Elections

Miami Republicans in Congress struggle to accept Donald Trump as presumptive nominee

Rep. Carlos Curbelo speaks at a February press conference endorsing Marco Rubio for president. He was joined, among others, by fellow Miami Republican Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
Rep. Carlos Curbelo speaks at a February press conference endorsing Marco Rubio for president. He was joined, among others, by fellow Miami Republican Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. emichot@miamiherald.com

In the only county Donald Trump lost in the Florida primary, three Republican members of Congress are having trouble accepting him as their party’s presumptive presidential nominee.

Two of them have said they won’t vote for him.

Miami Reps. Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen all endorsed Jeb Bush early in the campaign. As a group, they later backed Marco Rubio.

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Curbelo, a freshman in a swing district who last year posited that Trump might be a ringer for Democrat Hillary Clinton, said he won’t support either political party’s presidential pick. Clinton is still fending off challenger Bernie Sanders.

“My position has not changed,” Curbelo told the Miami Herald in an email Wednesday. “I have no plans of supporting either of the presumptive nominees.”

Ros-Lehtinen, the dean of the trio, has said much the same. Though her office did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday, the day after Ted Cruz dropped out of the GOP race, she told Spanish-language news network NTN24 two weeks ago that she was holding out hope for a contested GOP convention.

“I don’t plan to vote for Donald Trump,” she said. “I don’t feel in my heart that I could support him. But I can’t support Hillary Clinton.”

Diaz-Balart was more circumspect. Without mentioning Trump, he said in a statement to the Herald on Wednesday that he plans to back his party’s choice.

“My intention is to vote for the Republican nominee,” he said.

He also laid out a few conditions:

“Obviously, there are some basic Republican principles the nominee must adhere to: set forth an economic agenda that will revitalize our economy and provide robust resources for our military, provide unwavering support to America’s best allies, such as Israel, Great Britain, Taiwan and Poland, to name a few, confront our enemies and adversaries in places like Cuba, North Korea, and Iran, and support the opposition movements and heroic leaders within those countries.

“These are things that have to be addressed,” Diaz-Balart concluded, “but one thing is certain: I will never support or vote for Hillary Clinton.”

The three Republicans’ reluctance riled some voters who called into Spanish-language radio shows Thursday calling for GOP unity.

Later Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan said he wasn’t “ready” to support Trump. Coming from the country’s highest-ranking Republican, Ryan gave some cover to members of his caucus who harbor doubts about a Trump presidency.

“I think conservatives want to know does he share our values and our principles,” Ryan told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “There’s a lot of questions conservatives are going to want answers to.”

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