WASHINGTON – It seems that GOP presidential nominee Donald J. Trump has very few comrades among Republicans in Minnesota.
Two weeks after a 2005 video surfaced of Trump making lewd remarks about groping women, Republicans across the country largely joined forces in denouncing the comments, with several going as far as withdrawing their support.
Rep. Erik Paulsen, who has barely granted interviews on the topic, confirmed Friday he was probably going to write in Florida Sen. Marco Rubio for president on his ballot. Outgoing Rep. John Kline has declined interviews on the candidate, though he did call the video “offensive and disgusting.” State GOP Chairman Keith Downey hasn’t wanted to weigh in on Trump either, saying he prefers to focus on statewide races.
Then there’s GOP Rep. Tom Emmer, who this past week was still loyally standing by the Trump ticket, issuing a statement after the final debate: “Mr. Trump proved he is the better choice on voters’ top issues like growing the economy, defending America, securing the border, reducing the cost of health care and putting American jobs first.”
Emmer was also the only Minnesota federal officeholder to attend the Republican National Convention. He has said he believes in supporting the party nominee and, more important, believes that if 14 million primary voters supported Trump, he should too.
Emmer has openly criticized Trump when he felt like it was needed. He called the video comments “indefensible” and usually notes in interviews that just because he is voting for someone doesn’t mean he agrees with everything the candidate has said.
Nationally, Emmer is in the minority among GOP officeholders.
Most political forecasters, particularly now, view Trump as a liability on the ticket. They say he will either depress voter turnout or turn independents off from voting for other Republicans down the ballot.
But in two of Minnesota’s congressional districts, that is not likely the case: Emmer’s district and Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan’s district up in the northeastern part of the state, where there is a larger proportion of older, white, non-college-educated men — the demographic most likely to support Trump, according to polls. Emmer’s predecessor, of course, is former Rep. Michele Bachmann, a staunch supporter of Trump who serves on his campaign as part of his Evangelical Advisory Board.
Republican Stewart Mills, who is trying to unseat Nolan, has also said he supports Trump and plans to vote for him. He condemned the video comments, calling them “crude and vulgar.”
Mills said recent Trump headlines may mean his campaign has to work harder — even in his part of the state — to turn out Republican base voters.
“Donald Trump continues to do well, so there is an asset at the top of the ticket to me,” he said. “Clinton is still unbelieved and distrusted and she is an anchor around Congressman Nolan’s neck.”