- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 3, 2016

Republican leaders who have endorsed Donald Trump have been compared to the Ku Klux Klan, called sellouts and traitors to the Republican Party and told they “made a deal with the devil.” And that’s just from fellow Republicans.

Hits from Democrats were to be expected, but the incoming fire from Republican voters has been startling to those who have chosen to back the billionaire businessman and who say they can’t understand the depths of antipathy to the party’s presidential front-runner.

“It’s very odd,” said Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who planted himself in the crossfire this week by backing Mr. Trump. “I’ve endorsed many candidates for many offices in the past, and never have I seen people try to criticize the endorser with such venom.”

After months of being shunned, Mr. Trump has begun building support from top Republicans in the past couple of weeks. Reps. Duncan Hunter and Chris Collins broke the shutout last week, followed in quick succession by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Maine Gov. Paul R. LePage and Sen. Jeff Sessions. Two other congressmen — Reps. Scott DesJarlais and Tom Marino — added their backing this week.

Each of them has been hit with a barrage of criticism, usually calling them some version of hypocrites or saying they betrayed the Republican Party with their pick of Mr. Trump.

Mr. Christie, who has been on the campaign trail with Mr. Trump, has taken most of the heat. Twitter was hemorrhaging after the New Jersey governor stood stone-faced behind Mr. Trump during a Super Tuesday press conference.

“Is Christie being held hostage by the Trump campaign?” former White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer asked. Others begged the governor to blink his eyes in Morse code to signal that he needed rescuing.

The Manchester Union-Leader, the most influential newspaper in New Hampshire, issued a mea culpa for having endorsed Mr. Christie in the primary, and papers in New Jersey began a drumbeat for their governor to resign.

Mr. Christie on Thursday called it “the hysteria of people who oppose my Trump endorsement.”

He said his support of the Republican front-runner doesn’t mean they agree on everything, but it means Mr. Trump is the best candidate at this point.

“I know who I wanted to be president of the United States. You’re looking at him. It didn’t work out,” Mr. Christie said at a press conference in New Jersey, where he faced pointed questions about how much effort he would expend to help the Trump campaign.

Even Mr. Christie’s Facebook account birthday message to his daughter wasn’t safe from furious former supporters who said they felt betrayed by the endorsement.

“Happy birthday to your child, shame on you,” said a poster named Jason Kane.

“Your endorsement of Donald Trump has broken my heart and caused me to wonder what your motivation might possibly be. You have lost my loyalty because in supporting a demagogue like Trump you have abandoned those of us who thought better of you,” wrote Sharron Little Burnett.

Many of the virulent attacks appear to be coming from supporters of Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican who early in the campaign was complimentary of Mr. Trump. The good feelings between the men culminated with a September embrace at a rally Mr. Cruz hosted — and invited Mr. Trump to — opposing President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.

But as Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz have emerged as the top two candidates in the race, the Cruz supporters have turned on the businessman.

“Congressman maybe you and David Duke and the Klan can get a group photo together,” commenter MJ Brunswick wrote on the Facebook page of Mr. Hunter, a California Republican and former Marine officer.

Mr. Hunter called the haters part of the “sore losers caucus.”

Trump’s wins so far and his leads in other states are a direct result of voter enthusiasm, which other candidates have been unable to match,” the congressman said. “What’s lost on the establishment types is that voters are picking Trump because they believe he’ll be a good president. Voters are supporting Trump over other candidates, and that needs to be recognized by Republicans in attack mode.”

Mr. Kobach’s Facebook page also lit up. One woman said she attends Mr. Kobach’s church and would proudly be voting there this weekend — for Mr. Cruz.

The secretary of state said he chose to back Mr. Trump because of the candidate’s criticism of bad trade deals, his opposition to the Common Core education standards and his stiff stance on illegal immigration.

“The bottom line for me is he’s going to take very aggressive steps to get things done that haven’t been done in a long time,” Mr. Kobach said.

He has been a major player in the state-level efforts against Mr. Obama’s immigration policies, including helping craft the Arizona crackdown. Those stances have earned him vicious attacks from Hispanic rights groups, which accuse him of hate and racism.

He said he expected more of that after his endorsement of Mr. Trump but didn’t expect the “holier-than-thou” attitude from the right.

“It’s been from both sides. So from the left, it’s the typical ‘He’s a racist, you’re a racist,’ ridiculous attack. From some on the right, though, it’s somewhat surprising. It’s more of a self-righteous attack. The attack is, ‘I can’t support him, and I’m surprised you can.’ “

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