Fierce Trump Critics Who Now Endorse Donald Trump (In their Own Words)

election-vote-Republicans-politics-US ELECTION POLITICS REPUBLIC
Photograph by Jewel Samad—AFP/Getty Images

When Donald Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee in May, those within the party who had resisted him began to line up behind him. They may have had their misgivings, but their constituents had spoken, and they would listen.

One man, however, was not so eager to get with the program – House Speaker Paul Ryan.

“I am not there right now,” he told Jake Tapper of CNN in May, and he wasn’t alone. In a speech at the University of Utah, 2012 Republican presidential nominee and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney offered harsh criticism of the real estate mogul turned politician, saying “dishonesty is Trump’s hallmark.”

On Thursday, however, Ryan announced that he would endorse Trump in the Janesville Gazette.

“Donald Trump and I have talked at great length about things such as the proper role of the executive and fundamental principles such as the protection of life…..Through these conversations, I feel confident he would help us turn the ideas in this agenda into laws to help improve people’s lives. That’s why I’ll be voting for him this fall.”

Speaker Ryan is not alone in his party as one who once spoke out against Trump, only to endorse him. In fact, it’s not unheard of for a politician to sharply criticize an opponent, then turn around and endorse, or even work for, the very person they had just lambasted.

In 1980, George Bush, Sr. called Ronald Reagan’s supply-side economic proposals “voodoo economics,” then became his vice president. In 2008, Hillary Clinton ran the infamous “3am” ad, which implied that a vote for then-Senator Barack Obama was tantamount to a vote for a nuclear holocaust. Despite the implication that her opponent was too much of a rookie to be trusted with national security matters, she still became his Secretary of State.

Still, the ferocity of the attacks leveled against Trump by Republicans at the local, state and national levels has been downright ugly, and has at times featured invective so hostile that the idea of an endorsement afterwards seemed almost laughable.

Be that as it may, many of these same people put on their best public relations smiles and boarded the Trump train.

Fortune presents a rundown of some of his detractors’ most withering criticisms, followed by their eventual endorsements.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie

January 4, 2016: “Showtime is over. We are not electing an entertainer-in-chief. Showmanship is fun, but it is not the kind of leadership that will truly change America.”

February 26, 2016: “There is no one better prepared to provide America with the strong leadership that it needs both at home and around the world than Donald Trump.”

Donald Trump, Chris Christie
The bromance continues.Photograph by Mel Evans—AP
Photograph by Mel Evans—AP

Texas Senator John Cornyn

February 29, 2016: “We can’t have a nominee be an albatross around the down-ballot races… I think we need someone who can unify the party, as opposed to divide the party.”

April 28, 2016: “I think it will be OK.”

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley

December 8, 2015: “[Trump’s proposed Muslim travel ban is] just an embarrassment to the Republican Party… It’s absolutely un-American. It’s unconstitutional. It defies everything this country was based on, and it’s just wrong.”

May 4, 2016: “I will support the Republican nominee for president.”

Republican Candidates Attend Heritage Action Candidate Foru
South Carolina Governor Nikki HaleyPhotograph by Sean Rayford—Getty Images
Photograph by Sean Rayford—Getty Images

California Representative Darrell Issa

February 23, 2016: “[Todd Akin] was the wrong candidate and it wasn’t until later that they realized that somebody who wasn’t thinking about what they said, who was saying things that were off the wall brought down the party… Donald Trump could be a national Todd Akin if our party doesn’t coalesce behind a single candidate.”

May 5, 2016: “Donald Trump is the obvious choice for every American.”

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal

September 15, 2015: “Donald Trump is a madman who must be stopped.”

May 8, 2016: “I am planning to vote for Donald Trump.”

Louisiana Governor and potential Republican presidential candidate Bobby Jindal addresses a legislative luncheon held as part of the "Road to Majority" conference in Washington
Louisiana Governor Bobby JindalPhotograph by Carlos Barria—Reuters
Photograph by Carlos Barria—Reuters

New York Representative Peter King

February 19, 2016: “America needs a President with the strength and quiet dignity of George W. Bush, not a feckless pretender like Donald Trump, who has descended into a poor man’s imitation of Michael Moore.”

May 4, 2016: “I will vote for him and I will endorse him.”

Rep. Peter KingPhoto by Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg Finance LP via Getty Images
Photo by Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg Finance LP via Getty Images

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul

January 25, 2016: “Donald Trump is a delusional narcissist and an orange-faced windbag. A speck of dirt is way more qualified to be president.”

May 5, 2016: “You know, I’ve always said I’ll endorse the nominee.”

Republican Presidential Candidates Debate In Iowa Days Before State's Caucus
Rand Paul at Thursday’s debate.Photograph by Scott Olson — Getty Images
Photograph by Scott Olson — Getty Images

Indiana Governor Mike Pence

December 8, 2015: “Calls to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. are offensive and unconstitutional.”

May 7, 2016: “I look forward to supporting our presumptive nominee.”

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry

July 22, 2015: “Let no one be mistaken – Donald Trump’s candidacy is a cancer on conservatism, and it must be clearly diagnosed, excised and discarded.”

May 5, 2016: “He’s not a perfect man, but what I do believe is that he loves this country and that he will surround himself with capable, experienced people and that he will listen to them.”

Rick Perry Drops Out Of Presidential Race At Candidate Forum In St. Louis
Perry had at one point supported fellow Texam Ted Cruz.Photograph by Michael B. Thomas—Getty Images
Photograph by Michael B. Thomas—Getty Images

Florida Senator Marco Rubio

March 4, 2016: “Donald Trump has been perhaps the most vulgar — no I don’t think perhaps — the most vulgar person to ever aspire to the presidency in terms of how he’s carried out his candidacy.”

May 10, 2016: “”I signed a pledge, put my name on it, and said I would support the Republican nominee and that’s what I intend to do.”


Sen. Rubio (R-FL) Discusses Obama's Shift In Cuba Policy
Senator Marco RubioPhotograph by T.J. Kirkpatrick — Getty Images
Photograph by T.J. Kirkpatrick — Getty Images

Utah Representative Chris Stewart

March 7, 2016: “He’s our Mussolini… As a Republican, I’m telling you: Donald Trump does not represent Republican ideals.”

May 7, 2016: “While Mr. Trump wasn’t my first choice, we must move forward and unite to defeat Hillary Clinton.”


Daniel Bukszpan is a New York-based freelance writer.

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