Even as Donald Trump was wrapping up the final states in the 2016 GOP primary race on Tuesday, Republicans in the Congress were openly grumbling about their party’s presumptive nominee for President, though most were not ready to rescind their endorsements over Trump’s recent attacks on a federal judge.
“I was very disappointed he said it,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) of Trump’s charge that a Mexican heritage had led federal judge Gonzalo Curiel to rule against Trump in a case on Trump University.
“It was very damaging,” Inhofe added.
Other GOP Senators echoed that in the halls of Capitol Hill.
“I don’t think they were well advised comments, and I completely disagree with them,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC).
“It’s out of line I think,” said Sen. David Perdue (R-GA). “I hope he’ll clean that up.”
But other than Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois – who is in a difficult re-election race – all those GOP critics have stayed on board with Trump, even though he is clearly giving them a very bad case of Election Heartburn.
As for Kirk, he made the biggest splash by pulling back his endorsement of Trump, setting off talk that maybe other Republicans might follow.
“After much consideration, I have concluded that Donald Trump has not demonstrated the temperament necessary to assume the greatest office in the world,” Kirk said.
Across the Capitol, GOP House members also expressed concern, as Speaker Paul Ryan all but said that Trump had made racist comments about Judge Curiel.
“Claiming a person can’t do their job because of their race is sort of like a textbook definition of a racist comment,” Ryan said to reporters.
But the Speaker also made clear that he was not going to dump Trump and embrace Hillary Clinton.
“When a legal outcome doesn’t suit you, personal attacks against the presiding judge are not the answer,” said Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN), another GOP lawmaker gritting their teeth about Trump.
By the end of the evening, Trump was on TV, giving a speech from a teleprompter, and not ad-libbing any attacks against the judge.
But while the head of the national party might have liked what he saw on TV, for a lot of other Republicans here in D.C., their likely nominee still stokes fear in their hearts.
“I will never let you down,” Trump said.