Senate

Ex-Sen. Coburn: I won’t challenge Trump, I’ll vote for him

CLEVELAND — Former Sen. Tom Coburn (Okla.), long regarded as one of the most principled conservatives in Congress, on Tuesday quashed rumors that he might challenge Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination.

While Coburn, who was the target of a draft campaign by disgruntled conservative activists, says he has “concerns” about Trump, he sees him as a better choice than Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee.

“That isn’t going to happen, so it’s all speculation,” Coburn told The Hill when asked about a report Tuesday morning that he would accept a successful petition to nominate him instead of Trump.

“It’s not anything to speculate on,” he added.

Conservative activists led by Erick Erickson, an influential writer and radio talk show host, courted Coburn as an alternative to Trump and Clinton. 

Rumors have swirled on the convention floor about the emergence of a last-minute conservative challenger to swipe the nomination from Trump. Conservatives led by Sen. Mike Lee (Utah) made an unsuccessful bid Monday to change the rules binding delegates to vote for Trump.

Quin Hillyer, a columnist affiliated with the Never Trump effort who collaborated with Erickson, reported on his blog that Coburn would accept a successful effort to put his name in consideration for the nomination. The item was picked up by TheResurgent.com, Erickson’s website.

But Coburn on Tuesday said he will vote for Trump as a better option than Clinton, even though he has some misgivings about the billionaire businessman, whose policy views often depart from conservative orthodoxy.

“I have concerns for the country for both nominees. Given the choice, I’ll vote for Trump,” Coburn said.

After speaking with The Hill, Coburn told Hillyer on Tuesday that he had considered running as an alternative to Trump before party leaders defeated the effort to unbind the delegates.

“I let it be known that I was willing to serve if asked by the delegates. But, after the voice vote was shot down — which was done in error — there was no opportunity to challenge the presumptive nominee,” he said.

One of Coburn’s top missions in Congress was to rein in the mounting costs of Medicare, Medicaid and other mandatory spending programs. 

Trump alarmed conservatives earlier this year by declaring “everybody’s got to be covered” with health insurance and that “the government’s going to pay for it.”

Since then, however, Trump put out a plan to repeal ObamaCare, allow the sale of health insurance across state lines and allow people to deduct health insurance premium payments from their taxes.

Coburn, who retired from the Senate in 2014 and who has battled prostate cancer, declined to say why he has steadily resisted efforts to draft him as an alternative to Trump and Clinton. 

– Updated at 4:41 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Mike Lee Tom Coburn

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