Kelly Ayotte was Donald Trump’s latest target after the U.S. senator tried to put some distance between herself and the GOP presidential nominee. Ayotte, who is fighting an uphill battle to win re-election in New Hampshire, recently criticized Trump for comments made toward Khizr Khan, a Muslim-American father of a U.S. Army Captain killed in Iraq.
During an interview with the Washington Post, Trump brought up Ayotte and her noticeable lack of support for him in November’s election.
“New Hampshire is one of my favorite places. You have a Kelly Ayotte who doesn’t want to talk about Trump, but I’m beating her in the polls by a lot. You tell me. Are these people that should be representing us, okay? You tell me.”
While comparing poll numbers, Trump also questioned Ayotte’s ability to lead.
“I don’t know Kelly Ayotte. I know she’s given me no support — zero support — and yet I’m leading her in the polls. I’m doing very well in New Hampshire. We need loyal people in this country. We need fighters in this country. We don’t need weak people. We have enough of them. We need fighters in this country. But Kelly Ayotte has given me zero support, and I’m doing great in New Hampshire.”
Senator Ayotte returned fire, but did not directly attack the GOP presidential candidate. Instead, she chose to reference negative comments made by Trump toward Khizr Khan, the father of Captain Humayun Khan.
“I call it like I see it, and I’m always going to stand up for our military families and what’s best for the people of New Hampshire. The Khan family deserves nothing less than our deepest support, respect and gratitude, and they have every right to express themselves in any way they choose.”
Khizr Khan spoke out against Trump during his speech at the Democratic National Convention last week. According to Khan, Trumps mischaracterizes Muslims and has no real understanding of the U.S. Constitution. In several interviews afterwards, both Mr. and Mrs. Khan have criticized Trump’s character.
On Tuesday, Trump adamantly defended himself and blamed the “unfair media.”
“I was viciously attacked on the stage. All I did was respond to it. Pure and simple. It should’ve been a one-hour story, and they make it a longer story.”
Despite the dispute, Senator Ayotte did not necessarily withdraw her support of Trump, yet she still refuses to endorse him. Back in May, months before Donald Trump secured the Republican presidential nomination, Senator Kelly Ayotte made it known she would support the candidate, but would never endorse him.
Ayotte and Trump have butted heads before. The New Hampshire senator condemned previous controversial comments made by presidential candidate.
A little over a year ago, Trump claimed Senator John McCain could not be “a war hero” since he was captured by the enemy during the Vietnam War. Ayotte called Trump’s statement “offensive” and demanded an apology be made to McCain, as well as all servicemembers and veterans.
At least one Republican strategist thinks Ayotte’s Trump comments only reinforce her campaign message that she is not a “Trump clone.” Ryan Williams said Ayotte is independent of the presidential candidate and isn’t afraid to “call out” other GOP members when they say outlandish things.
State Representative Al Baldasaro believes Ayotte is making a serious mistake by not endorsing Donald Trump. She is doing a great job supporting veterans, but needs to straighten her priorities and get behind the presidential candidate, he said. If she doesn’t, Ayotte may lose critical votes in her current bid for a Senate seat.
Senator Kelly Ayotte is in a tight race against Democrat Maggie Hassan, New Hampshire’s governor. Recent polling shows support for Ayotte at 45.8 percent and Hassan at 45.2 percent, suggesting this will be one of closest Senate races in this year’s election.
[Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]