The various stages of political grief associated with the race for President were again on display in the hallways of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, as Republicans of all stripes tried to figure out the best way to deal with Donald Trump’s rise to presumptive nominee of the GOP.
For some, the answer was obvious – Trump is a better choice than anything the Democrats can offer.
“Even if Donald Trump brings chaos to this party, that’s better than Hillary Clinton bringing destruction to this Constitution,” said Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ).
For others, the answer was also to support Trump, but with a different twist.
“He is clearly left of Hillary Clinton on foreign policy,” said Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), who bluntly told reporters that he believes Trump will govern “center-left” if elected.
“But what overrides everything is who I believe Hillary Clinton will appoint to the U.S. Supreme Court,” Salmon told reporters after a closed door meeting of House Republicans.
In that meeting, Speaker Paul Ryan tried to stress unity, playing down the idea that his meeting on Thursday with Donald Trump was going to be a big showdown, a preview to an extended intraparty slug fest for the GOP.
“The goal here is to unify the various wings of the party,” said Speaker Paul Ryan.
“I don’t really know him,” Ryan told reporters about his past dealings with Trump. “I met him once in person in 2012. We had a very good conversation in March on the phone.”
And for many other Republican lawmakers, it’s a similar story – they don’t know much about Trump – and some are worried about his commitment to conservative GOP goals and issues.
“It isn’t going to be the flipping of a toggle switch,” said Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who has joined other Republicans in questioning Trump’s conservative bona fides.
“I’ve got some time to work this thing over, and so do many others. I think it’s an incremental process,” as King grudgingly acknowledged it would be better to support Trump than to have Clinton elected in November.
“Certainly he’s got my vote,” Rep. Jodi Hice (R-GA), a strong social conservative, said about Trump. “I want him to have my full support, and we’ll know more about whether he gets that after the meeting” with Speaker Ryan.
But other social conservatives were still struggling with the idea of Trump as the GOP standard bearer in November, seeing little positive in how Trump conducts himself.
“I can’t get comfortable with a candidate if I’m worried about what he’ll say in front of my 9 year old that’s vulgar and crass,” said Rep Tim Huelskamp R-KS.
“I cannot have him in front of the television with what Donald Trump has been saying,” Huelskamp added.
In his Thursday visit to Capitol Hill, Trump is slated to meet only with leaders of the GOP – not the rank and file. Some say that needs to change in order to bring better unity.
“I would like to see him set up a meeting with all of us, and kind of clear this up before Cleveland,” said Rep. Dan Webster (R-FL).
Asked if he would support Trump, Webster gave what’s become a familiar answer from some Republicans, where they pledge to support Trump, but never actually say his name.
“I’m voting for the nominee,” Webster told me, as reporters mobbed almost every Republican walking through the basement corridors of the Capitol.
“I may disagree with some things that Trump has said, I disagree a lot more with the things Hillary Clinton has done,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK).
The final stage of grief is often labeled as “Acceptance” – that may take a little time for some Republicans in Congress when dealing with Trump, but it seems are number of GOP lawmakers are already on the way to that type of decision, which can be boiled down to one simple statement.
Donald Trump is not Hillary Clinton.