Former Gov. Jeb Bush on Friday became the latest prominent Republican to come out against Donald Trump, saying the polarizing businessman has not demonstrated the "temperament or strength of character" to be president.
Trump's ascendancy as the presumptive nominee has driven a wedge in the GOP, with leaders and elected officials across the country struggling over how to handle him. House Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday said he was not ready to endorse Trump, but Friday former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Sen. Bob Dole did.
Bush, who was the target of withering attacks from Trump while he was a candidate and still draws the occasional taunt, congratulated Trump on capturing the nomination.
"There is no doubt that he successfully tapped into the deep sense of anger and frustration so many Americans around the country rightfully feel today," Bush wrote on his Facebook page.
However, Bush said he cannot support Trump.
"The American presidency is an office that goes beyond just politics. It requires of its occupant great fortitude and humility and the temperament and strong character to deal with the unexpected challenges that will inevitably impact our nation in the next four years.
"Donald Trump has not demonstrated that temperament or strength of character. He has not displayed a respect for the Constitution. And, he is not a consistent conservative. These are all reasons why I cannot support his candidacy."
Bush said he would not vote for Hillary Clinton, who is expected to be the Democratic nominee, and would support "principled conservatives" at the state and federal level.
"For Republicans, there is no greater priority than ensuring we keep control of both chambers of Congress. I look forward to working hard for great conservatives in the Senate and House in the coming months," Bush wrote.
Already Bush had said he would not attend the GOP convention, scheduled for Cleveland in July. His father and brother, the former presidents, said this week they will not get involved in the race.
Trump locked down the nomination with a victory in Tuesday's Indiana primary that saw his top rival, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, bow out. On Wednesday, Ohio Gov. John Kasich gave up his quixotic campaign.
Since then Republicans have been wrestling over Trump. Many have said they cannot support him, pointing to his past positions on abortion, taxes and gun control, his demeanor and personal life.
Still others have called for unity, including Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus. His counterpart in Florida echoed that. "Now, we must all come together as a party and complete the task at hand, which is defeating Hillary Clinton in November," said Florida GOP chairman Blaise Ingoglia.
Trump has dismissed his critics with typical flair.
"I fully understand why Lindsey Graham cannot support me," he said of another one-time rival. "If I got beaten as badly as I beat him, and all the other candidates he endorsed, I would not be able to give my support either."
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has not publicly commented since Trump locked down the nomination. Rubio, however, has said he would support the nominee.
Technically, Bush did too when he made a pledge in September to support the nominee "regardless of who it is." That pledge was orchestrated by the RNC amid talk Trump would run as a third-party candidate. Even then many Republicans — and political watchers in general — thought Trump would fade.
As Trump gained strength, opponents mounted a #NeverTrump movement on social media but that failed to gel. Trump has caused some awkward responses from vulnerable Republicans on the ballot this November.
New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte's campaign said this week she will "support" the nominee but "isn't planning to endorse anyone this cycle."
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, told the Miami Herald on Friday:
"I will work with whomever is chosen by the American people to serve as president, because I deeply respect the American constitutional system. In this election, I do not support either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton."
Contact Alex Leary at [email protected] Follow @learyreports.