4 ways Republican officeholders are reacting to Donald Trump

As Donald Trump has assumed the mantle of presumptive Republican nominee over the past week or so, he's put some members of the GOP in quite a pickle: What do they do with a presidential candidate who's as loved by his party's base as he is loathed by much of the center and the left?

Thus far, their reactions have run the gamut.

Some Republicans have offered a full-throated endorsement of their presumptive nominee, praising him for speaking plainly about the concerns that animate the GOP base and pledging to help him win in November. Others are equally vocal in their opposition, declaring him unfit to serve as president and vowing to sit out the presidential election entirely.

Many have opted for what you might call the "mushy middle," requesting more time to deliberate or finding a way to telegraph their support for Trump without using his name. And some haven't said a word, leaving their constituents to speculate about their thinking on the matter.

Here's a look at four common Republican reactions to Trump's likely nomination.

The true believers

For some Republicans, the choice to endorse Trump was an easy one. They've praised him for drawing new voters into the GOP fold and expressing the anxieties of many Americans, arguing he would be a far better choice than Hillary Clinton for president.

"The voters of our country have turned out in record numbers to support Mr. Trump. It is important that their votes be honored and it is time that we support the party's presumptive nominee," said former Senate Majority Leader and 1996 GOP nominee Bob Dole in a statement. "We must unite as a party to defeat Hillary Clinton."

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who tussled with Trump during his own short-lived 2016 bid, sounded a similar note. "I believe in the process, and the process has said Donald Trump will be our nominee and I'm going to support him and help him and do what I can," Perry told CNN last week. "He is one of the most talented people who has ever run for the president I have ever seen."

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, has called Trump the "obvious" choice for opponents of President Obama's policies. "Hillary Clinton makes it clear she's running for Barack Obama's third term in the White House with nothing but a different name on the door," he said in a statement. "That makes our choice all the more obvious."

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, was Trump's earliest endorser in the U.S. Senate, and he's described Trump as "intellectually curious," even "unassuming."

"I think he can win, and I believe he will," Sessions told the Washington Post last month. "He will need to continue to flesh out the details of his policies. But his instinctive response to Americans' current situation has been pretty darn good."

Count former Vice President Dick Cheney among those clearly in Trump's camp: he told CNN last week that he intends to support the presumptive nominee.

The "Never Trump" crowd

Some Republicans have not warmed to Trump, and they've made it clear that's not going to change.

After Trump became the presumptive nominee last week, former President George W. Bush's spokesman Freddy Ford released a terse statement: "President Bush does not plan to participate in or comment on the presidential campaign."

Former President George H.W. Bush's spokesman, Jim McGrath, provided a similar statement that explained why he wouldn't endorse Trump: "At age 91, President Bush is retired from politics. He naturally did a few things to help Jeb, but those were the 'exceptions that proved the rule."

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, like his father and brother, has ruled out endorsing the man against whom he campaigned hard for the 2016 GOP nomination. "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," he wrote in a Facebook post. "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."

"In November, I will not vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton," he added.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, is also among the "Never Trump" crowd. "I don't intend on supporting either of the major party candidates at this point," he said last week. "I see way too much demagoguery and populism on both sides of the aisle and I only hope and aspire that we'll see more greatness."

It's not just retired Republicans, though: several sitting senators and congressmen have also ruled out supporting Trump. "With Clinton and Trump, the fix is in. Heads, they win; tails, you lose. Why are we confined to these two terrible options?" asked Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse in a Facebook post last week explaining why he would not support Trump or Clinton.

And South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who ran against Trump in the GOP primary, said last week that he could not "in good conscience support Donald Trump because I do not believe he is a reliable Republican conservative nor has he displayed the judgment and temperament to serve as commander in chief."

The mushy middle

Many Republicans have tried to stake out some sort of middle ground on the question of whether they might support Trump. Some have said they plan to support Trump, but they're not planning to offer him any formal endorsement.

"As she's said from the beginning, Kelly plans to support the nominee," a spokesman for New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte told WMUR. "As a candidate herself, she hasn't and isn't planning to endorse anyone in this cycle."

Challenges of mending GOP rift over Trump

Others have suggested they'll support Trump, but they've taken pains to avoid using his name, referring to him instead as simply with the generic "nominee."

"I feel, as a Republican and a longtime Reagan Republican, that I support the nominee of the party, and that's what I've said all along," Arizona Sen. John McCain told the Washington Post last week.'

Still others have said they can't bring themselves to support Trump yet, but they've made clear they'd like to consult with the presumptive nominee with an eye to eventually endorsing him.

"I hope to support our nominee, I hope to support his candidacy fully," House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, told CNN last week. "At this point, I'm just not there right now."

He added, "I think conservatives want to know: Does he share our values and our principles on limited government, the proper role of the executive, adherence to the Constitution?" he said. "There's a lot of questions that conservatives, I think, are going to want answers to."

The Witness Protection Program

Some Republicans, aware they might be damned if they do and damned if they don't, have settled on another response to Trump's nomination: say nothing.

"I said I was not going to get involved, and I would not endorse any candidate and that I was going to stay focused on Maryland," Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan told reporters last week. "And I'm not going to take any more stupid questions about Donald Trump."

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder took a similar tack, declining to weigh in on the presidential race because his day job is just that all-consuming. A spokesman told the Detroit Free Press last week that Snyder is "not planning on getting involved in the presidential election right now, as he has too many immediate challenges to address."

The demurrals may suffice for now - Trump is the presumptive nominee, not the actual nominee. But when he clears the delegate threshold and is formally nominated at the GOP convention, it's unlikely Republican officeholders will be able to maintain their silence.