It comes up at just about every event Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson holds: A question from a voter (or a pesky reporter) about Donald Trump’s influence on his quest for a third term.
It happened again at Isakson’s appearance at the Roswell Rotary, where a voter asked for his view of Republicans who refuse to rally around the party’s nominee. And his answer echoed his past responses to the thorny topic.
“The first person I’m interested in is me,” he said to laughs from the crowd. “I am not an egotistical person, but I enjoy my job.”
Isakson has endorsed Trump and encouraged Republicans to “volunteer for the Army of America” and line up behind the party’s nominee at the party’s convention in Cleveland. He said Thursday that was his first and likely last speech on riding the Trump train.
But as polls tighten and a growing list of national Republican figures flee Trump, and the businessman grabs headlines for more controversies, Isakson is under more pressure to distance himself from the party’s standard-bearer.
On Thursday, he said he will make no apologies for Trump’s doings. As a certain ink-stained wretch outlined Trump’s latest troubles, the lawmaker interrupted.
“Let’s draw the line right here: I’m going to apologize any time I do something stupid. I’m going to be responsible for my actions, but I’m not going to assume responsibility for anyone else’s,” he said. “What I say is what I say. I’m not an apologist for anybody, and if somebody’s offended somebody, they need to be the person apologizing, not me.”
He was then asked if he still stood by Trump.
“I made one speech about that subject, in Cleveland, to our delegation to support our party,” he said. “And I am supportive of our party and I’m a member of the party. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll released last week gives Isakson a 6-point lead over Democrat Jim Barksdale, a political novice abandoned by several of his party’s top leaders. With Libertarian Allen Buckley hoping to draw disillusioned Republicans to his campaign, some analysts view a runoff as a more distinct possibility. And Isakson said the talk is premature.
Georgia “is going to be red in the Senate race, that I’m sure of. And I’m working hard to make sure that happens. There are a lot of people trying to make Georgia purple, but they tried that two years ago and it proved to be wrong.”
He added: “But I take nothing for granted this year.”