Plenty of voters will be holding their noses on Nov. 8 as the United States picks its new president. Count Governor Charlie Baker as one of them.
The Republican, whose moderate image has contributed to his soaring popularity in Massachusetts, reiterated Wednesday that he won’t be voting for the presumptive GOP nominee, Donald Trump. And he won’t be voting for the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, either.
“There are a number of issues that I disagree vehemently with Mr. Trump on, and I question whether he’s got the temperament to serve as president,” Baker told reporters in Jamaica Plain. “But I think Secretary Clinton has some real believability issues.”
The chief executive of a state that hasn’t voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1984 seemed at first to leave the door to voting for Clinton a teeny bit open, framing the potential of casting a ballot for the former secretary of state as very unlikely, but not ruling it out.
“I sincerely doubt I’ll be voting for Hillary Clinton,” he said.
But his spokeswoman slammed that metaphorical door shut later Wednesday: “Governor Baker will not be voting for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton,” Elizabeth Guyton wrote in an e-mail.
On Trump, Baker told reporters he has concerns about comments the bombastic billionaire has made. “Some of the things he’s said about women, and about Muslims, and about religious freedom, I just can’t support,’’ Baker said.
All in all, the governor said, “this makes this a very difficult election, I don’t think just for me, but I think for a lot of people.”
Baker said he would spend most of his political energy “focusing on, and working with, folks who are running for office here in the Commonwealth.”
Baker, who won a narrow election victory in 2014 against the attorney general at the time, Martha Coakley, has emphasized his bipartisan credentials during his 16 months in office. He often trumpets what he frames as his productive and positive relationship with the Democratic-controlled Legislature, and he has worked to forge close connections with municipal officials, many of whom are Democrats.
Polling this year has found Baker to be extremely popular among voters.
Massachusetts has not been a battleground state in presidential elections over the past three decades. But given the intense focus on Trump — and the real estate mogul’s propensity to stoke it with outrageous comments — the news media are certain to be querying Baker about the latest Trump tweet du jour between now and November.
Asked how Baker would deal with the inevitable barrage of presidential questions, a top Baker adviser replied succinctly: “He’s not going to be dealing with it.”
The adviser continued that Baker is “going to be doing his job here in Massachusetts, has no intention of engaging in presidential politics, and will be focused on being the governor of the state.”
Many Republicans across the country — some enthusiastically, some begrudgingly — have lined up behind Trump, who became the presumptive nominee when his top competitors dropped out of the White House contest this week.
But there have been holdouts like Baker.
US Representative Carlos Curbelo, a Republican who represents a South Florida swing district, has said he won’t support Trump under any circumstances, calling it a moral rather than a political decision.
And US Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, has been vocal in his opposition to both Clinton and Trump.
“If Donald Trump becomes the Republican nominee, my expectation is that I will look for some third candidate,” Sasse wrote earlier this year. “I do not claim to speak for a movement, but I suspect I am far from alone.”