They know that their districts gave Trump heavy support in the primary and the voters they need may be Trump loyalists. If they say they're not voting for Trump or that they don't support him as their party's nominee, they risk being branded as turncoats or "establishment" Republicans.
But Trump throughout the presidential race has issued ever more controversial statements that have turned many moderate Republicans against him. Republicans who too vociferously support Trump risk alienating these voters and, worse, risk becoming the subject of attack ads that link them directly to Trump's most outrageous episodes. It's already happened to Gov. Bruce Rauner, who never has endorsed Trump by name.
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, had signed on to be Trump's agricultural adviser in August, but withdrew his support for Trump after video emerged of Trump speaking in crude and offensive terms about women. Davis announced his disavowal of Trump in a Facebook post, then incurred the wrath of hundreds of commenters who accused him of being a traitor and worse.
At a candidate forum hosted by The State Journal-Register in Springfield, Republican state Reps. Avery Bourne and Sara Wojcicki Jiminez both gave careful answers when asked if they would vote for Trump. Bourne said she would but did not mention Trump by name. Jiminez gave a very tactful answer that ended with her statement that she would decide Nov. 8.
Whether Trump's presence at the top of the ticket helps downstate Republicans or hurts them is something we won't know until after Election Day. But the "Trump effect" is a strange phenomenon and it's our topic on this week's "Only in Illinois."