Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire had an awkward response when asked if she thinks Donald Trump is a good role model for kids during a debate Monday night.
The junior senator has said she’s voting for her party’s presidential candidate, but isn’t endorsing him. Her lukewarm feelings toward Trump have her toeing a thin line to court Independent and Democratic voters in a state the businessman won handily in the Republican primary.
A debate moderator asked Ayotte is she would “tell a child to aspire to be like Donald Trump.”
“I would tell a child to absolutely aspire, certainly, to be their best, and to be president, to seek to run for the presidency, absolutely,” she said.
The moderator asked her again: “Would you tell them to be like Donald Trump; would you point to him as a role model?”
“I think that, certainly, there are many role models that we have, and I believe he can serve as president, and so, absolutely, I would do that,” Ayotte said.
The Republican faces a tough reelection bid against the state’s Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan. When the moderator asked Ayotte why she hasn’t endorsed Trump, Ayotte tried to turn the attention to Hassan’s support for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton — a tactic she’s employed throughout the campaign.
“Because I’ve had some disagreements with him, and I’ve been quite clear about those disagreements. And this is an area where Governor Hassen has been lockstep with Hillary Clinton,” Ayotte said. “I haven’t heard major disagreements that she’s had with Secretary Clinton. So who is going to stand up on behalf of the people of New Hampshire?”
Ayotte has clashed with Trump over his feud with a Gold Star family, his insistence (later softened) that women who get abortions should be punished, and his dig that Sen. John McCain wasn’t a war hero.
Mr. Trump’s remarks are offensive & he should apologise not only to Sen McCain
— Kelly Ayotte (@KellyAyotte) July 18, 2015
Women should not be punished, and I’m glad Mr. Trump has retracted his troubling comments
— Kelly Ayotte (@KellyAyotte) March 30, 2016
After Ayotte refused to endorse him in August, Trump decried her disloyalty in an interview with the Washington Post.
“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,” Trump said. “We need loyal people in this country. We need fighters in this country. We don’t need weak people.”
Ayotte responded with a statement, saying she’s “always going to stand up for our military families and what’s best for the people of New Hampshire.”
Watch Ayotte’s awkward response at the debate below:
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