Trump: Base did not back Heller for Interior |

Trump: Base did not back Heller for Interior

The Associated Press
FILE - In this Oct. 20, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., shake hands at a campaign rally in Elko, Nev. President Trump says former Nevada Sen. Heller lost his re-election because he was "extremely hostile" to Trump during the 2016 election and that he didn't pick Heller to be U.S. Interior Secretary because he couldn't get his base excited about the Republican, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. (AP Photo/Alex Goodlett, File)
AP | FR171569 AP

LAS VEGAS — President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he didn’t pick former Nevada Sen. Dean Heller to be his nominee for U.S. Interior secretary because he couldn’t get his base excited about the Republican.

“I just could never get my base excited on him,” Trump told reporters Wednesday.

The president said the former Republican senator lost his re-election in November to Democrat Jacky Rosen for the same reason, saying he “tried for him” but his base “did not believe me. They wouldn’t go for him.”

Heller had once been a critic of Trump and returned his campaign donation, but he made an ally of the president during late 2017 and rallied with him several times as he tried to win re-election.

The president said Wednesday that he likes Heller a lot but the Republican had been “extremely hostile” to him during the 2016 presidential election and wouldn’t admit for nearly a year that he voted for Trump in the presidential election, leaving the impression he instead voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“When a senator walks out of a voting booth and he’s a Republican and he says no comment, that’s not a good sign,” Trump said.

Heller told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he had the backing of conservatives in Nevada, including hunting, cattlemen and agriculture groups, for the Interior Department post, and those groups were pushing Trump to nominate Heller.

Heller said he considers the president a friend and that he did a lot of good for him in his re-election bid.

“It’s past as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “This president called me that day before the election and said I was going to win by five points. Now all of sudden he has a different spin on that. Not surprising. I think America’s used to that.”