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Cramer, Hoeven discuss plans to endorse GOP candidates for president

One day after Super Tuesday's GOP voters handed a slew of caucus and primary victories to Donald Trump--and several others to Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio--both Republican members of North Dakota's congressional delegation say they're still hol...

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One day after Super Tuesday's GOP voters handed a slew of caucus and primary victories to Donald Trump-and several others to Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio-both Republican members of North Dakota's congressional delegation say they're still holding off on endorsing a presidential candidate.

Sen. John Hoeven and Rep. Kevin Cramer took slightly different tacks on the matter, though. While Cramer said he's holding a straw poll that will influence a likely endorsement, Hoeven's staff has said the senator will wait until the party's national convention before backing the party's nominee.

And no matter who the candidate is-even if it's Trump-both legislators plan to support Republicans' choice for president.

"Donald Trump would not likely be my first choice," Cramer said. "He might not be one of my first four choices. ... He has some qualities that are attractive, and I understand that."

Cramer added if GOP leadership fights the will of its voters, "they do so at the peril of the Republican Party."

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Endorsing early

Cramer has organized an online straw poll, in which he said thousands have already voted, to take the place of traditional informal GOP caucusing in North Dakota, with polling generally reflecting where candidates stand nationwide. That means Donald Trump is out front, he said, with Rubio and Cruz trailing behind.

The poll closes Tuesday, Cramer said. He added he feels it's likely he'll use the results to form an early endorsement.

"I generally have endorsed early," he said. "I will take the instruction of this straw poll pretty seriously."

Cramer discussed the possibility of backing Trump as a candidate at some length and explained he felt he could back a candidate without necessarily agreeing with every point that person has made. He directly addressed Trump's apparent hesitation to disavow the endorsement of former KKK leader David Duke Sunday during a television interview, which Trump later blamed on a bad earpiece.

"I was (North Dakota) party chairman during the 1992 election cycle, and David Duke ran for president, and he contacted me," Cramer said. "He told me he wanted to come and speak at our state party convention, and I said, 'You can't.' Intuitively, I knew better than that, because he didn't reflect the values of the Party of Lincoln."

However, Cramer said it is not only important to just take into account the will of the party base. He said he feels it's important to anticipate who the GOP candidate might run against, pointing out in particular the possibility of Hillary Clinton being chosen as the Democratic candidate.

Remaining neutral

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Don Canton, communications director for Hoeven, explained the senator does not plan to endorse anyone before the convention but said Hoeven also will support the party nominee.

Hoeven was recently quoted in a March 1 Washington Post story that explores a schism growing in the party over Trump's candidacy, balancing the tensions between establishment support for mainstream candidates and a string of electoral victories for the New York businessman. Hoeven is described in the piece as a "mainstream conservative," whose ideas run counter to the platforms of Trump and Cruz.

"I do like Marco (Rubio), yeah, you know, I've said that all along. But at this point I'm going to just go with our nominee. Let Republicans make that call," he told the Post, explaining that he was not yet ready to endorse a candidate. "We've got a ways to go yet, this is yet to be decided."

When questioned about his comments on Rubio, Canton said Hoeven did not mean to express any support for Rubio's campaign, emphasizing his decision to remain neutral.

"The reference to Marco Rubio in the Post story is that he has said all along that they're friends," Canton said.

Late last year, Hoeven told the Herald's editorial board that he didn't want to endorse a candidate at the time, suggesting that doing so would be an inappropriate interference in the process.

"I think we have to be very attuned to an open, transparent process where people have a comfort level that everybody gets a chance and everybody gets to express their opinion, and Republicans get to decide," he said. "There's no party bosses or, quote, insiders driving this dynamic that I think hurts and is counterproductive to getting the result that we want."

When pressed about Hoeven's response on the possibility of supporting Trump as a candidate, and in particular other legislators' moral concerns about him, Canton declined to comment.

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The Herald was unable to directly reach Hoeven for comment.

Related Topics: ELECTION 2016KEVIN CRAMER
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