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16 Candidates Pledged To Support The GOP Nominee. Here’s Where They Are Now.

Donald Trump’s latest temper tantrum is here. The presumptive Republican nominee is furious that some former presidential hopefuls who signed a “loyalty pledge” have not stuck to their promise. He called them “sore losers.”

“They signed a pledge saying they will abide, saying they will back the candidate of the party,” Trump lamented on Wednesday, “They broke their word. In my opinion, they should never be allowed to run for public office again because what they did is disgraceful.”

The RNC pushed a party loyalty pledge after Trump was the only GOP candidate to refuse to rule out an independent presidential bid during the first debate last August. At the time, he wasn’t considered a serious contender for president, but the party was worried an independent bid by Trump would “spoil” the race for the eventual, serious nominee. Oh, how times have changed.

By September, Trump had given in. “The best way for the Republicans to win is if I win the nomination and go directly against whoever they happen to put up. And for that reason, I have signed the pledge,” he said at the time.

The pledge reads: “I, ________, affirm that if I do not win the 2016 Republican nomination for President of the United States I will endorse the 2016 Republican presidential nominee regardless of who it is.”

The pledge continues: “I further pledge that I will not seek to run as an independent or write-in candidate nor will I seek or accept the nomination for president of any other party.”

Since then, nearly everyone who signed the pledge has shown some sign of regretting it. Trump himself backed off his promise to support whomever the GOP nominee was back in March.

During a CNN town hall with the remaining three GOP nominees at the time, all of them backed away from the pledge.

“All of us shouldn’t even have answered that question,” Kasich said when asked if he would still support the GOP nominee.

Cruz said he was not “in the habit of supporting someone who attacks my wife and my family,” before adding that nominating “nominating Donald Trump would be an absolute trainwreck, I think it would hand the general election to Hillary Clinton.”

Trump used Cruz’s answer to support his own, saying he was treated ” very unfairly” by the RNC, and that Cruz had “essentially” said the same thing when asked about the pledge.

So where do the former GOP presidential hopefuls who signed the Pledge stand on supporting Trump? Out of 16, only three are vocally holding out on endorsements.

John Kasich – No endorsement, will not vote for Trump

The Ohio governor has called his decision to violate the pledge “painful.”

“I’m sorry this has happened. We’ll see where it ends up. I’m not making a final decision yet but at this point I just can’t do it,” Kasich said in early June when asked if he would vote for Trump.

“The divisiveness, the division, the name calling — it just doesn’t go down well with me,” Kasich said, before adding that he was open to changing his mind if Trump toned town his campaign rhetoric.

Kasich has not yet said whether he will attend the RNC convention in his home state of Ohio.

According to the New York Times, “Mr. Kasich’s spokesman said the governor plans to be ‘in and around’ Cleveland that week. But he has no plans to be involved in anything that has to do with Mr. Trump. Instead, he will attend ‘events focusing on keeping the Republican majorities in Congress and winning races down ballot,’ Mr. Schrimpf said.”

Ted Cruz – No endorsement, mostly silence

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Trump stands between rivals Rubio and Cruz before the start of the Fox Business Network Republican presidential candidates debate in North Charleston

The Texas senator and runner-up to Trump has not endorsed him for president. Cruz has remained pretty quiet on the subject since pulling out of the race after losing Indiana.

Jeb Bush – No Endorsement, will not vote for Trump.

The former Florida governor announced on a Facebook post that he will abstain from voting in the presidential elections next November, as well as from attending the Convention in July.

“In November, I will not vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, but I will support principled conservatives at the state and federal levels, just as I have done my entire life,” his statement read.

Chris Christie – Endorsement

Christie was one of the first to jump on the Trump bandwagon.

“I will lend my support between now and November in any way for Donald,” he told reporters back in February soon after dropping out of the race.

Since then, he has campaigned for Donald Trump, and many political watchers think he would have a sure spot in a hypothetical Trump administration.

Carly Fiorina – No endorsement, mostly silence

Republican presidential candidate and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina speaks during the second official Republican presidential candidates debate of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley

Fiorina was selected as Ted Cruz’s running mate after she ended her campaign, and just days before he ended his.

Sources close to Fiorina told the Washington Examiner that she would not help Trump’s candidacy, but she has not been a vocal critic of Trump after dropping out. She has, however, continued to express disdain for democratic presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton.

“Hillary Clinton can’t run on her record: a quarter-century of failure, incompetence and corruption. The only way she can win is by playing the gender card,” she wrote on June 8.

In May she called for GOP unity at a speech in Connecticut, but did not mention Trump.

Jim Gilmore — Endorsement

Glimore said he will vote for Trump in a May appearance on Fox Business, and encouraged his supporters (both of them) to rally behind the GOP presumptive nominee.

Lindsey Graham — No endorsement, will not vote for Trump

The South Carolina senator told CNN that Republican party has been “conned” and that he will not be voting for either Clinton or Trump in the coming election and will not be attending the Republican convention in July. “This is the most un-American thing from a politician since Joe McCarthy,” Graham said of Trump. “If anybody was looking for an off-ramp, this is probably it. There’ll come a time when the love of country will trump hatred of Hillary.”

Ben Carson – Endorsement

The retired neurosurgeon has been an active campaigner for Trump. Like Christie, he stood next to Trump to announce his endorsement.

Mike Huckabee — Endorsement

“I am all in for @realDonaldTrump and urge all the GOP to unite and win back the White House,” Huckabee tweeted in May. Since then, Huckabee has kept his word and campaigned for Trump.

Bobby Jindal – Endorsement

The Louisiana Gov. has said he will back Trump because he wants to defeat Hillary Clinton. He wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal titled “I’m Voting Trump, Warts and All,” where he explained that although he does not share some policy views with Trump, he is the best option to defeat Hillary Clinton.

George Pataki — No endorsement

Republican U.S. presidential candidate former New York Governor George Pataki delivers his opening statement during a forum for lower polling candidates held prior to the Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas

The former New York governor has not yet endorsed Trump, but he seems open to it, saying in late May that  he’s waiting to hear more “thoughtful positions.”

‘He has yet to articulate a very strong policy towards how he’s going to keep America safe and go after radical Islam,’ Pataki added.

Rand Paul – No Endorsement, but will honor pledge

“You know, I’ve always said I will endorse the nominee,” Paul said in May. “I think it’s almost a patriotic duty of anyone in Kentucky to oppose the Clintons, because I think they’re rotten to the core, I think they’re dishonest people, and ultimately I think we have to be concerned with what’s best for Kentucky.”

Rick Perry — Full endorsement

Back in May, the former Texas governor told CNN he would support Trump as the GOP nominee and do anything he could to help him.

“He is not a perfect man. But what I do believe is that he loves this country and he will surround himself with capable, experienced people and he will listen to them,” Perry said at the time.

Marco Rubio – Sort-of endorsement

During a May CNN interview, Rubio reluctantly said he would work with Trump in order to defeat Clinton, and even said he was willing to speak on Trump’s behalf at the Convention in July. He has since re-entered the race to stay in the U.S. Senate, partially on a platform of checking Trump, should the presumptive nominee win the presidency.

Rick Santorum — Full endorsement

After supporting Rubio’s run when his own bid fell, Santorum endorsed Trump in late May.

Scott Walker — No endorsement

The Wisconsin governor recently told a local Fox affiliate that he’s no sure he will speak at the Convention, not that Trump has invited him.

“It all depends on what the parameters are,” he said, “If I can talk about my concerns about Hillary Clinton, then I’ll probably talk about that.”

America, Don’t Count On Florida To Stop Donald Trump

Once again, Florida has been handed a star role in America’s presidential contest, an unsettling turn of events if you care about the future of the republic.

Here in the Sunshine State, we’re still struggling to recover from the humiliating Bush-Gore fiasco of 2000. Now a nervous establishment is beseeching Florida Republicans to rise up and smite Donald J. Trump in the March 15 primary.

To which we say: Don’t lay this whole thing on us! Are you nuts?

We are the state that elected Rick Scott as governor, for God’s sake, knowing that a hospital company he ran had been socked with the biggest fine for Medicare fraud in the history of Medicare.

The man took the Fifth Amendment 75 times in one civil deposition, but did we give a rat’s ass? Nah. We elected him anyway.

And now you’re asking us to derail The Donald just because he’s vile, dishonest, inconsistent, staggeringly ignorant about foreign policy and dangerously unprepared to be commander-in-chief.

To which we say: Is that all you got?

The anti-Trump forces within the GOP are well aware that the bar of bad behavior is unusually high in Florida. Numbed by generations of public corruption and deceit, voters here aren’t easily mortified.

Yet initially polls indicated that the recent torrent of negative ads might have cut into Trump’s lead. Commercials featuring ordinary folks who got fleeced by “Trump University” seemed to have touched a nerve even with scandal-jaded Floridians.

Local favorite Marco Rubio had pulled within single digits of Trump, promising a tide-turning showdown on Tuesday. Establishment Republicans passed the word that Florida could be the beginning of the end for the Trump juggernaut!

Dream on.

All hope is invested in Rubio, whose showing in other major primaries can gently be described as lame. The strategy of trading anatomical insults with Trump vaporized the meager gravitas that Rubio had, to the benefit of scary Ted Cruz.

No matter which TV network you watch, all the pundits say Rubio’s wheezing candidacy is dead if he can’t win his home-state primary.

He’ll need a miracle. The most recent Quinnipiac poll shows Trump stomping Florida’s junior senator by 23 points.

To which we say: Don’t blame us. It’s the same weirdness all over the country.

Trump portrays his slice of the Republican electorate as rabid and unshakeable, but every voter has a gag reflex. The challenge for Trump’s enemies is to find an advertising formula that nauseates enough of his followers before the primary.

There’s no shortage of material, but so far the impact is minimal.

One of the commercials now running in the Panhandle and other markets is a profanity highlights reel, a bleep-fest of Trump expletives from his public appearances, including his use of the term mother——.

This would destroy the campaigns of most conservative candidates, offending not just evangelical Christians but many voters who still believe a president should behave with dignity.

But do enough Floridians really care that Trump cusses like Tony Soprano in front of women and children, or is it just one more vulgar trait that his followers are happy to overlook?

The contest between Trump and Rubio might get closer in the final days.

In a halfway normal swing state, you could bank on it.

But we must come back, as always, to Florida’s freak factor. There’s no such thing as normal here. There are only varying shades of abnormal.

Every four years since Bush-Gore, Floridians silently offer a collective prayer that goes something like this:

“Please, God, don’t let us be the ones to decide who wins the presidency. Let us vote quietly, without controversy, and have no impact whatsoever on the national election. Please, God, let it be Ohio or some other state that screws it up this time.”

Yet here we are, once again saddled with way too much political responsibility. In 16 years the debate has descended from dangling chads to the dangling attributes of the candidates.

How ironic that so many people have turned to Florida, with its scruffy history of con artists and suckers, to save the nation from the Big Orange Trumpster.

If Republican voters award the state’s 99 delegates to Rubio, we are told, it sets the table for a brokered convention where responsible grownups might prevail.

To which we say: Don’t count on us, America!

Get a Plan B, fast.

(Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Readers may write to him at: 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132.)

(c) 2016, The Miami Herald Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Susan Wantz of Boca Raton, Florida, sits as she argues with Patricia Lobracco, a supporter of  U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump before Trump’s scheduled campaign rally at the Sunset Cove Amphitheater in Boca Raton, Florida, March 13, 2016. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

Debate Fallout: Even Conservatives Are Appalled By Republican Mendacity

For people who so often accuse Hillary Clinton of lying, the Republican presidential candidates seem to feel perfectly free to bend, twist, and shred the truth at will. Unsurprisingly, that is just what several of them were caught doing in their free-for-all CNBC debate. They prevaricated about themselves, their policies, and their opponents, without blinking an eye – and for the most part, they got away with it.

Do nice people tell self-serving lies? Perhaps they do, because it was terribly nice Ben Carson who uttered one of the most blatant whoppers of the evening.

To loud booing from the partisan audience, moderator Carl Quintanilla asked the soft-spoken neurosurgeon about his long and lucrative involvement with Mannatech, a nutritional supplement manufacturer that has been cited for false health claims for its “glyconutrients.” (How bad was Mannatech? Bad enough to provoke a fraud action brought by Greg Abbott, the former Texas attorney general who is now that state’s very conservative governor.)

“I didn’t have an involvement with [Mannatech],” retorted Carson. “That is total propaganda, and this is what happens in our society. Total propaganda.”

What Carson’s noisy fans probably didn’t know is that this was no “liberal media” setup. The doctor’s decade-long relationship with Mannatech – which turns out to have included a written contract, paid speeches, and a video endorsement on the company’s website – was exposed last year by Jim Geraghty of National Review, the flagship publication of American conservatism. Following the debate, Geraghty slammed Carson for “bald-faced lies” and “blatantly lying” about his relationship with the supplement firm.

Equally mendacious about his own personal history was Marco Rubio, who “won” the debate according to many observers. When Becky Quick of CNBC asked a predictable question about his checked financial affairs, which have included foreclosures, liquidations, phony expense accounts, and other embarrassments, the senator from Florida shot back: “You just listed a litany of discredited attacks from Democrats and my political opponents, and I’m not gonna waste 60 seconds detailing them all.”

Discredited attacks? Actually, Quick’s question was premised on facts that are not in dispute – as even Rubio himself acknowledged in his own campaign book. So frontally deceptive was his response that an outraged Joe Scarborough, his fellow Florida Republican, called him out on MSNBC’s Morning Joe the next day.

“Marco just flat-out lied to the American people there,” Scarborough complained. “And I was stunned that the moderators didn’t stop there and go, ‘Wait a second, these are court records. What are you talking about?…Becky was telling the truth, Marco was lying. And yet everybody’s going, ‘Oh, Marco was great.’ No, Marco lied about his financials.” Not incidentally, Rubio also lied about the effects of his tax plan, claiming his tax cuts would mostly benefit lower-income families when in fact its biggest benefits would accrue to the top one percent, as Republican tax schemes almost always do.

Another brand of lie was pronounced by Carly Fiorina, who drew attention at the last GOP debate by insisting she had watched a grisly Planned Parenthood video that doesn’t exist. This time, she reached back to the 2012 Republican campaign to invent a factoid about women’s employment.

Fiorina tries to sell herself as the candidate tough enough to take down Clinton, and tries to prove it by making stuff up. At this debate, she huffed:

It is the height of hypocrisy for Mrs. Clinton to talk about being the first woman president, when every single policy she espouses and every single policy of President Obama has been demonstratively bad for women. Ninety-two percent of the jobs lost during Barack Obama’s first term belonged to women.

But as PolitiFact quickly established, that statement was false in every particular. Not only did women not lose “92 percent” of the jobs in Obama’s first term, the number of women employed during the period from January 2009 to January 2013 grew by 416,000. Naturally, as she did with Planned Parenthood, Fiorina angrily repeated the lie when challenged.

Fiorina isn’t the only Republican who doesn’t like being exposed. Rubio ridiculously claimed that the “mainstream media” is really a Democratic SuperPAC. And now RNC chair Reince Priebus has reneged on the party’s debate agreement with NBC News. He and his candidates just couldn’t handle two hours of sharp but thoroughly polite questioning.

They constantly insult Clinton, but how would any of these slippery blowhards survive something like the 11-hour Benghazi grilling she breezed through on Capitol Hill? If you want to understand who they are, just listen to them whine.

Photo: Republican U.S. presidential candidates (L-R) former Governor Jeb Bush, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, businessman Donald Trump, Dr. Ben Carson, former HP CEO Carly Fiorina and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, pose before the start of  the 2016 U.S. Republican presidential candidates debate held by CNBC in Boulder, Colorado, October 28, 2015. REUTERS/Rick Wilking 

Drowning In Weak Polling, How Long Can Lindsey Graham Stay In 2016 Race?

By Matthew Fleming, CQ-Roll Call (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Sen. Lindsey Graham’s presidential campaign has had a tough time getting traction so far, and a new Quinnipiac University poll keeps him in the conversation about who might be the first of the 17 Republican presidential candidates to fold.

But do his low poll numbers suggest the end is near?

The poll released Thursday showed nothing new: The South Carolina Republican has been unable to differentiate himself from other candidates in any way. But the national poll — which says that 13 percent of Republican or leans-Republican voters said they’d never vote for him and zero percent said they would vote for him — shows that things are not improving.

Even “someone else” polled at 1 percent (cue the joke about how hard it would be to find someone else who isn’t already in the race). The highest Graham polled nationally was at 2 percent, according to Real Clear Politics.

In Graham’s home state, he’s polling at 5 percent, and in New Hampshire, where he hoped to get a bump from the prior success of his buddy, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Graham is polling only at 1 percent, according to Real Clear Politics averages.

And his campaign, centered on hawkish defense positions, has now largely devolved into a sideshow of Graham vs. GOP front-runner Donald Trump.

A few days ago on CNN, the South Carolina Republican said about the current GOP front-runner Trump: “Come to South Carolina and I’ll beat his brains out.” But Trump’s 26-point advantage there would suggest otherwise.

So why hasn’t Graham dropped out? His campaign argues that polling this early could be unreliable.

“Polling taken this early rarely reflects the final outcome of the election,” Graham spokeswoman Brittany Bramell said in a statement. “Senator Graham is focused on outlining real solutions to the issues facing voters and describing how to best secure our nation against radical Islamic terrorism, not polls.”

Another explanation is that the benefits outweigh the cost, as long as there’s still money in the campaign coffers.

“I don’t see any reason, if you have some resources, not to stay in the race and hope that at least there will be some debates where you can get your message across or other venues where you can make that happen,” said Norman J. Ornstein, a political scientist with the American Enterprise Institute. “You have nothing to lose.”

Graham has always been a frequent guest on talk shows, but nothing can compete with the exposure provided by a presidential campaign, particularly if someone has views they want to share.

“When you are an announced candidate for president, you hope that you’re going to get on the debate stages so you can make your points,” said Ornstein.

But that’s a chicken-or-the-egg problem for Graham. Without improved polling, he won’t be able to get a seat, or lectern, at the top-tier debates. But without the exposure that comes from those events, his polling is unlikely to improve.

Graham’s two main points are his aggressive foreign policy views — such as supporting heavy deployment of troops in the Middle East and a bitter disdain for the Iran nuclear deal before Congress at the moment — and a desire to lead on other issues, like climate change and immigration.

“If he had that debate stage, you would see a Lindsey Graham who would not be calculating what he could do to win more primary voters, but basically, as he would see it, speaking truth to power,” Ornstein said. “And that could be on issues like immigration and climate change.

Trump’s unexpected dominance of the primary field so far has left other candidates with little room to do anything but chase and react. But of the 2016 Republican candidates, Graham has become one of the most vocal foes of Trump, who many see as negative for the Republican Party in general due to his controversial views and or comments on immigration and women.

“He’s just trying to punch through, which any candidate would try to do in his position,” said Ron Bonjean, a Republican strategist who served as spokesman for both a former speaker of the House and Senate majority leader. “He does get some media attention. What he needs is consistency in that attention, over time, and that’s what Trump is preventing from happening.”

Ornstein predicts that Graham will stay through at least the first few primaries. There’s the possibility that poor performances in South Carolina could “damage” his standing back in Washington.

But excluding that, there’s probably little to lose in an election season that has upended conventional wisdom at every turn.

“The more candidates there are, the less reason you have as an individual to drop out,” Ornstein said. “You can imagine mainstream candidates splitting up a bunch of votes where you could gain some traction. Maybe you get some delegates. Maybe you have some role at a convention. I think the usual winnowing out process doesn’t necessarily work this time, at least work in the same way.”

Photo: Republican U.S. presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham participates in the Voters First Presidential Forum in Manchester, New Hampshire August 3, 2015. REUTERS/Brian Snyder