GOP fears next Trump blowup

GOP fears next Trump blowup
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Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpAmash responds to 'Send her back' chants at Trump rally: 'This is how history's worst episodes begin' McConnell: Trump 'on to something' with attacks on Dem congresswomen Trump blasts 'corrupt' Puerto Rico's leaders amid political crisis MORE read from a teleprompter, dialed back the schoolyard insults and tried to sound more measured and presidential during his speech Tuesday night.

GOP lawmakers applauded the effort, but they aren’t sure it will last.

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“If past history is an indicator of what will happen in the future, [Trump] will restrain himself for a day because he feels he overstepped the line,” said Rep. Reid RibbleReid James RibbleKeep our elections free and fair Setting the record straight about No Labels With Trump, conservatives hope for ally in 'War on Christmas' MORE (R-Wis.), “and then he’ll go back and he’ll say something outlandish.” 

A day after Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanOcasio-Cortez top aide emerges as lightning rod amid Democratic feud Juan Williams: GOP in a panic over Mueller House Republicans dismissive of Paul Ryan's take on Trump MORE (R-Wis.) rebuked Trump’s attack on a federal judge as “racist,” Republicans on Capitol Hill openly fretted about what the brash New York billionaire might say — or which group he might offend — next.

Trump’s remark that U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel cannot be impartial in a Trump University case because “he’s a Mexican” has roiled the 2016 race, dominating the news cycle for the past week. 

“When he acts out in this outlandish way, it gives Republican voters a great deal of pause on the legitimacy of his candidacy,” said Ribble, who is close to Ryan and has refused to endorse Trump. 

An anti-immigration hardliner, Trump’s race-based attacks on the judge continued to reverberate on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, a week after they were first uttered by the real estate mogul turned presumptive GOP presidential nominee. 

Republicans in tough reelection races, including Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanFighting the opioid epidemic: Congress can't just pass laws, but must also push to enforce them The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Rising number of GOP lawmakers criticize Trump remarks about minority Dems MORE (R-Ohio), are pushing Trump to apologize and retract his racially charged comments about the Indiana-born judge. “I’ve said he ought to retract,” Portman told The Hill. 

Rep. Bill FloresWilliam (Bill) Hose FloresOvernight Energy: GOP lawmaker parodies Green New Deal in new bill | House Republicans accuse Dems of ramming through climate bill | Park Service chief grilled over shutdown House Republicans accuse Dems of ramming through climate bill Seven Republicans vote against naming post office after ex-Rep. Louise Slaughter MORE (R-Texas), head of the 170-member conservative Republican Study Committee, said Wednesday he wasn’t ready to back Trump, saying he was “incredibly angry” to see Trump raise questions about the judge’s impartiality “because of his ethnicity.” 

“Americans need to see more vision and less trash talk,” Flores said in a statement. 

House GOP Policy Committee Chairman Luke Messer (R-Ind.), who is backing Trump, said the candidate’s attack on Curiel was particularly offensive to him given that “the judge in question is a Hoosier.” 

Trump’s “acceptance speech was encouraging but his comments on the judge were terrible, they are inappropriate, and they undercut his ability to get elected,” Messer told The Hill. “If he doesn’t stop this stuff, he’s not going to have a shot at being elected president.

“And I, for one, don’t want to see a President Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton slams Trump rally: 'The time has come again' to fight for democracy Trump blasts minority Democrats, rally crowd chants 'send her back' The Memo: Democrats debate Trump response – 'Being righteous and losing sucks' MORE.”

The topic of Trump also briefly came up at the top of a closed-door meeting of House Republicans in the basement of the Capitol.

Ryan, during his leadership update, said he endorsed Trump last week  — after a lengthy holdout — because Trump, not Clinton, would give congressional Republicans the best opportunity to turn their policies and ideas into law, according to sources in the room.

But Ryan also said he wouldn’t hesitate to speak out when he feels Trump has crossed the line and violated core conservative principles. During a news conference on poverty Tuesday in an African-American neighborhood in D.C., the Speaker lashed out at Trump’s attacks on the judge as “indefensible” and the “textbook definition” of racism — a rebuke Ryan later told his GOP colleagues he hoped would put the controversy to rest and allow Republicans to pivot back to their election-year agenda project.

Ryan’s full-throated rebuke “needed to be done. It was professionally handled. It was respectful of everyone,” said Rep. Joe WilsonAddison (Joe) Graves Wilson75 years after D-Day: Service over self Valerie Plame to run for Congress in New Mexico Pollster says younger lawmakers more likely to respond to State of the Union on social media MORE (R-S.C.), who found himself in the center of his own race controversy after shouting “You lie!” at President Obama during a healthcare speech in 2009.

Trump has offended and outraged Hispanic groups since he kicked off his presidential campaign last summer at a Trump Tower event by calling Mexican immigrants “rapists” and criminals while vowing to build a wall on the southern border. 

Later, he mocked Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMeghan McCain promotes July 17 as #GBMday to raise awareness of father's cancer The peculiar priorities of Adam Schiff Ocasio-Cortez fires back at Lindsey Graham: 'Graham wants to bring back 1950s McCarthyism' MORE (R-Ariz.), who was tortured for years in a Viet Cong prison, as no war hero; proposed banning Muslims from entering the U.S.; mocked a reporter with a disability; and disparaged the physical appearance of numerous women. 

“That’s been a problem with the presumptive nominee for some time. He makes all these incendiary comments and lacks policy specifics,” said Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), a backer of John Kasich’s failed bid who still has not endorsed Trump. “We’ve heard this before on Mexicans, Muslims women, POWs, the disabled.

“His comments [on Curiel] will make it more likely that members who were disinclined to endorse him will be even more disinclined to endorse him,” Dent added.

For vulnerable GOP Sen. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkAdvocates push for EpiPens on flights after college student's mid-flight allergic reaction Funding the fight against polio Ex-GOP Sen. Kirk registers to lobby MORE, the racial attacks against Curiel were the final straw. The vulnerable senator from deep-blue Illinois rescinded his endorsement on Tuesday.

Others say they hope Trump changes his tone and rhetoric, but they’re not holding their breath.

“I hope he changes but it’s tough to change,” said Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeFlake urges Republicans to condemn 'vile and offensive' Trump tweets Flake responds to Trump, Jimmy Carter barbs: 'We need to stop trying to disqualify each other' Jeff Flake responds to Trump's 'greener pastures' dig on former GOP lawmakers MORE (R-Ariz.), who represents a border state with a large Hispanic population and who also has not endorsed Trump.

“There’s no evidence from his record as a businessman that he’s been discriminatory — that’s what makes me hope he’ll change. But if he’s doing it just for effect, to drive a wedge, then it’s almost worse, so I don’t know.”

Flake said he still doesn’t understand why Trump has not dialed back some of that rhetoric as he heads into the general election.

“He felt the Muslim ban played to his political benefit in the primary,” Flake said, “but you’ve got to pivot pretty hard and he hasn’t yet.”

Ribble agreed that Trump hasn’t proven he can be a viable general election candidate.

“He’s engaged the activists, but what’s going to happen when the normal American, the regular American sits and watches what’s on TV? How are they going to respond?” Ribble said. “And I think that is the real test about whether he can change. 

“Who is the real Trump? Is he the racist xenophobic guy, or is he now this new pretend guy? Where is the genuineness?