With a tough re-election fight ahead of her, Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte is making the case for re-election in her traditionally Democratic-leaning home state of New Hampshire.
Unfortunately for her, that has meant answering some difficult questions about her support for Donald Trump, her party’s controversial presumptive presidential nominee.
Specifically, Ayotte on Sunday was forced to grapple with Trump’s latest transgression: Making racist remarks about a federal judge. Trump came under fire this week for saying a federal judge’s “Mexican heritage” should disqualify him from overseeing an ongoing fraud case against Trump University.
Asked how she felt about those remarks, Ayotte — generally considered a moderate among Republicans — slammed the presumptive nominee. “His comments are offensive and wrong, and he should retract them,” Ayotte said, according to local New Hampshire news station WMUR.
Ayotte, however, maintained that she’d still vote for Trump, despite his racism. From WMUR:
Sen. Kelly Ayotte said Sunday night that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s recent comments about a judge of Mexican heritage and Muslim judges are “offensive and wrong, and he should retract them.”
But Ayotte’s overall position on Trump has not changed. She still she plans to support the GOP presidential nominee, but as a candidate for re-election, she is not planning to endorse anyone for president.
Ayotte’s comments make her the latest vulnerable Republican senator to openly condemn Trump’s rhetoric, but refuse to withhold their support because of it.
Last week, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) — also facing a tough re-election battle in November — told the New York Times he worried that a theoretical President Trump would try to exceed his power under the Constitution. McCain said, however, that he would still vote for the candidate despite those concerns.
Other Republican lawmakers have also voiced support for Trump despite also raising concerns about what his presidency would mean. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) last week said he believed one of Trump’s most controversial policy proposals — a temporary ban on Muslim immigration to the U.S. — violates the Constitution. U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) each said they disagree with Trump’s racist comments about the federal judge. All three have said they will vote for Trump anyway.