This is what happens when the top of the ticket starts to act as a drag on the rest of the party. Rubio and Ayotte are resorting to a strategy in which they campaign as checks on the next president—whoever it is—all while saying they still support Trump.
Rubio just told the Miami Herald that he stands by calling Trump a “con man” during the primary race. But, he explains, he’s still supporting the con man for president: “We’re in a different place now. Now we have a binary choice—not a choice between 15 people or 12 people. There are two people in the world that are going to be the next president, either Donald or Hillary.”
Then there’s Ayotte, who says she is voting for Trump, but doesn’t endorse him. When asked by CNN’s Manu Raju just what the distinction was, she explained: “There’s actually a big distinction, because everyone gets a vote—I do, too, you know—but an endorsement is one where I’m out campaigning with someone. And so while he has my vote, he doesn’t have my endorsement, and I’m gonna focus really on my race.”
For what it’s worth, this kind of position seems like it’s only going to alienate everyone on both sides of the Trump divide.