BOSTON (AP) — In March, Gov. Charlie Baker became the first Republican governor to publicly break from Donald Trump, saying he could never vote for the New York businessman, who had yet to wrap up the GOP nomination for president.
With each passing week — and each passing controversy — Baker’s decision to bail on Trump has seemed increasingly prescient. At the time, however, it could have been a risky move.
Baker’s declaration came the day after Trump won his biggest victory at that point in the primary season in Massachusetts — and Baker could be seen as turning his back on core Republican voters in a state that leans heavily Democratic.
“I said I wasn’t going to vote for Trump (on Tuesday), and I’m not going to vote for him in November,” Baker told a group of reporters just hours after Trump had collected nearly 50 percent of the Bay State GOP primary vote.
At the time, Baker said he had concerns about Trump’s temperament, a concern he would repeat and which has become a central theme to Democrat Hillary Clinton’s critique of her opponent.
“I’m a big tent Republican. I’ve supported a lot of different folks with a lot of different points of view,” Baker said in May. “But as I have said from the beginning of this race I have some concerns about Mr. Trump’s temperament and some of the things he has said about women and about Muslims and about religious freedom that I just can’t support.”
Baker also said he wanted to focus on his day job as governor, although he briefly endorsed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — another Republican in a largely Democratic state — just ahead of the New Hampshire primary.
After a disappointing finish, Christie dropped out and endorsed Trump, much to Baker’s surprise.
Since then, Baker has taken a pass on presidential politics to focus on down-ticket races and ballot questions — including a proposal he supports aimed at expanding the number of charter schools in the state. He doesn’t face re-election until 2018. Still, his decision to dump Trump early on hasn’t hurt his standing in the state. Polls have shown Baker among the most popular governors in the country.
But not everyone thinks Baker has gone far enough, including Democratic U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has said Baker needs to more fully disavow Trump. Warren has been a fierce critic of Trump.
On Thursday, Baker again said he couldn’t vote for Trump or Clinton.
“I’ve made very clear for a very long time that he was not going to get my vote for president,” Baker told reporters. “I find a lot of what he says to be not only inappropriate but outrageous and disgusting.”
Baker added that he could not vote for Clinton either.
“Secretary Clinton in my view has believability problems,” he said.
Because of his early stance, Baker has largely skated above the national fray while top Republicans in other states have had to duck and weave when pressed on some of Trump’s most contentious statements.
Baker need only look north for an object lesson in the political heartburn Trump can produce in Republican candidates.
After months of saying she would vote for Trump but not “endorse” him — incumbent New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte rescinded her support for Donald Trump following the recent revelation of lewd and sexually charged comments he made about women.
In the tape of a 2005 conversation, Trump is heard making vulgar, predatory comments about women, including boasting about how he can kiss, grab and “do anything” with women because he is famous.
Ayotte, trying to fend off a challenge from Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, said she’d instead write in Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, for the presidency. The New Hampshire race is seen as one of a handful that could help determine which party controls the U.S. Senate.
Ayotte wasn’t alone. Other top Republicans have raced to distance themselves from Trump. Some — like the party’s 2008 presidential nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain — have gone as far as Ayotte to revoke their support from their party’s nominee.
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