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Is It time For The GOP Establishment To Get Behind Trump?


Those watching the results include Christine Todd Whitman, former Republican governor of New Jersey, who's on the one line. Governor, good morning.

CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN: Good morning. How are you?

INSKEEP: OK, we should mention you've endorsed John Kasich, I believe, who didn't have a great night. Are you forced now to at least think about that moment when you might have to get ready to get behind Donald Trump?

WHITMAN: Well, no, I won't. I've said that I can't. The way he has run this campaign, the hatred that he's preying on, the excitement of emotions - the worst kind of emotions - I understand why people are furious. I don't blame them. Congress has been dysfunctional for so long. Government hasn't served and the middle-income people are having to work twice as hard to stay where they are. The gap between rich and poor is growing bigger. People don't think we're safe. They're frustrated. And they're angry. And they're lashing out. And they're lashing out with Trump. But my belief is - first of all, I don't believe he can win. I just don't think when people start to pull away the curtain and show, despite all of his promises and bluster, what he has really done, what kind of a businessman he is - taking his companies, four companies, through bankruptcy in order to keep them going...

INSKEEP: If I can mention, he's gotten a lot of attention to himself. He's also had a lot of attention to his flaws. And he has won quite a number of primaries. And he will say he's even attracting new voters. Are you sure that he couldn't win?

WHITMAN: Well, first of all, that's not the reason I won't support him. I won't support him because he is appealing to the very worst in people. He is a bully, and I don't want to see that in a presidency. He is someone who demeans people who object to him or question him in the slightest. He immediately puts them down. He is driving wedges between groups of people. He will denigrate an entire group of people because of their ethnic background - everybody coming across the border from Mexico is a rapist or a criminal. I mean, this is dangerous. It's dangerous stuff. And it's not good for the country. And I cannot support somebody who is willing to do that, who won't deny the Ku Klux Klan right off the top of his head.

INSKEEP: Let me ask a question about something that was reported overnight in the New York Times. A reporter's been interviewing GOP leaders and came up with this conclusion - Republicans are expressing uncertainty about how aggressively they would support Mr. Trump as the nominee, suggesting they might need to lose the campaign to save the party. Would you go that far that if Trump is nominated it would actually be important for him to be defeated in November?

WHITMAN: Well, I don't think it's whether I think it's important for him or not. I actually do think he will be defeated. I just don't believe that the majority of the American people want somebody like this leading our country. Deep down inside, they know - we feel - people feel that the country's weak, that we've been run over, that this presidency has not asserted itself and that the country is losing status. And Trump is saying he's going to return everything without a plan on how to do any of that, with the bluster, with the harsh words. But once they start to think about what that means - you can't shout down foreign leaders. You can't threaten them all.

INSKEEP: Got about...

WHITMAN: It is a dangerous world.

INSKEEP: Got about 45 seconds, governor. I'll mention that one of your successors as governor, your fellow Republican Chris Christie, has endorsed Donald Trump. Why do you think he did that?

WHITMAN: I don't know. You'd have to ask him. It's disappointing. I wasn't surprised. I'd heard that maybe that might happen. Whether it's about his future or not, how he got his head around supporting someone that he competed against is very - he brought up some very salient points that were important points that he felt he couldn't live with and why Donald Trump wasn't fit to be president. I'm not sure how he got to where he is today.

INSKEEP: And that was so brief we've still got about 20 seconds. Answer me this - is your party in danger of breaking apart?

WHITMAN: I think that's a very real possibility. There are a lot of people who just cannot see themselves supporting Trump. You have Mitch McConnell, who's the leader of the Senate, telling Senate candidates if this is going to be a problem for you, go ahead and run ads against him, even if he is your party's presidential nominee. That's pretty telling.

INSKEEP: And we're already getting signs of that in some of the early campaigns. Governor, thanks very much.

WHITMAN: My pleasure. Good to talk to you.

INSKEEP: Christine Todd Whitman is a former Republican governor of New Jersey. She has endorsed John Kasich in the Republican primary fight. Kasich did not have a good night. Donald Trump did. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.