Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) said Friday that she was not yet supporting Donald Trump’s presidential bid, although the business mogul has cleared a path to the Republican nomination.
“I can’t support Hillary Clinton, and I won’t be, but Donald Trump needs to earn the votes of me and many others,” she said between events at George Mason University in Manassas. Her words echo those of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), who said Thursday that he is not ready to back Trump.
Comstock represents the increasingly diverse Northern Virginia suburbs and exurbs where Trump is generally not popular. This fall she faces a challenge to her House seat from real estate business owner LuAnn Bennett, a Democrat who hopes to tie the congresswoman to her party’s presidential nominee.
“The truth is that Barbara Comstock and Donald Trump share an agenda that’s out of touch with Northern Virginia and they’ll share the Trump/Comstock ticket come November,” said Adam Zuckerman, Bennett’s campaign manager. “There’s no wordsmithing Barbara Comstock can do to get around that.”
Comstock said there were clear differences between her and Trump.
“I can’t defend — I won’t defend a lot of the things he’s said,” she said, referring to Trump’s comments about women, prisoners of war and the disabled. She has previously said that Trump “doesn’t know anything about the economy” and called his plan to bar Muslims from the United States “idiotic.”
But she would not say what in particular Trump needed to do to win her vote, just that she’s “watching” as he transitions from a primary to a general election candidate.
Comstock will not be watching in person as Trump takes that step; she does not plan to attend the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this summer. In 2012, she was a co-chair of the convention that nominated Mitt Romney and gave a speech touting his candidacy.
This year, she said, she’s focused on her own reelection to the House.
Friday morning, the Republican Party of Virginia briefly posted a message on Facebook saying it “borders on treason” to not support Trump over Clinton. The message was later deleted with an apology from Chairman John Whitbeck, who blamed a volunteer.
But Whitbeck himself has encouraged Republicans to fall in line, saying not voting “is a vote for Clinton.”