Against Trump before he was for him: the wisdom of Daudt’s delicate dance

MinnPost photo by Brian Halliday
When he was asked by a reporter if he had any regrets for distancing himself from Donald Trump, House Speaker Kurt Daudt responded: “I supported Trump, I voted for him, I'm happy he won.”

Five weeks ago, Donald Trump’s presidential campaign was on life support. After the release of a shocking video of Trump making vulgar remarks about women in 2005, numerous Republicans in Minnesota announced they could no longer support Trump’s candidacy for president.

The timing of Trump becoming politically radioactive presented a big problem to Minnesota Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt.

Daudt wasn’t just focused on his own re-election — as caucus leader, he wanted to ensure Republicans retained control of the Minnesota House of Representatives. But the repeated headlines about Trump’s inappropriate comments and allegations of past sexual assaults made that job of more difficult, especially since Democrats were trying very hard to nationalize local elections by connecting Trump to every Republican candidate running for office in 2016.

Daudt knew he needed to put a firewall between Trump and Republican candidates running for the Minnesota House of Representatives. So he issued a carefully worded statement in early October that separated the House Republican Caucus, including himself, from the GOP presidential nominee. The statement said, in part, that “Trump’s behavior and comments toward women are unacceptable, and disqualifying for someone who hopes to serve as Commander In Chief.”

He added that Trump could not provide the “strong conservative leadership that can unite our country,” and that he “urged [Trump’s campaign] to consider what’s best for the future of our country and our party, and step aside so we can defeat Hillary Clinton.”

It was a bold move. And for a time, Daudt seemed to stand by it. When Trump visited Minnesota just days before Election Day, Daudt was absent. Nobody questioned why Daudt wasn’t on stage. If you call for your party’s nominee to consider ending their campaign for president, it is unlikely you’ll continue to attend their campaign events.

But in a television interview on the day Trump visited Minnesota, Daudt acknowledged Trump’s candidacy was resonating with many Americans, and then went on to say people will be surprised with how well Trump would perform on Election Day.

Trump wins

And then it happened. On Election Day, Trump defeated Clinton to become the 45th president of the United States. Meanwhile, Republicans not only held on to control of the Minnesota House — they actually increased their majority, while their colleagues in the Senate won a narrow majority in that chamber.

The day after the election, the Speaker stood proudly at a press conference on the steps of the State Office Building with members and members-elect of the House Republican Caucus. When he was asked by a reporter if he had any regrets for distancing himself from Trump, Daudt responded: “I supported Trump, I voted for him, I’m happy he won.”

In the span of one month, Daudt went from being vocally critical of Trump to privately voting for Trump, and then to publicly boasting that he was happy that Trump won.

People could characterize Daudt’s decision to publicly distance himself (and his caucus) from Trump and then voting for him as an example of the political double-talk Trump campaigned against. But in the euphoria of Election Day, the “Always Trump” and “Never Trump” wings of the Republican Party were too busy celebrating to focus on their differences.

And to be fair, Daudt always kept a cautious distance from Trump’s candidacy during the election cycle. Trump was not Daudt’s first or second choice for president. He initially chaired Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s presidential campaign in Minnesota. After Walker’s campaign ended, Daudt threw his support to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s campaign, and was later elected as a Rubio delegate to the Republican National Convention.

Political stock on the rise

Daudt’s political stock in Minnesota was on the rise before Election Day, and post-election, he’s never had more political clout. He was frequently mentioned as a possible candidate for governor in 2018 before last Tuesday’s election. After the House GOP’s Election Day success, he’ll be considered the front-runner for the Republican nomination for governor if he decides to run.

Should he decide to run, though, Daudt’s muted support of Trump’s candidacy prior to Election Day is likely become an issue. Republicans love purity in their candidates, and a new Trump litmus test could be a new measuring stick. 

But it be would be a mistake for Republicans to judge Daudt too harshly on the wall he placed between himself, the House Republican Caucus and Trump. The political reality was that the electoral landscape required someone to protect Republican candidates from being linked too closely with Trump. He made a political calculation, one based on what he knew at the time. 

And now, both Daudt and Trump can call themselves winners, and that makes Republicans very happy, regardless of whether their relationship is complicated.

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Comments (13)

  1. Submitted by joe smith on 11/14/2016 - 11:44 am.

    I think most concervitives will give Daudt a pass on Trump

    support. I have been a conservative since 1981 (wondered aimlessly as a hard core DFL guy for 15 years) and I couldn’t get behind Trump. The only reason I voted GOP was the alternative was HCR. Both candidates were so flawed I think folks will give anybody who was not totally behind either a break. The old thinking of purity in either party has been shaken this election cycle. The Dems are lamenting not electing a socialist to represent them (never believed I would see the day that would happen) and the GOP elected an outsider who has no specific ideology that matches the GOP play book.

    If this election showed us anything it is we know nothing about what millions apon millions of Americans think is important…. We do know one thing though, they are tired of broken promises and Wall Street/DC elites getting rich off running our country into the ground!!

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 11/14/2016 - 01:30 pm.

      ….they are tired of broken promises and Wall Street/DC elites getting rich off running our country into the ground…..

      I guess you haven’t followed on how the banking and medical stocks have ridden or how the “drain the swamp” transition team is full of swamp critters.

      • Submitted by joe smith on 11/15/2016 - 06:55 am.

        Wow, Trump has announced 2 of his team that will

        include hundreds of folks that will make up his transition team and you are already making disparaging remarks. How about we see more than 1% of his team before we make decisions. Yes, the DC elites , Wall St, Federal funded Green Energy, Big Business and the 1% did better than ever before under Obama and his 7 plus years. The stock market sold green energy stocks and bought oil, gas and mining stocks…. They are there to make money and funded Hillary over Trump 3-1… I wonder why?? Regular folks saw that and rejected 4 more years of Obama by voting Trump not HRC..

      • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 11/15/2016 - 07:41 am.

        I’ll Bet

        My next paycheck against whatever change is in your couch that Trump’s Treasury Secretary will be from Goldman Sachs.

        And the swamp gets murkier.

  2. Submitted by rogerbarr1951 Barr on 11/14/2016 - 12:56 pm.

    Kurt Daudt and all Republicans own Donald Trump and will bear equal responsibility (or credit) for his record as president. The election was a binary choice for president and both Minnesotans and voters nationwide made their choices. I may not like the choice that Trump supporters made, but at least I respect those who publicly declared their preference and stood by it. I find it difficult to respect anyone who equivocated on taking a public stand either way on such a controversial figure.

  3. Submitted by Mike Downing on 11/14/2016 - 01:14 pm.

    Identy Politics vs WIIFM

    President Obama was the master of Identity Politics by slicing & dicing the electorate into factions. Whereas Trump was the opposite and focused on all Americans and their common needs. Trump tapped into the common need that all Americans have for full time jobs and increasing incomes that come from increasing GDP growth.

    Hopefully Identity Politics has been replaced forever by addressing the needs of all Americans.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 11/14/2016 - 01:52 pm.

      Rejecting Identity Politics

      Is that why Trump hired Steve Bannon to be his senior counselor? Because he’s “focused on all Americans and their common needs?”

  4. Submitted by Jim Million on 11/14/2016 - 01:17 pm.

    Timeline a bit off here…

    “After the release of a shocking video of Trump making vulgar remarks about women in 2005, numerous Republicans in Minnesota announced they could no longer support Trump’s candidacy for president.”

    As I recall reading here and elsewhere, these Minnesota Republicans shunned his very first visit here, long before much later revelations. Perhaps a review of Minnesota Republican preferences in the Primaries is proper foundation.

    Michael Brodkorb’s faulty recall offers an excellent reason for following events from early stages, and not relying on convenient post-mortems. I do give Brodkorb this latitude, however: the initial and continued shunning was mostly not “announced,” at least not by the shunners.

    Oh, and Jason Lewis is going to Congress, too.

  5. Submitted by Jim Bernstein on 11/14/2016 - 02:34 pm.

    A Chicken Coming Home To Roost

    All of the Republican chickens who were avoiding Mr. Trump a couple of weeks ago are eager to roost with him now that he is President Elect Trump.

    There isn’t much doubt that privately, Rep. Daudt was cheering for a Trump victory because their Republican values are pretty much the same. Yet if Mr. Trump lost, then Rep.Daudt could say it was because he wasn’t a “true conservative”. Now that Trump has won, Rep. Daudt is quite happy to occupy the same roost with him.

  6. Submitted by Merrill Anderson on 11/14/2016 - 06:40 pm.

    Kurt Daudt Danced Awaky From a Larger Victory

    Kurt Dauldt’s political dance in re Donald Trump’s campaign does not impress me as an indication of leadership quality. Had he been half a man in terms of supporting his party’s nominee and provided the back up normally provided to the top of the ticket, there might have been a Trump majority in Minnesota which would also have carried in Stewart Mills instead of us suffering another term with Rick Nolan in Congress. I strongly support Trump…..Here is my reasoning as stated on my Merrill Anderson for Governor of Minnesota FaceBook campaign page:


    After a few years of my posting criticisms of Hillary Clinton, her geopolitical escapades and domestic #scandals, you may have gathered I am not especially fond of her, or of the prospect that she might further damage America from her perch in the Oval Office, should she become POTUS.

    I’m endorsing Donald Trump as September 11th brings thoughts of Hillary’s ties with the Saudis, whose leadership had deep connections with those who took the Towers down

    A good 20% of Democrat Presidential Campaign funds for Hillary have come from the Saudis. That gives them a degree of control over American affairs I find intolerable.

    I believe Trump to be a loyal American and he has shown true concern for the people…..He has demonstrated a remarkable capacity to absorb and quickly apply political niceties ….Marking a very effective learning curve since stepping forward as a candidate.

    Of course, one would expect that from someone who has built and maintained a large, independent business empire. That, in itself, teaches you a great deal about governing and negotiating.

    He has also demonstrated his understanding of the need for a well equipped, well trained and motivated ready defense force and further, his genuine empathy for the plight our veterans.

    I particularly like his aggressiveness in his developing dialogue with the residents of inner city areas…..the only people capable of solving core city problems…..if certain legal and financial shackles are removed.

    His best recommendation is the fear he inspires in the old guard elite who’ve gotten us into our current geopolitical and domestic messes with their goofy attachment to globalist causes at American expense.

    We have news today that Mexico is housing, guiding and assisting #Somali #Refugees who didn’t qualify ( because they have #terrorist leanings or history, do you think? ) for the regular refugee program…..AND helping them cross over illegally into the United States.

    WAY past time to build a barrier on that broken border!

    Join me in advocating and voting for the election of the Trump ticket.

  7. Submitted by Joel Stegner on 11/15/2016 - 09:06 am.

    Republican spin

    Is this article news, opinion or propaganda? Having a former Republican operative justify the flip flop of a Republican leader on the highly radioactive Donald Trump seems to be verging on the later. One clear thing from this election is that no voter wants some expert to tell them how to think. I am part of the majority of Americans who considers Trump unfit to be President. Contrary to the spin, Trump did not win the national vote and had no divine mandate to rule. He has really done nothing since the election to change anyone’s opinion of him. Republicans who said he was unfit really cannot say “never mind” when their only motivation is to stay in good graces with people find Trump’s behavior acceptable, or in the case of racist whites, admirable.

  8. Submitted by Bob Petersen on 11/15/2016 - 01:11 pm.

    National Vote

    Um, Trump did win the national vote.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 11/15/2016 - 03:03 pm.

      Yes and No

      Trump won in the Electoral College, but Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. Reports that Trump won the popular vote come from a sketchy blog called 70News.

      70News claims that absentee ballots are counted last, and only if they could affect the outcome (total nonsense). They also claim that they have proof that 3 million illegals voted. How’s that for a reliable source?

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