Tennessee’s Republican officeholders are not endorsing Donald Trump, but some are offering favorable commentary about the billionaire presidential candidate who is leading national polls and who won a straw poll in Nashville after speaking the National Federation of Republican Assemblies on Saturday.
Examples of Tennessee GOP commentary on Trump from media reports last week:
“Donald Trump is doing so well in the polls, because he is speaking in a language that we all want to hear. Now, does he say some crazy things? Yes, he does. Will he be a crazy president? I think he would be. But he is speaking the language of people … who are fed up with the direction that we’re going,” said U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Frog Jump, at a Shelby County GOP gathering, as quoted by Jackson Baker.
At the same Republican Women’s Club gathering, state Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, said Trump has evoked some “rancor,” but he thinks that’s a good thing overall.
“He’s stirring up the status quo, and people want straight talk. They want to hear what we’re doing to address the issues that they care about,” Norris said. “Problematic as it may seem, good for Trump for doing this, getting people fired up. It’s fine. It’s fine. … Good for Trump. … Do we disagree sometimes? Heck yes, we disagree. And Trump would have it that way, too.”
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann told the Times-Free Press that voters see Trump as “a straight shooter.”
“He’s not dependent on donors and lobbyists,” said Fleischmann. “He’s saying things most conventional candidates don’t say.”
U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-South Pittsburgh, told the Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro that Trump “has been really interesting because he speaks with no political filter.”
“I think some people find that appealing because they are really tired of politicians promising things and not getting things done. That’s not an endorsement of Trump. I just think it should tell people that they want to hear true speak and not political speak,” DesJarlais said.
At the Saturday speech to the Republican Assemblies group in Nashville, Trump was introduced by U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Brentwood, who also made clear she wasn’t endorsing Trump, though praising him. She had introduced Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz previously at one of his presidential campaign visits to Tennessee.
Blackburn told Newsmax before the event that Trump has excited conservative voters because of his talk about issues.
“Trump has said, ‘Wait a minute, the national security issue is at the top of the heap. The Iran deal is a bad deal. China debt, it’s a bad deal. Having the anchor-baby issue continue, bad deal. Not securing our border, that’s a bad deal,’ ” Blackburn said.
In the NFRA straw poll, Trump was the choice of 52 percent of those voting, Newsmax said, getting 220 votes of 420 cast. Cruz finished second with 100 votes, followed by retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson with 46. Next in line were Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul with 15 votes and former Hewlett-Packard Co. CEO Carly Fiorina, with 11 votes.
Of the others on the 17-candidate straw ballot, the rest were either in single digits or got no votes at all.