Last year, it was rare to hear Republicans praise Hillary Clinton. The Former Secretary of State had gone from elder stateswoman to being, once again, one of the most polarizing politicians in America. Republicans, as well as some progressive Democrats, attacked her to an unrelenting drumbeat.
But things got noticeably warmer as summer started.
A number of prominent Republicans have endorsed Clinton this month, and others have complimented her. Hank Paulson, the former Treasury Secretary under President George W. Bush, said last week he would vote for her, and the prominent Republican national security advisor Brent Scowcroft also joined her corner. Former Bush Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage endorsed her the week before.
And in the last few days, more Republicans have offered her tepid praise. Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate Majority Leader, said on Tuesday that Clinton is “smart and capable.” Mark Salter, a prominent former John McCain adviser, said this week that Clinton “acts like an adult, and understand the responsibilities of an American president.” Even former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said that while Clinton is “wrong… she’s wrong within normal parameters.”
Clinton is, of course, still deeply unpopular among Republicans. The GOP leadership has lined up behind Donald Trump, albeit begrudgingly, and the Republican National Committee regularly blasts Clinton’s judgment, calling her dishonest and reckless.
But the difference this year is Trump, whose stormy weeks on the campaign trail and provocative comments have made many Republicans uneasy. Much of the Republican establishment, which has long been aghast with Trump, finds more in common with Clinton even if they are supporting their party’s nominee.
The praise for Clinton comes after a slew of Trump controversies, including racially-charged attacks on a judge presiding over a lawsuit against him and Trump’s off-key response to the Orlando shooting.
McConnell told NY1 news in an interview that Trump is not yet a “credible candidate.”
“Trump clearly needs to change, in my opinion, to win the general election,” he said. “So my hope is that he is beginning to pivot and become what I would call a more serious and credible candidate for the highest office in the land.”
When asked about his relationship with Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, McConnell was complimentary. “She’s an intelligent and capable person, no question about it,” he said.
In a blog post, Salter railed against Trump, calling him a “charlatan” responsible for “cheating investors, subcontractors and his own customers” during his career, adding Trump has a “shaky psyche,” is “insecure, angry, scapegoating” and “small.”
Clinton, on the other hand, got some faint praise—and an endorsement. “Whatever Hillary Clinton’s faults, she’s not ignorant or hateful or a nut,” Salter wrote. “She acts like an adult, and understands the responsibilities of an American president. That might not be a ringing endorsement. But in 2016, the year of Trump’s s campaign, it’s more than enough.”
Romney, speaking in Aspen, Colorado, at the city’s Ideas Festival, repeated his resolution not to vote for Trump or Clinton. He said that Trump was branding the Republican party “in a negative way.” In the past he’s called Trump a “phony, a fraud.” In Aspen, Romney said, “Hillary Clinton is wrong on every issue, but she’s wrong within the normal parameters.”