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Trump Has Not Yet Earned My Vote, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry Says


Two states hold primaries today, West Virginia and Nebraska, even though the nominee on the Republican side has effectively been chosen. That leaves Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, a Republican representing Nebraska, in an uncomfortable position. He says he is not yet ready to back Donald Trump. Good morning to you.


MONTAGNE: You backed Carly Fiorina early on but have not come out for Donald Trump. Why would that be?

FORTENBERRY: I did call Carly Fiorina about a year and a half ago. We had a very lengthy conversation about the deep disquiet in the country. She impressed me. I thought she brought great diversity of ideas to the Republican stage, so that's where I made my investment. Donald Trump has not yet earned my vote.

And I'm not simply going to say never because I do not want to empower Hillary Clinton. But at the same time, I believe Donald Trump has to earn my support by giving substantive answers on economic security and national security and upholding the tradition of social conservation, which is so important to me and many other people throughout the country.

MONTAGNE: When you say social conservation, what exactly do you mean by that?

FORTENBERRY: It's a great tradition that makes Nebraska such a wonderful place to live and work and raise the family. It's a continuity of ideas that creates stability by upholding the formative institutions of family life and faith life and civic life that give the opportunity for people to be set on the right pathway, particularly children.

MONTAGNE: Could you give us your example of an issue that is really important to this country, in your view, that Donald Trump needs to define?

FORTENBERRY: I would like to see Donald Trump lay out specifics on an economic agenda that are realistic, that are small-business focused. I would like him to talk about the types of foreign policy considerations that are not going to give in to overreach and adventurism, but nonetheless, as he has appropriately pointed to but not with much specifics, how to make the rest of the responsible communities of the world participate sacrificially as America has done for so long in trying to create international stability. Doing so in an inviting manner and a studied manner would I think mitigate a lot of the negatives here and attract people who are very disturbed by his insults toward people as well as his non-specifics.

MONTAGNE: With the Nebraska primary, you are facing something as a voter, just like people living where I live here in California. The late primary means that year after year, when it comes to the presidential nominees, the state doesn't matter or the vote doesn't matter. It's all been decided. Where do you go from here?

FORTENBERRY: Well, that's a great point. We thought, up until last week, that Nebraska was actually going to matter. I think your point begs the bigger question about the whole Republican primary system and why does Iowa and South Carolina and a few other places determine the trajectory of the presidential race? Why?

This is one of the constructs, the Republican, Democrat political electoral system construct, that I think is broken and many people see now as bizarre and are going to question going forward. And so I think this will be a question that arises in Nebraska as well.

MONTAGNE: Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, Republican of Nebraska, thank you very much for joining us.

FORTENBERRY: Pleasure to talk to you. Thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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