Republican senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska has announced that he would not support Donald Trump if the current frontrunner became the GOP nominee.
Just hours after fellow Republican senator Jeff Sessions became the first member of the upper chamber to endorse Trump, Sasse wrote on Facebook : “I cannot support Donald Trump… My current answer for who I would support in a hypothetical matchup between Mr Trump and Mrs Clinton is: neither of them. I sincerely hope we select one of the other GOP candidates, but if Donald Trump ends up as the GOP nominee, conservatives will need to find a third option.”
Sasse continued: “Given what we know about him today, here’s where I’m at: if Donald Trump becomes the Republican nominee, my expectation is that I will look for some third candidate – a conservative option, a constitutionalist.”
The freshman senator, who was elected in 2014 as a Tea Party insurgent, said Trump’s views were inconsistent with his understanding of conservatism.
“Conservatives understand that all men are created equal and made in the image of God, but also that government must be limited so that fallen men do not wield too much power,” wrote Sasse. “A presidential candidate who boasts about what he’ll do during his ‘reign’ and refuses to condemn the KKK cannot lead a conservative movement in America.”
The criticism from Sasse, a former college president with a PhD in philosophy from Yale, isn’t new. Before Iowa, Sasse spent several days in the state campaigning specifically against Trump. As he told the Guardian in January: “I am not endorsing anybody in race and being pro-constitution just makes me anti Trump.” However, it makes him by far the most prominent conservative to embrace the label “Never Trump,” encompassing those Republicans who refuse to ever support the real estate mogul if he is the party’s nominee.
The list includes at least one fellow member of Congress, Reid Ribble of Wisconsin, prominent conservatives like Erick Erickson, a prominent blogger and radio host, as well as the writers at the National Review, a leading conservative magazine, which devoted an entire issue to the case against Trump. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has privately outlined plans to allow Senate Republicans seeking re-election in 2016 to run negative ads against Trump if he is the GOP nominee.
Other Republican candidates for president like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have repeatedly insisted that they plan supporting the Republican nominee for president, regardless of who it is, despite their clear disdain for Trump. Rubio has repeatedly referred to Trump as “a con artist” on the trail in recent days and Cruz suggested Trump has ties to the Mafia in interviews on Sunday.
Trump currently leads in recent polls of almost all of the 12 states holding Republican primaries on 1 March or Super Tuesday. The only exception is Texas where Cruz currently is ahead.
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