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Will Weatherford denounces Republicans for failing to define Donald Trump earlier

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When Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio opted to both compete in the 2016 Republican presidential race last year, Florida Republicans had to make a decision about which Miami area candidate to support, both vocally and with their dollars.

In the majority of cases, those Republicans supported Bush. But after the former Florida Governor’s campaign flamed out in South Carolina last month, one might expect many of those same people to support the state’s other native son.

It hasn’t exactly worked out like that.

A notable exception is Will Weatherford, who joined Team Marco immediately after Bush’s exit. The former Florida House Speaker in 2013 & 2014 went on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Tuesday to advocate for Rubio, but spent more time blasting the GOP for failing to knock down front-runner Donald Trump earlier in the race.

“I’ve just been shocked at the way that the Republican Party has just allowed this man to hijack what I believe are our principals and where we stand as a party,” Weatherford said. “The things he’s said and done are so offensive, I don’t know how he wins in November. ”

Jeb Bush was the first Republican presidential candidate to strongly criticize Trump, joking at one time that his colleagues were in the “witness protection program” when it came to speaking out against the surprise front-runner. Weatherford agrees.

“We had an opportunity back then to really define Donald Trump, and we lost it, and now here we are.”

Weatherford wouldn’t completely reject the idea of voting for Trump in the fall. But only if Trump changes what’s brought him so much success to date with Republicans.

“I expect the nominee of the Republican Party to be presidential,” he said. “I expect them to care about the poor. I expect them to care about free markets and free enterprise. I expect them to care about life. This is not a person who has not embodied what I look for in a candidate for the Republican nomination, and somebody I can support in November.”

“Now, is there an opportunity for him to earn that? Maybe, but he has not shown it thus far. And the divisiveness that he has created in this political environment and ecosystem is dangerous.”

Weatherford concluded that the only thing going well for Republicans is that the party will face either “a socialist” or a candidate “under criminal investigation” in November, a reference to Democrats Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

Sanders describes himself as a “democratic socialist,” while there is a State Department inquiry and FBI investigation into Clinton’s private email server. There is also a separate State Department investigation into the Clinton Foundation and top Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

 

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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