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Aug 9, 2016 2:41 PM

Ayotte says she's 'quite clear' when she disagrees with Trump; adds 'I will continue to'

NH1 News Political Director

SOMERSWORTH - Sen. Kelly Ayotte says she's "great friends" with Susan Collins and added "I have great respect for her."

But asked about the decision by the GOP senator from Maine not to support Republican nominee Donald Trump for president, Ayotte said "I think each person has to make their own decision.

And Ayotte, who's facing a Democratic challenge from Gov. Maggie Hassan in one of the most high profile, expensive and negative U.S. Senate races in the country, said that when it comes to Trump, "I’ve also been quite clear when I have disagreements with him, which I will continue to do."

Ayotte took questions Tuesday from NH1 News, NBC News and NECN, moments after speaking with employees and touring the Goodwin Community Health Center in Somersworth as part of this week's "National Health Center Week."

The visit comes as Ayotte finds herself down 10 points to Hassan in the most recent public opinion poll in her Senate re-election campaign. Until the release last week of a WBUR survey, Ayotte and Hassan had been within the sampling error in all polling dating back to the start of the race last autumn.

Here is the brief news availability that Ayotte held. Reporters were told they were allowed to ask one question, but NH1 News and NECN stretched the rules.

Question from NH1 News: What do you make of Sen. Susan Collins announcement that she won’t vote for Donald Trump. And are you still backing Trump?

I have great respect for Sen. Collins. In fact she and I have worked together on a number of important issues, many of them including when the government shutdown happened, she and I together with a group of women to get the government back open. And so we’re great friends, I have great respect for her, and I think each person has to make their own decision as to whether who they’re going to support for the presidential ticket.

Question from NBC News: Sen Collins said Donald Trump doesn’t have the right temperament to be president. Do you feel he has the right temperament to be President?

Again I have great respect for Sen. Collins. Again, I’m focusing really on running for re-election for Senate here and that means getting things done for the people of New Hampshire and focusing on how we can work together to find common ground and rather than focusing on our differences, to get results. Obviously there’s a presidential race going on. I’ve said that I’m going to be voting for our nominee but I’ve also been quite clear when I have disagreements with him, which I will continue to do. The one thing I can say is whoever wins this presidential race, it’s going to be very important that the senator from New Hampshire stands up for the people of New Hampshire. If it’s wrong for New Hampshire, I’ll stand up and make sure I’m very clear no matter who’s in the White House, even if it’s from my own party. And if it’s right for New Hampshire and the country, I’m going to work with that person to get things done, even if it’s the opposite party. That’s what we need to do for this country and that’s what I’m going to continue to focus on

Question from NECN about last week’s WMUR poll and whether she’ll re-valuate her support for Trump.

I’m going to continue every day to evaluate my support for anyone. So there’s nothing different here than there would be in any other situation. But I’m focusing really on things like this, getting out and seeing the great work that’s being done here at Goodwin for the people of New Hampshire. Our opioid epidemic, and really getting things done. The Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act. Working across the aisle to make sure we have the capacity for prevention treatment and recovery in our state. And that’s really where my focus is. Pundits love to talk about polls. I’m focusing on getting things done and results and serving the people of New Hampshire.

Question from NECN: Might you be doing things differently if you weren’t running for office?

I am working and doing what I’m doing whether I’m running for office or not running for office, which is focusing on getting things done. And that’s whether on the opioid epidemic, serving our veterans, protecting our national security on the Armed Services Committee. So my work continues and it focuses whether I’m running for election or not running for election. I have a job to do for the people of New Hampshire and that’s my focus

Question from NH1 News: 50 former nation security officials from previous GOP administrations signed a letter saying they don’t trust Donald Trump with control of the country’s nuclear codes. Do you?

Here’s what I’m concerned about: If I look at the Obama-Clinton foreign policy. Let’s start with the withdrawal prematurely from Iraq that I opposed in the Armed Service Committee and folks across the aisle actually opposed. We now have a situation where that vacuum created, we’ve seen ISIS rise and be a threat not only in Iraq and Syria but with the attacks they’ve been able to carry out or inspire around the world. We have a situation where what happened in Libya, there was no follow up to make sure that the weapons that present in Libya, that there was the kind of follow up to make sure that those weapons didn’t go awash in the Middle East. When it comes to the reset policy with Russia, as I look at where we are with this administration, and that policy, that unfortunately has been a failure. And finally there was the Iran deal, which was from my opinion, was flawed from day one, not to protect our national security interests, or our allies. And now we’ve seen recently that there was a $400,000 cash payment essentially, that went at the same time, in exchange for hostages. And here we have since that time, Iran has taken three more hostages. So as I look at the foreign policy of this administration, on the Armed Services Committee I’ve been a very strong critic of many of the decisions that have been made. And that’s what I’m concerned about. I don’t want to continue to head in this direction that I worry is really making us less safe.

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