As Gov. Charlie Baker added trout to Jamaica Pond in Boston Wednesday, his party's presidential field cleared out of the way for a candidate the governor said he would not support.
Right around the time Baker splashed in the water of Jamaica Pond under a cloudy sky, news organizations began reporting the last Republican holdout, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, would get out of the presidential race, all but ensuring Donald Trump's status as the 2016 Republican presidential nominee.
The governor, who said he took issue with Trump's statements on women, Muslims and "religious freedom," nonetheless congratulated the controversial New York City real estate developer for besting the field of Republican candidates.
"I think it's pretty clear at this point that he's going to be the Republican nominee, yeah, and I give him credit for it. I mean he earned it fair and square and congratulations to him," Baker said.
Baker, who has ruled out voting for Trump and declined to disclose who received his vote in the Massachusetts primary, said, "I sincerely doubt I'll be voting for Hillary Clinton," the Democrat frontrunner who is still contending with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Baker spokeswoman Elizabeth Guyton later said the governor would also not vote for Clinton.
A cabinet member in two Massachusetts Republican administrations, Baker, 59, said the presidential contest has been "one of the most troubling election cycles across the board I've seen in my lifetime," and said he can't recall the last time he did not vote for the Republican presidential nominee.
Rep. Geoff Diehl, a Whitman Republican who became the first member of the Legislature to endorse Trump, in February, said Bay Staters backing Trump will be put to work in Massachusetts rather than dispatched to the traditional swing state of New Hampshire.
"We got the word from [Trump campaign manager] Corey Lewandowski that there's a feeling that Massachusetts is in play," Diehl told the News Service.
The last time a Republican won Massachusetts was a generation ago when President Ronald Reagan nearly swept the country on his way to a second term.
Diehl said he wants to "reach out to every person who supported Ted Cruz," the Texas senator who dropped out of the Republican race Tuesday night, and suggested Baker might try "to keep an open door since Donald Trump might become president."
Trump has shocked the political establishment with his plans to "take out" the families of terrorists, his apparent unfamiliarity with the nation's nuclear defenses, and his mockery of Arizona Sen. John McCain's Vietnam War imprisonment and former candidate Carly Fiorina's appearance.
In Massachusetts Trump more than doubled the vote haul of his next closest competitor, Kasich, while Clinton barely edged Sanders after notching a 15-point victory over now-President Barack Obama in Massachusetts eight years earlier.
Rep. Steven Howitt, a Seekonk Republican, told the News Service on Wednesday that he would support Trump as the Republican nominee, and agreed with Baker's overall take on the "troubling" tenor of the campaign.
"I would like to hear more substance," Howitt said, of Trump. He said, "I would like to hear how he is going to make certain things happen."
Rep. Keiko Orrall, recently elected to the Republican National Committee with the support of Baker, has said she would back the Republican nominee, and Republican National Committeeman Ron Kaufman has predicted Trump "will probably end up with more votes than any Republican candidate in the history of our party."
"The MassGOP is committed to supporting our Republican presidential nominee, and to growing the grassroots here in the Commonwealth by fielding strong GOP candidates in legislative, county and congressional elections," Republican State Committee Chairwoman Kirsten Hughes said in a statement. "Republicans are united in stopping Hillary Clinton, who has shown she simply cannot be trusted and represents the prospect of four more years of the failed Obama era."
Rep. Kimberly Ferguson, a Holden Republican who backed Kasich, told the News Service she hasn't made up her mind whether she will get behind Trump.
The Democratic frontrunner presents a long history of antagonism toward Republicans, claiming them last fall as the enemy she is most proud to have, parrying their questions during a congressional hearing on the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, and asserting nearly two decades ago during her husband's presidency the existence of a "vast right-wing conspiracy."
In a fundraising email Wednesday, Clinton's campaign said, "16 Republicans tried and failed to stop Trump -- now it's up to us."
Clinton, the former secretary of state, 2008 presidential contender and first lady to President Bill Clinton, has a "huge believability problem," Baker told reporters.
At the signing of an agreement with the town of Holbrook on Wednesday, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito echoed Baker's Trump criticisms, and said Trump's "divisive" rhetoric "doesn't allow me to have confidence in supporting him as president."
As for whether she would support Clinton, Polito said, "No. I mean, I'm a Republican," adding that like Baker she will focus on electing local Republicans to the state legislature.
Decked out in a State Police jacket and waders reaching to his thighs, Baker made his comments to the news media after helping schoolchildren from the John F. Kennedy Elementary School toss trout into Jamaica Pond.
"I'm going to focus my time on my day job and on some of the races that are going on here in the Commonwealth," Baker said. "There are a lot of really good folks running for state rep and state Senate."
Commissioner of Fish and Game George Peterson said the pond was being stocked with about 1,000 fish - brown, rainbow, brook and tiger trout - from hatcheries in Belchertown and Sandwich. The state releases about 500,000 fish in the spring and another 80,000 in the fall, Peterson told the News Service.
Asked about Trump, Peterson, a former Republican House member, said, "He's the presidential nominee. We'll see where we go from here," before saying he doesn't enjoy answering political questions in his new position.
Asked what Baker should say about Trump, Jamaica Plain Democrat Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez responded, "What can he say?"
Sanchez said the governor's stocking of the kettle pond, where depths reach as far as 80 feet, is a "tradition" stretching back before he joined the House in 2003.
Jack Buckley, director of the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, told the News Service the program is funded entirely through hunting and fishing licenses.
"This is fun, right? Better than being in school?" Baker said to the schoolchildren, who approached the assignment with varying levels of enthusiasm and recoil.
The governor used both bucket and net to set the fish free in the pond where anglers gathered along the banks with lines in the water.
"He's just sitting there like, 'I can't believe they put me in this frigging net,'" Baker remarked at one point after releasing a trout.
The gray day offered some bipartisan conviviality. After one of the fish Baker was bringing to the water flopped on the ground, Rep. Elizabeth Malia, a Jamaica Plain Democrat, quipped, "It's like working with us Democrats."
[Antonio Caban contributed reporting]