Baker, no fan of Trump, faces a tough choice in November

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BOSTON >> Gov. Charlie Baker likes to tell the story about how he was the offspring of a mixed marriage — a Democratic mother and Republican father.

While the popular chief executive loves playing up his bipartisan roots in liberal-leaning Massachusetts, the Republican is finding his loyalty to his national party severely tested by Donald Trump.

Baker is among a contingent of Republican office-holders nationwide who have vowed never to vote for Trump. Baker first made the pledge when there was still hope of another candidate overtaking Trump or a brokered convention that could knock Trump out of contention.

But with Trump now the GOP's presumptive nominee, Baker is caught in the political crosswinds. He told reporters again this week that he would not vote for Trump — citing the businessman's demeanor and his comments "about women and about Muslims and about religious freedom."

Baker said he sincerely doubted he could vote for Democrat Hillary Clinton and raised the possibility of not casting any ballot in the presidential race. He called it "a very difficult election, I don't think just for me, but I think for a lot of people."

"I hope it ends up being a race that's focused on the issues," Baker said. "I hope a lot of the really harsh and brutal rhetoric that we've all heard over the course of the last several months from all the people in this race goes away."

Baker said he won't be attending the Republican National Convention, focusing instead on electing Republicans to seats in the state Legislature, where Democrats hold overwhelming majorities.

Baker's not the only Republican with Massachusetts roots uneasy with Trump.

The state's last Republican governor and the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, is one of Trump's harshest critics, delivering a blistering takedown of Trump earlier this year.

Romney's speech didn't slow Trump's momentum, but portions of it are being repurposed by Hillary Clinton in a video montage that uses the words of Republicans, including Romney, to excoriate Trump.

In the clip, Romney casts Trump as "a phony" who "mocked a disabled reporter" and "attributed a reporter's question to her menstrual cycle" — a reference to comments Trump made about Fox News Channel's Megyn Kelly.

Romney has since said he also won't attend the national convention.

Baker's second-in-command, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, has also echoed Baker's queasiness with Trump, saying he doesn't have the temperament or experience to be the nation's chief executive.

"He is a candidate that I did not support in the primary here in Massachusetts, and my position hasn't changed," Polito said this week.

Despite Baker's rejection of him, Trump was the clear favorite of Republican primary voters here, claiming about 49 percent of the vote.

State Rep. Geoff Diehl is helping lead the Trump effort in Massachusetts.

The Whitman Republican pledged to make sure as many Trump loyalists as possible were elected to serve as delegates from Massachusetts to help Trump survive a second vote at a contested national convention — now no longer a worry.

Diehl made good on that promise, helping elect loyal Trump backers to nearly two dozen of 27 delegate seats filled last Saturday.

Past Massachusetts governors haven't faced nearly as tough a choice as Baker.

Baker's predecessor — Democrat Deval Patrick — had close ties to President Barack Obama, campaigning for him in the 2008 and 2012 elections.


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