- Tim Nallon/YouTube
Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire had an awkward response when asked during a Monday-night debate for her reelection whether she thought Donald Trump was a good role model for kids.
The Republican junior senator has said she’s voting for her party’s presidential nominee but has not offered a firm endorsement. Her lukewarm feelings toward Trump have her toeing a thin line to court independent and Democratic voters in a state Trump won handily in the Republican primary.
A debate moderator asked Ayotte whether 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 rising GOP Senate star issued a statement after the debate, however, saying she “misspoke” and that “neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton have set a good example, and I wouldn’t hold up either of them as role models for my kids.”
My statement on tonight’s debate: pic.twitter.com/BxNE0NQn6m
— Kelly Ayotte (@KellyAyotte) October 4, 2016
The Republican faces a tough Senate reelection bid against Maggie Hassan, the state’s Democratic governor. When the moderator asked Ayotte why she hadn’t endorsed Trump, Ayotte tried to turn the attention to Hassan’s support for Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee – 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,” Ayotte said at the debate. “And this is an area where Governor Hassan has been lockstep with Hillary Clinton. 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 suggestion (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 apologize 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 accused her of disloyalty in an interview with The Washington Post.
“I don’t know Kelly Ayotte,” Trump said. “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.”
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: