out-of-touch to the just plain stupid.

      His theme boils down to “our country is in big trouble and it’s being run by incompetents who don’t know how to fix it.”

      His supporters are people who respond to that message, including:
      1. Veterans who want the VA punished, if not abolished, for their incompetence in dealing with veterans health issues.
      2. Factory workers who’ve lost jobs due to their former employers moving the jobs overseas.
      3. Blue-collar workers who are competing with foreign labor, here illegally, who are driving down wages for the few jobs that exist for under-educated people.
      4. People concerned with terrorism and terrorist states who see the Iranian deal as the worst deal ever “negotiated” with a foreign power who has promised to destroy one of our allies.

      And most importantly, republicans who are fed up with the party elites who have allowed these, the open border, and many many other things to go on, and have done nothing to stop it after we elected them to do something about it.

      So when members of the republican establishment, like Mitt Romney and others, defend the status quo, that only makes Trump stronger and his supporters more resolute.

      And I have a tip for democrats who are supporting Hillary Clinton, the establishment candidate who promises to continue the status quo: You should have listened to Bernie Sanders’ message regarding how the system is rigged, because Mrs. Clinton is Exhibit A and Trump has the support of anti-establishment Donald Democrats who are supporting him as a result.

      • Submitted by Ellen Hoerle on 03/06/2016 - 11:49 am.

        There’s just one thing you forgot to say

        Gees Dennis, there’s just one thing you forgot to say. That all four problems you cite above started on January 20, 2009. None of those issues were problems before then. NONE. They’re all 100% Obama’s fault. Every single one of them. None of them existed before then. Not issues with the VA, not the job loss to foreign countries, not the immigration issues, not the terrorism issues.

        Wow, what a country we have, where one man is elected president and suddenly, people get to re-boot all of history, believe what they want to believe just because they want to believe it and refuse to consider believing otherwise.

        I think this entire article proves one thing. Republicans are addicted to something that is destroying them and that addiction is to general disrespect for Democrats, anyone who calls himself/herself a Democrat,( and let’s not forget the 47%), but ultimately, disrespect and total disregard for the truth. In order to treat this addiction, all of them should be required to say 100 times, ‘Obama is a good man and a good president’, or as many times as it takes for them to have a ‘come to Jesus’ moment and realize that spewing vitriol toward another human being, subtly or non-subtly, hurts the person who’s doing the spewing just as much or more than the target. It’s just unhealthy–for the individual and yes, for the country.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/03/2016 - 03:17 pm.

      You Make a Good Point

      I find the response by the Republican elites to be interesting. The whole Trump phenomenon (and I will leave out who caused it to happen) is a voter-driven wave in support of a candidate deemed unacceptable. What is their response? Why, respond to that popular insurgency by disapproving of the voters’ choice, and perhaps making a top-down choice for a candidate we like! Alternately, react to the vocal expression of distaste for “politics as usual” by coming up with a brokered convention.

      It’s an absolutely brilliant response, and one that I am sure will produce a resounding success in November.

  4. Submitted by Dimitri Drekonja on 03/03/2016 - 02:29 pm.

    All these shocked people…

    Hmm, you run on a promise to repeal the ACA (which you know can’t happen with the current president and a filibuster-proof senate)…surprise, the base thinks you lied to them.

    You entertain birther movements implying the president is illegally holding office…surprise, the base is mystified that you don’t impeach him.

    You pledge to shrink government, but then you create a homeland-security department, start various wars, and try to legislate what happens in people’s private lives…surprise, the people who voted for small government are not pleased.

    The republicans whipped up the base a few too many times with promises that were meant only for elections; trouble is, they never let the base in on the fact that they were never meant to happen. They’ve cultivated this monster– now they are shocked by it. People have been writing articles and books about how the party was painting itself into an unsustainable position for years– anyone shocked needed to read a bit more.

  5. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 03/03/2016 - 02:36 pm.

    So what sort of behavior by Trump is unacceptable?

    There are so many examples of inappropriate behavior by Trump that it is very difficult to believe that the GOP can claim that he is a worthy candidate for the presidency.

    Just one example of his recent pathetic behavior from the Guardian
    (link: )

    “I could have said, ‘Mitt drop to your knees,’ and he would have dropped to his knees,” Trump said.


    This is pathetic and disgusting. Some local Republicans of note have stated that they would not vote for Trump, including Norm Coleman and Harry Niska as well as one of the people interviewed above.

    Why not more? What does Trump have to do in order to be called out by the majority of Republican leadership?

    Those who live in Minnesota should consider the fact that Rubio, not Trump, won the primary in this state. This was in fact an ANTI Trump vote. Republicans in Minnesota should consider the effect of Trump running for the presidency in Minnesota and the effect of this on Republicans lower on the ticket

  6. Submitted by Bill Willy on 03/03/2016 - 03:03 pm.

    Trump health care plan

    The news people say Trump released his health care plan yesterday and while the bulk of it is standard empty Republi “repeal and replace” boilerplate, it includes two (good) ideas that probably have at least something to do with why some strong conservative Republi backers (like health care providers, health insurance whales and the pharmaceutical cash vacuum) and their backees are as turned off by the prospect of him being elected as most Democrats.

    According to candidate Trump, president Trump would push for:

    “price transparency from all health care providers, especially doctors and health care organizations like clinics and hospitals. Individuals should be able to shop to find the best prices for procedures, exams or any other medical-related procedure.”

    And . . .

    “On drug prices, Trump departs from standard Republican policy by calling for lowering barriers to cheaper imported pharmaceuticals.

    “ ‘Allowing consumers access to imported, safe and dependable drugs from overseas will bring more options to consumers,’ the statement says, adding that ‘Congress will need the courage to step away from the special interests and do what is right for America.’ ”

    Imagine that . . . Not that a notion like that is among the primary reasons so many Republis seem to be chewing their fingernails, but no doubt the idea of trying to find the courage to put what’s right for America ahead of what their biggest donors think is right for them has at least something to do with all the, “He’s not a conservative!” or even a Republican, GOP outrage.

    (Excepting those like Keith Downey, Kurt Daubt, T Emmer, J Kline and Erik P who say Minnesotans can count on them to be good little Republi foot soldiers who will put the best interest of the Party ahead of the best interest of MN and the rest of the country, of course.)

  7. Submitted by Jackson Cage on 03/03/2016 - 03:51 pm.

    “I’ll support my party’s nominee”???

    The funniest thing about all these Republicans saying they’ll support the Republican nominee is Trump IS NOT a Republican. No one knows what he is. His only position is the one currently coming out of his mouth and that’s only his position until the next time he opens his mouth.

    Hey fellas, just because I slap a Mercedes emblem on the front of my Pinto doesn’t make it a luxury German automobile.

  8. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 03/03/2016 - 05:52 pm.

    Who is the risky candidate?

    Both Cruz and Rubio strongly support a return to GWBs Mid East policies: aggressive use of force, fealty to Israel, get tough with Iran. I just heard Trump call GWBs Mid East policies a disaster, money that could have been spent to fix domestic problems wasted in Iraq.

    I’ll take Trump and the unknown loose canon risks over a known alternative: 3 trillion wasted dollars, thousands of American lives lost, hundreds of thousands of local lives lost. Rubio and Cruz will always follow ideology over facts and history. As a business person, Trump at least understands that facts and history indicate future results better than an ideology with a track record of abject failure.

  9. Submitted by Logan Foreman on 03/03/2016 - 11:23 pm.

    The laughable fact

    Is that Jesse Ventura was a better governor than Pawlenty by light years and Rubio is a lightweight in comparison to Pawlenty. I would vote for Reagan before this class of republican losers.

  10. Submitted by Joel Stegner on 03/04/2016 - 04:25 am.

    No bull, please

    Donald Trump is a raging bull. He is totally out of control. If he were your employee, and behaved the way he does, he would disciplined and fire, not picked to run the place. He is the Republican candidate ever be picked as Presidents. Those most likely to favor him is ISIS and the other terrorist groups because they will be able to rest up and watch him destroy our country from inside, nothing no other candidate of either party will do.

    Business thinks short term profits, but Republicans please think of what Trump will do to your party and country by showing the intelligence of a Mitt Romney or a Norm Coleman. Your prospective candidate is a loser in every true sense of the word, of the calibre of Senator Joseph McCarthy, commie hunter.

  11. Submitted by David Roeser on 03/04/2016 - 05:50 am.


    Erik Paulsen is a mathematics guy from St. Olaf. Good school for both math and chemistry — a little weaker in physics. But I do think 3rd district might be better off with a chemistry or physics St. Olaf guy.

  12. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 03/04/2016 - 07:13 am.

    Extremely ironic!

    Back at the first debate they made Trump sign a pledge that he would stay in the party no matter who the nominee and would not form a third party. Now they are doing everything possible to get rid of him. Gotta laugh.

    Also gotta laugh that all the oligarch candidates like Romney, Rubio and all the so called “mainstream” Republicans who spend more time representing billionaires and their corporations are doing everything possible to undermine the candidate of the people. Of course those people are racists, homophobes, xenophobes and many other things I would never want to be associated with, but they are the “base” of the Republican party. This election really points out how deluded the ideological Republicans have been about the extent of their power.

  13. Submitted by Elsa Mack on 03/04/2016 - 07:59 am.


    It is notable that only those who are “former” office holders are willing to break with their party if it turns out to be the party of Trump. Those who are still hoping for reelection clearly feel the need to hold the party line–though as someone mentioned above, this might not be so smart, considering that Minnesotans clearly aren’t Trump fans. I wonder if the public rejections by Romney, McCain, etc. will make any difference.

  14. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 03/04/2016 - 11:08 am.

    Who;s the man Trump…god,tyrant in the making, silly fool?

    If Republicans are still trying to qualify Trump as a legitimate nominee… can’t even recognize the road they are hopelessly headed down, how can they ever have the good sense to turn back before.. the party being Trumped to death? Sad story, yes….

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