Gary Herbert, the Utah Republican governor who rescinded his endorsement of Donald Trump in October, said he is “cautiously optimistic” about Trump and believes the new president is surrounding himself with a talented team.
“The most important thing about being a leader, I think, is who you put around you,” Herbert said Friday at POLITICO’s annual State Solutions Conference. “If Trump does that, and I see him doing that, I think he can have a successful presidency. So we’re cautiously optimistic.”
Herbert abandoned Trump in October after a tape featuring the GOP nominee bragging about groping women without their permission was made public. Although he said he would not vote for Trump, the governor did not reveal who ended up voting for on election night.
Trump won Utah’s six electoral votes but delivered a weak performance in a solidly conservative state. The president won just 45 percent of the popular vote — more than enough to defeat Hillary Clinton, but far below traditional GOP presidential margins there.
The Utah governor said he was impressed with Trump’s picks of Mike Pence for vice president, Scott Pruitt for EPA administrator, Rep. Ryan Zinke for secretary of the interior and former Gov. Rick Perry for secretary of energy.
“I think we see who he’s putting around him are really good, talented people who’ve been successful in life and bring a certain perspective to the table. I think is going to help,” Herbert said.
He added he supported the president’s selection of Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court.
“I think most of us feel good about Gorsuch as somebody who’s said ‘I’m there to interpret the law, not to advocate for some position or policy change’,” Herbert said.