Florida Republican Congressman Tom Rooney is rolling the dice, making one of the biggest gambles of his political career.
This past weekend, after a recording of Donald Trump engaging in a lewd conversation emerged, Congressman Tom Rooney said he would not vote for the Republican presidential hopeful. Rooney, who is considered a likely candidate for statewide office, also said he would not back Hillary Clinton for the presidency either.
“As the father of three young sons, I don’t want my boys growing up in a world where the president of the United States is allowed to speak or treat women the way Donald Trump has,” Rooney said on Saturday. “My greatest responsibility in life is to try and be a good husband and father. If I support him for president, I will be telling my boys that I think it’s okay to treat women like objects – and I’ll have failed as a dad. Therefore, I can no longer support Donald Trump for president and will not be voting for him or Hillary Clinton.”
Other Republicans in the Florida delegation, including Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, David Jolly and Carlos Curbelo are also not backing Trump. But Ros-Lehtinen has never shown any signs of wanting to leave her South Florida district and Curbelo and Jolly are both fighting for their political lives.
Rooney has garnered speculation as a candidate for higher office. He opened the door at the start of 2015 to run for the U.S. Senate if Marco Rubio decided not to run for a second term but ultimately pulled back. With his service in the Army, including teaching law at West Point, and his family connections to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Rooney looks like an attractive candidate for down the road. Rooney’s name has been thrown around for the Senate in 2018 and for other offices including attorney general and state CFO.
But Rooney’s decision on Trump could hurt those aspirations. Trump’s supporters remain loyal to their candidate, even as several GOP elected officials jumped off the bandwagon this past weekend.
Nor does Trump show any signs of forgiving Republicans jumping off his bandwagon.
“So many self-righteous hypocrites,” Trump posted on Twitter on Sunday. “Watch their poll numbers - and elections - go down!”
Rooney should expect some headaches from Trump and his backers if he decides to make a bid for higher office in the next election cycle or two. They’ll certainly hurt his chances in a Republican primary.
In the short run, this shouldn’t impact Rooney’s chances for another term. In the general election, Rooney faces opposition in what is a reliably Republican district. Rooney takes on Democrat April Freeman and John Sawyer, who is running with no party affiliation, in November.