Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, said Monday that he's concerned about the current state of Donald Trump's campaign, and that he had shared his concerns privately with staffers for the Republican presidential nominee.
Speaking to reporters on his weekly conference call, Reed - who endorsed Trump earlier this year - indicated that he thinks Trump should focus more squarely on issues that matter to voters.
"I share some concern that often the campaign seems to get bogged down into issues that really aren't the top of the issues for the American people," said Reed, who, unlike Rep. Chris Collins of Clarence, has not taken to the airwaves to repeatedly defend the GOP nominee. "I think if you put the American people's issues first and foremost - like jobs, like the economy, like our national security - that is a winning message. That is what I hear in my district; that's what I hear when I travel around to town halls."
Reed said he has repeated that message to Trump campaign staffers.
"We use our position in a positive way to try to get the campaign focused," he said.
Reed is by no means the only Republican to do that. House Speaker Paul Ryan also endorsed Trump but has criticized his campaign on occasion since then, and the New York Times reported this weekend that Trump's family and other confidantes have pressed him to try to stick to a script and the issues and avoid issuing insults on the campaign trail.
But in the weeks since the Republican National Convention, Trump has attacked the parents of a slain U.S. soldier, repeatedly charged that the upcoming election will be "rigged" and hinted that "the Second Amendment people" could act if his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, wins the election and starts appointing liberal federal judges.
Trump's standing in the polls has fallen in recent weeks amid those controversial statements. For example, an ABC News/Washington Post poll released week found him 8 points behind Clinton. And in that poll, 67 percent of respondents said Trump does not have “the kind of personality and temperament it takes to serve effectively as president.”
Asked what he would say to a voter who questioned Trump's temperament, Reed said: "I would just say we're in a binary choice ... I understand the concern, but I think the future of America calls for a disruptive force, and bringing that change to Washington, D.C., would be good - to really get somebody who is not a career politician like Hillary Clinton. Obviously we share concern for some of the rhetoric and temperament issues but at the end of the day, when you are choosing between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, I think the choice is clear."
Reed also repeated the concerns of many Republicans who have criticized connections between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department while Clinton served as secretary of state, as well as what PolitiFact, the fact-checking website, called a "pants on fire" falsehood: Clinton's claim that FBI Director James Comey said she was "truthful" about her use of a private email server.
"You look at Hillary Clinton and her record of self-dealing and lying to the American people," Reed said. "Really, she has lied to the American people and that, to me, is very problematic."