HELENA –Montana’s top Republicans say they’ll be supporting Donald Trump for president – although perhaps not with great enthusiasm.
But at least two of them told MTN News they’re adamant about one thing: Defeating Hillary Clinton in the presidential race.
“Donald Trump was not my first choice, he was not my second choice, but I’m going to do all I can to make sure that Hillary Clinton is not elected the next president of the United States,” said U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont.
U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke, Montana’s lone congressman, made similar remarks, saying he would never support Clinton and her “anti-coal, anti-gun, anti-military policies.”
Yet Zinke also said he’ll be “looking carefully” at who Trump hires as advisers – while saying he’ll support whoever wins the Republican nomination for president.
Trump hasn’t secured the GOP nomination yet, but the head of the Republican National Committee has called him the “presumptive nominee” and Trump’s two other main rivals, Ted Cruz and John Kasich, dropped out of the race last week.
Greg Gianforte, the leading GOP candidate to challenge Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock this year, said only that he’ll back the Republican nominee for president, “whoever that ends up being.”
State Rep. Jeff Essmann of Billings, the chairman of the Montana Republican Party, said Trump wasn’t his first choice, either, but that he expects Trump will do well in Montana, because of his populist stance on many issues.
Essmann said he thinks Montana voters will focus on two basic questions in the presidential race: Which candidate will be the best for building the economy and creating good-paying jobs and which will provide for a secure America.
“I think, based on those two questions, I expect Montana to strongly support Donald Trump, if he’s our nominee,” he told MTN News.
Montana’s primary election is June 7. Under state party rules, the winner of the GOP presidential preference primary in Montana wins all 27 delegates to the Republican National Convention.
If no one wins on the first ballot at the convention, Montana’s delegates can vote for whoever they choose. Delegates will be chosen at a state party convention this Saturday in Billings.
Reporter: Mike Dennison