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Jump ship on Trump? Florida GOP lawmakers resist national trend

The wave of defections from Donald Trump among congressional Republicans has bypassed the biggest battleground state of all.

With Florida having decided the 2000 election and playing key roles in three subsequent outcomes, the decision by Sen. Marco Rubio and eight other GOP lawmakers who’d endorsed Trump to stick with him offers a rare piece of good news in the real estate baron’s race for the White House.

There’s a caveat, however. Among Florida’s pro-Trump contingent, only four House members – Reps. Jeff Miller, Bill Posey, Dennis Ross and Ted Yoho – responded to requests for comment on Trump’s lewd 2005 remarks, which have caused an uproar since being made public last week.

The others – Rubio and Reps. Curt Clawson, Vern Buchanan, Rich Nugent, Daniel Webster, John Mica, and Ron DeSantis – didn’t respond to multiple requests, missing an opportunity to restate their support.

Posey and Yoho criticized Trump but didn’t pull their endorsements.

“The things Trump said 11 years ago are appalling,” Posey told McClatchy. “It’s appropriate that he apologized. I support him because he realizes who his enemies are and can protect the country, help turn this economy around and get America headed back in the right direction.”

Said Yoho: “I do not support or condone what was said 11 years ago and won’t defend those words. I am committed to supporting lifetime appointments of Supreme Court justices who will adhere to the Constitution, securing our borders, lowering taxes for every American, reforming health care and supporting our military. There is one candidate who will do that, and that is Donald Trump.”

Miller, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs’ Committee, praised Trump on Sunday and Monday in tweets.

“Miller has not changed his endorsement of Trump,” Dan McFaul, his campaign spokesman, told McClatchy.

Disloyal R’s are far more difficult than Crooked Hillary. They come at you from all sides. They don’t know how to win – I will teach them! Donald Trump

Ross, a member of the GOP’s leadership in the House, said Tuesday that he was still backing Trump, though he said he had not “formally endorsed” him.

“I am supporting the Republican ticket because four years of Hillary Clinton would be awful for this country,” Ross told McClatchy. “I have not always agreed with Donald Trump’s rhetoric, and I have shied away from condemning his remarks when inappropriate.”

Of the pro-Trump lawmakers who didn’t respond, one, Clawson, is not seeking re-election. The Republican candidate favored to claim his seat, Francis Rooney, also didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Miami Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo all have criticized Trump’s candidacy and have not endorsed him. Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen said they would not vote for him.

Five other GOP lawmakers from the state are not actively supporting Trump.

Florida has more Electoral College votes than any other battleground state and has helped determine recent White House contests.

The continued Trump allegiance in the Sunshine State contrasts sharply with the response from Republican leaders elsewhere in the country. Florida has more Electoral College votes than any other presidential battleground state.

Fifteen of the 28 GOP senators who’d publicly backed the billionaire have withdrawn their endorsements since the emergence last Friday of the recorded comments. At least 40 of 176 House Republicans did the same.

Trump fired back at his Republican deserters, who also include prominent governors, in an angry tweet Tuesday.

“Disloyal R’s are far more difficult than Crooked Hillary,” he tweeted. “They come at you from all sides. They don’t know how to win – I will teach them!”

Perhaps surprising is Rubio’s continued devotion to Trump, whom he’d criticized sharply during his own unsuccessful campaign for the Republican nomination. He also criticized Trump’s vulgar comments within hours of the bombshell story breaking.

“Donald’s comments were vulgar, egregious and impossible to justify,” Rubio tweeted. “No one should ever talk about any woman in those terms, even in private.”

55 The number of U.S. senators and representatives who have withdrawn their endorsements of Donald Trump since his lewd comments went viral

Rubio, however, has declined to withdraw his support, a decision that his Democratic opponent in his re-election battle criticized. “He’s trying to become the leader of the free world despite these comments, and Marco Rubio is standing by his side,” Florida Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy said Monday.

Nationwide, Clinton’s lead over Trump doubled to 11 percentage points after his comments went viral, according to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released Monday.

In Florida, however, there was virtually no change in the White House race, with Clinton ahead by 3 percentage points in the same poll, in line with surveys taken there before Trump’s lewd comments were aired.

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