Republicans divided as Trump ignites new tensions

ASSOCIATED PRESS
COLORADO SPRINGS
Published 03.08.2016 22:35
Updated 03.08.2016 22:38

As Republican loyalists continue to flee, Donald Trump has ignited new party tensions by refusing to endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan or Arizona Sen. John McCain, a remarkable display of party division just three months before Election Day. The Republican presidential nominee told The Washington Post Tuesday that he's "just not quite there yet," when asked about an endorsement of Ryan, who faces a primary election next week. In doing so, he echoed the House speaker's comments of almost three months earlier, when the Wisconsin congressman was initially reluctant to embrace Trump as his party's standard bearer.

Trump's statement comes amid intense fallout over his criticism of the family of the late Capt. Humayun Khan, a U.S. Army soldier who died in Iraq in 2004. Indeed, just two weeks after a Republican National Convention that tried to focus on party unity, the Trump-driven rifts inside the GOP appear to be intensifying. On Tuesday, retiring New York Rep. Richard Hanna became the first Republican member of Congress to say he will vote for Democrat Hillary Clinton in November instead of Trump. Later Tuesday, Hewlett-Packard executive Meg Whitman — a prominent Republican fundraiser — threw her support behind Clinton, saying, "Donald Trump's demagoguery has undermined the fabric of our national character." They join dozens of high-profile GOP leaders who have previously said they would not vote for Trump, including the party's 2012 nominee, Mitt Romney, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. A day earlier, Sally Bradshaw, an architect of the Republican National Committee's 2013 "Growth and Opportunity" report, said she's leaving the GOP.

While not a household name, her decision to leave the party rocked those who make politics their profession. Veterans and families of fallen soldiers continue to call on Trump to apologize for his treatment of the Khan family, who spoke out against Trump at last week's Democratic National Convention. Trump invited more tension Tuesday when he told The Washington Post he's not ready to endorse Ryan in next week's Republican primary contest against Paul Nehlen, praising the underdog for running "a very good campaign."

In the Post interview, Trump also declined to support McCain's re-election and dismissed New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte as weak. Both had been among Trump's harshest critics in the wake of his comments about the Khan family, particular McCain, a former prisoner of war who said Trump did not have "unfettered license to defame those who are the best among us." Christie, the New Jersey governor, continues to be one of Trump's biggest supporters. But Comella, his former aide, said the very survival of the party depends on stopping the celebrity businessman. "Instead of speaking out against instances of bigotry, racism and inflammatory rhetoric, whether it's been against women, immigrants or Muslims, we made a calculus that it was better to say nothing at all in the interest of politics and winning elections," she told CNN.

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