WASHINGTON – Rep. Tom Reed on Wednesday became the second House member from New York State to back Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination, prompting Democrats to say Reed was merely reacting to a threat from Buffalo developer Carl P. Paladino to attack federal lawmakers who don’t endorse the blustery GOP front-runner.
The Corning Republican’s lukewarm backing for the New York billionaire businessman came in a two-paragraph statement issued by his campaign media coordinator that offered exactly zero words of praise for Trump.
“As the people vote, it has become clear more Republicans favor Donald Trump than any other candidate,” Reed said in the statement.
“The United States simply cannot have someone in the White House that will continue the failed foreign policy and economic agenda of Barack Obama.”
From there, Reed went on to describe Trump as the likely Republican nominee – and to hint that Trump should tame his own act, which has featured calls for a wall at the Mexican border, deportation of 11 million undocumented immigrants, a temporary ban on Muslim immigration and repeated complaints that campaign protesters aren’t roughed up the way they used to be.
“Now is the time to unite behind the candidate who I believe will be our nominee, Donald Trump,” Reed’s statement said. “We must move beyond the bombastic rhetoric to positive discussion about creating jobs and improving the lives of all Americans. We all care about improving people’s lives – that should always be our focus. I will use my voice to influence all Republican candidates at all levels to focus on issues and positive solutions for all Americans.”
Reed’s statement backing Trump came a day after Paladino told Syracuse.com that he was emailing his supporters to criticize members of Congress who don’t endorse the GOP front-runner – and that he would escalate and personalize his email attacks if they failed to back Trump.
“None of you is a profile in courage,” Paladino’s email said of the New York lawmakers who have not backed Trump. “You cannot stay neutral any longer; it conflicts with your job description.”
That email prompted the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is in charge of electing more Democrats to Congress, to issue a statement criticizing Reed, saying: “The endorsement comes at a curious time, following reports that Trump’s New York surrogate, failed gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, was ‘bullying’ New York House Republicans into backing Trump.”
Asked whether Reed’s statement amounted to an endorsement, Reed’s media coordinator, Amy Hasenberg, said that it did.
And when asked whether Reed could elaborate on the statement, Hasenberg said the congressman was “tied up with House business this evening.”
Reed’s statement in support of Trump contrasted sharply with the enthusiastic endorsement that Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, offered when he became the first House member to endorse the real estate mogul and reality TV personality Feb. 24.
“Donald Trump has clearly demonstrated that he has both the guts and the fortitude to return our nation’s jobs stolen by China, take on our enemies like ISIS, Iran, North Korea and Russia, and most importantly, re-establish the opportunity for our children and grandchildren to attain the American Dream,” Collins said in a statement.
Collins has gone on to be one of Trump’s main media cheerleaders, telling CNN on Tuesday, for example, that Trump’s rallies were being disrupted by paid protesters.
“There’s no question, these are paid protesters, these are not a bunch of college kids showing up because they’ve got an issue here or there,” Collins said.
Collins offered no proof, however, for the assertion about paid protesters at Trump events. And Snopes.com, the rumor-debunking website, said that such claims are unproven.
Reed became the fifth House member to endorse Trump. In contrast, according to the FiveThirtyEight.com endorsement tracker, 27 House members have endorsed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and seven have backed the other remaining Republican candidate, Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich.
Both Reed and Collins had previously endorsed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who suspended his campaign Feb. 20 after performing poorly the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries.
Trump remains the overwhelming leader in the race for the Republican nomination, with 673 delegates, compared with 410 for Cruz and 143 for Kasich after a series of five primaries Tuesday night.
But it is still unclear whether Trump can win the 1,237 delegates he needs to win the nomination on the first ballot at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July.
That being the case, all the coming primaries – including the one April 19 in New York – will be fiercely fought.
The Trump campaign will open a Buffalo headquarters in Ellicott Square next week, the building’s owner – Paladino – told Time Warner Cable News on Wednesday.
In addition, Paladino said Trump is expected to campaign in Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse before the New York primary.