Sen. Mark Kirk made it clear Thursday that he would not back presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump Thursday, even if he names Indiana Gov. Mike Pence his running mate.
“I like and respect Mike Pence but I will not be supporting Donald Trump,” Kirk said in a statement Thursday. “He does not have the temperament to serve as our Commander in Chief.”
Trump is set to announce his vice presidential pick on Friday at 11 a.m. in Manhattan.
Kirk, who served with Pence in Congress, told Bloomberg that he hopes Pence “gets the nod” to be Trump’s running mate Thursday, saying “I love Mike.” Kirk explained that during their time together in the House, the senator represented moderate Republicans while Pence represented conservatives.
After being asked if he’d back Trump if Pence became his running mate, Kirk said “we’ll see.” A spokesperson later clarified that the senator wouldn’t back Trump either way.
The Democratic Party of Illinois responded to Kirk’s comments to Bloomberg Thursday, claiming the senator is “getting his wish and extreme social conservative Mike Pence will be ignorant buffoon Donald Trump’s running mate.”
“Kirk even opened the door to supporting Trump again if Trump were to pick his friend Pence,” DPI spokesperson Sean Savett said in a statement. “While Kirk has gone to great lengths to try and disavow his Republican roots, it’s worth noting his enthusiasm for Pence, a staunch conservative with a history of attacking women’s reproductive rights and who signed one of the country’s most discriminatory anti-LGBQT bills into law.”
Last month, Kirk rescinded his tacit endorsement of the divisive billionaire after Trump made a series of inflammatory statements about the heritage of a Hispanic judge presiding over civil fraud lawsuits against his beleaguered Trump University. Kirk called the comments “un-American.”
“As the presidential campaign progressed, I was hoping the rhetoric would tone down and reflect a campaign that was inclusive, thoughtful and principled,” Kirk said at the time. “While I oppose the Democratic nominee, Donald Trump’s latest statements, in context with past attacks on Hispanics, women and the disabled like me, make it certain that I cannot and will not support my party’s nominee for president regardless of the political impact on my candidacy or the Republican party."
This comes after months of walking a veritable Trump tightrope.
In a March exclusive, Kirk told NBC Chicago that he would support Trump if he were the Republican presidential nominee. Then in May, Kirk told USA Today that he would be willing to serve as a national security advisor to Trump.
“I had my reservations,” Kirk said at the time. “I’ve been thinking, in an age of Trump where you don’t know the direction of the country, the person you need most is a steady conservative hand like Mark Kirk in the Senate to be advising the president, especially on national security topics… which is my particular expertise after 23 years in the Navy.”
Nevertheless, Kirk also called Trump a "riverboat gamble." In April, the senator’s campaign announced that Kirk would be skipping the upcoming Republican National Convention in Cleveland to focus on his hotly-contested Senate race with Rep. Tammy Duckworth.
Kirk originally condemned incendiary comments Trump made about Mexicans last June.
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” Trump said during the announcement of his campaign. “They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists.”
Kirk disavowed the statements and distanced himself from Trump’s foreign policy in a conversation with John Gregory last June.
“In a typical Chicago way, to my Mexican-American friends, I would say, ‘Donald Trump collate’ — shut up,” Kirk said.