Walker distances himself from pledge to support GOP nominee

Walker hedges on Trump
Walker hedges on Trump

Donald Trump's refusal to back down from controversial comments about a federal judge's "Mexican heritage" is increasingly costing him support within the Republican Party.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who ended a brief bid for the GOP presidential nomination in September, distanced himself on Wednesday from his pledge last fall to support the Republican nominee and called on Trump to renounce his remarks.

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"It's just sad in America we have such poor choices right now," Walker told WKOW-TV in Madison.

Trump has been under fire for his sustained attacks on U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is overseeing a fraud lawsuit against Trump University in California. The former reality television star has said Curiel's Latino heritage – the judge was born in Indiana to parents who moved legally to the U.S. from Mexico – makes him biased because Trump has proposed building a wall along the southern U.S. border.

Walker said he holds out hope the billionaire businessman will moderate his rhetoric and apologize for his comments about Curiel.

"He's not yet the nominee. Officially, that won't happen until the middle of July, and so for me that's kind of the time frame that, in particular, I want to make sure he renounces what he says – at least in regards to this judge," he said.

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Walker is in good company, joining even some of Trump's supporters in condemning the rhetoric, which House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., called "the textbook definition of a racist comment."

On Wednesday, Trump said he was "disappointed and surprised" by criticism from Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

"I had just won more votes than anyone in the history of the party, so I was a little bit surprised when they said that," Trump told Time Magazine. "I didn't think it was necessary. But, you know, they have to say what they have to say. I'm a big boy. They have to say what they have to say."

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Trump has refused to back down or otherwise apologize for his comments, saying it was "unfortunate" his words had been "misconstrued."

On Tuesday, Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, a Republican who is facing a difficult re-election in a state that has reliably supported Democrats in presidential election years, said the Curiel remarks went too far.

"I have concluded that Donald Trump has not demonstrated the temperament necessary to assume the greatest office in the world," Kirk said, adding he "cannot and will not support my party's nominee for president regardless of the political impact on my candidacy or the Republican Party."

Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt urged the Republican National Committee to change the convention rules to stop Trump or "get killed" in November.

"And if Donald Trump pulls over a makeover in the next four to five weeks, great, they can keep him," Hewitt said on his show Wednesday morning. "It would be better if he had done so five weeks ago, but it was – it's awful and it ended bad last night."

Accepting Trump because presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is worse, Hewitt said, is "like ignoring Stage IV cancer. You can't do it, you've got to go attack it."

"Right now the Republican Party is facing – the plane is headed towards the mountain after the last 72 hours," he said.