President-elect Donald Trump’s education secretary choice Betsy DeVos backed Marco Rubio during the GOP primary race, referring to Trump as an “interloper” who would never become the Republican Party’s nominee.
The Washington Examiner’s Jason Russell reports GOP megadonor DeVos endorsed Rubio in the primary and that her family – heirs of the Amway fortune – backed Mitt Romney in 2012. Russell adds the DeVos family’s financial support “may have been crucial for [Romney] as he squeaked past Rick Santorum by three points to notch a crucial win before Super Tuesday.”
During an interview in March, DeVos told Russell, “I don’t think Donald Trump represents the Republican Party.”
She continued with comments on the GOP primary race:
We as a family decided to, as many did, see how things unfolded nationally. There were a number of candidates that we felt would be very capable, that we could easily embrace and support. As the field has continued to narrow, after Gov. [Jeb] Bush exited the race, we felt it appropriate and an important time to lend our voice, whatever impact that might have, particularly with Michigan’s primary coming up. That was our impetus to embrace and publicly support Sen. Rubio.
Describing Trump as “an interloper” who is “not winning the support of traditional Republicans,” DeVos said:
I continue to be very optimistic that as we get further along into the process, the more voters know about him, and the more informed they are, the more they’re going to continue to break away. That’s even held true in the primaries held to date. I think he has underperformed compared to public polls just days before the Super Tuesday contests. I think more and more people are going to realize that they really don’t trust him. The more they learn about his record, they’re going to break away and go to an alternate. I continue to think that Rubio is a very strong and viable candidate that will represent our party and the future for our country very, very well.
Asked about whether she would support Trump if he eventually won the GOP nomination, DeVos responded:
I’m still confident that he is not going to be the nominee. We have a long way to go. As you noted, he has a quarter of the necessary delegates, but that’s a long way from 100 percent of the delegates needed. As we start to get into winner-take-all primaries, Florida is going to be a strong place for Marco Rubio. I think the dynamics will continue to evolve and change.
The more people understand the totality of Donald Trump and what he stands for, I am confident and convinced they are going to look to an alternative to support.
Several months later, during the Republican National Convention – where DeVos was an at-large delegate for Ohio Gov. John Kasich – Russell wrote the proponent of charter schools and school choice was waiting to hear Trump talk about school choice before she would back him.
Up until that point, Trump’s talk about education had been fairly limited to pronouncing Common Core a “disaster” and recommending that Washington, D.C. get out of education, leaving it to the states instead.
“I’ve been happily surprised to hear [school choice] mentioned as many times as it has been, because it hasn’t been part of the conversation nationally to date,” DeVos said, according to Russell. “It’s pretty understandable because on the other side, Hillary is clearly in the camp of the status quo and the teachers’ unions. But I’m very hopeful Mr. Trump will begin talking about this as part of his campaign rhetoric going into the fall.”
DeVos added that she would be “continuing to watch and listen and observe” whether Trump began to speak of school choice.
Her decision to support him, however, would require “a greater focus on the issues that are of import to all of the American people. … I need to see more of a refinement on that. And to see a more presidential demeanor.”
According to Russell, the billionaire added that Trump’s rhetoric also would need to be refined.
I know something about soft money, as my family is the largest single contributor of soft money to the national Republican Party. I have decided, however, to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect some things in return.
Trump officially won DeVos’ state of Michigan last week, the first Republican to do so since George H.W. Bush in 1988.