Yet another Republican senator has attempted to downplay their allegiance to Donald Trump, as the election edges closer and the president’s prospects look increasingly worrying.
John Cornyn, 68, is running for a fourth term as a senator for Texas, having been first elected in 2002. Before then he was the state’s attorney general, and a judge before then.
Cornyn’s challenger, former air force pilot MJ Hegar, 44, has never won elected office before and yet nearly doubled Cornyn’s fundraising over the past three months, eliminating his long-running cash-on-hand advantage.
Hegar’s fundraising momentum is the latest sign of an increasingly competitive race, even as polls continue to give Cornyn single-digit leads.
An October 16 poll gave Cornyn a 49 per cent chance, to Hegar’s 46 per cent, and on Tuesday, the Cook Political Report shifted its rating of the race from ‘Likely Republican’ to ‘Lean Republican.’
On Friday both met with the editorial board of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and Cornyn was at pains to distance himself from Trump.
John Cornyn in private was critical of Donald Trump, his local newspaper reported
He is being challenged for his seat by MJ Hegar, whose tattoos cover up shrapnel wounds
Hegar, 44, is trailing Cornyn only by 3 points, with a 46 per cent chance, to his 49 per cent
According to the paper, at the private meeting he described his relationship with the president as ‘maybe like a lot of women who get married and think they’re going to change their spouse, and that doesn’t usually work out very well.’
Cornyn, who served as Senate majority whip during the final two years of the Obama presidency and the first two years of Trump’s rule, said that he had adopted a policy of avoiding public confrontation with the president.
‘I think what we found is that we’re not going to change President Trump. He is who he is. You either love him or hate him, and there’s not much in between,’ he said.
‘What I tried to do is not get into public confrontations and fights with him because, as I’ve observed, those usually don’t end too well.’
Cornyn pointed out that his friend Bob Corker, former senator for Tennessee, chose not to run for re-election in 2018 after clashing with Trump on issues such as a border wall, and being derided by the president as a result.
Cornyn singled out judicial nominations, tax cuts, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal and response to Hurricane Harvey in August 2017 as areas where he and Trump agreed, and worked well together.
‘But when I have had differences of opinion, which I have, I do that privately,’ Cornyn said.
‘I have found that has allowed me to be much more effective, I believe, than to satisfy those who say I ought to call him out or get into a public fight with him.’
Donald Trump, campaigning in Nevada on Sunday, was criticized by Cornyn for his deficits
Cornyn, pictured with Trump in Jan 2019, also disagreed about diverting the defense budget
Cornyn said he disagreed with the president on budget deficits and debt, and took issue with Trump’s handling of trade agreements with China and other Asian countries.
Trump in 2017 pulled the United States out of a Trans-Pacific Partnership, an agreement that would have expanded trade in 12 countries.
‘I applaud him for standing up to China but, frankly, this idea that China is paying the price and we’re not paying the price here at home is just not true,’ Cornyn said.
Cornyn also said he opposed taking money from the defense budget to build portions of a border wall, saying he is ‘very much a defense hawk’ who disagreed with the use of national security funds for that purpose.
Hegar is giving Cornyn a surprising run for his money in the Texas senate race
Cornyn is just the latest political figure to try and distance themself from Trump.
Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Senate, facing a challenge for his seat in Kentucky, was at pains to stress that he hadn’t been in the White House since August.
Martha McSally, senator for Arizona, who could well lose her seat to Democrat Mark Kelly, on October 6 gave an excruciatingly tortured response when asked if she was proud of her support of the president.
And last week Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican senator, was caught on tape savaging Trump for his handling of the coronavirus and saying his party’s president ‘kisses dictators’ butts’, in a newly revealed audio recording.
Sasse tears into the president in recorded comments from an apparent conference call with his constituents, the Washington Examiner reported – accusing him of having ‘ignored’ the coronavirus as it spread through the nation. He also accuses Trump of having ‘treated the presidency like a business opportunity.’
He also predicted that Trump will lose the election.
‘I’m worried that if president Trump loses, as looks likely, he’s going to take the Senate down with him,’ Sasse frets on the recorded call.