Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, suggested Senate Republicans seeking reelection will likely distance themselves from their party's current front-runner, Donald Trump, if the business mogul becomes the nominee.
Trump stoked new controversy over the weekend, when he declined in a CNN interview to disavow former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, who endorsed the billionaire. Fellow presidential contender Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., continued to criticize Trump over the issue on Monday, ahead of the "Super Tuesday" primaries. Asked if there is some point that he would need to distance himself from Trump, Cornyn told reporters Monday evening, "If I'm running for re-election I think they'll — because it's the next race on the ballot, president, the Senate — you will find candidates who have to separate themselves from the party's nominee if somebody like him is the nominee."
Cornyn described the billionaire as a "lightning rod."
"I think what's so unusual here is he's done and said things that would disqualify any other normal candidate, and he's where he is," Cornyn told reporters. "I think we've got about two weeks and figure out if he is going to be the nominee. I don't think it's a foregone conclusion."
Cornyn said he does plan to support the Republican party's nominee, whoever it is. "I think if you don't support the party nominee, you're basically voting for Hillary Clinton, and I'm not going to do that."
He said it was "premature" at this point to assume Trump would be the nominee. He said voting for a third candidate, which Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., recently said he would do if Trump is the nominee, is not an option for him. "History hasn't been kind to third party candidates. I think it divides the vote."
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, one of the Republican incumbents considered vulnerable in November, said it was too soon to say what might happen, especially with Ohio Gov. John Kasich still in the race.
"I'm hoping the nominee is John Kasich, who I'm supporting," Portman said. "I still think Kasich could win. If he wins Michigan, he wins Ohio, he has a plan to be able start to pull ahead. And you know, we've only selected, what, 10 percent of the delegates? So I'm not one of these people who think it's all over."
But what if Trump wins the nomination?
"I mean, you know, I've said for a year now, I intend to support the Republican nominee,"Portman responded. "But I've also said, 'Unless something crazy happens.'"
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