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There's hope for Washington Republicans who aren't keen on Trump

Presidential candidate Donald Trump, pictured here 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference.
Flickr Photo/Gage Skidmore (CC BY SA 2.0)/
Presidential candidate Donald Trump, pictured here 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference.

Donald Trump is the apparent GOP nominee. And here in Washington state, Republicans are deeply divided about the pick and uncertain about the future of the party. 

Trump and his supporters are triumphant, but the reaction among some Washington state Republicans is a lot less enthusiastic, like former Attorney General Rob McKenna.

McKenna: "I can't support Trump. I think he's a demagogue and an opportunist with no real foundation in principles or values that I can detect."

Leading Republicans oppose their own party's nominee for president?  Unheard of; a political earthquake.

McKenna: “This is a pivotal moment in the Republican Party's history. The Reagan-Goldwater era of the party is coming to a close because it just doesn't have a broad enough appeal. Even though I'm a Reagan Republican, I see the handwriting on the wall."

McKenna says to win, the GOP needs to change.

McKenna: "The party needs to morph into something that has a broader appeal to voters of color, to women voters to younger voters especially."

State GOP Chairman Susan Hutchison is a lot more optimistic. She says Trump will help state Republicans this year.  

Hutchison : "More than ever we've got an opportunity to not only take the House, but also to take the governor's race and to win the Senate race and other statewide races simply because we're going to be getting a huge group of voters that have felt disenfranchised."

University of Washington political history professor Margaret O'Mara says Hutchison may have a point.

O'Mara: "Anti-establishment populist messages played well here in the past. It's a place that in 1912 went for the third party candidate, Teddy Roosevelt. It's a place that in 1992 a sizeable chunk of votes went to third party candidate Ross Perot."

So does that mean  Trump could actually do well in Washington state?

 O'Mara: "Playing the Washington outsider card could get Trump some traction now. Will it get him enough to win what is now a reliable blue state? I doubt it."

But even if Trump loses in a landslide, and drags state and local Republicans down with him, O'Mara says Washington state Republicans should not give up hope. 

 O'Mara: “In 1964 having Goldwater at the top of the ticket was bad news for Republicans all the way down. But in 1966, a short two years later, the GOP got a lot of important victories in congressional races and the Senate. So things can change pretty quickly and maybe what both parties should keep in mind is keep their eyes on the long game, not just 2016."

Year started with KUOW: 2004