Republican mega-donor Frank VanderSloot backed a Donald Trump rival in the US presidential primaries. (File Photo)
Republican mega-donor Frank VanderSloot backed a Donald Trump rival in the US presidential primaries, but despite strong reservations, he says he's now ready to support the controversial tycoon as the "best bet" to defeat Hillary Clinton.
Like VanderSloot, a billionaire Idaho businessman, many establishment Republicans have eaten crow over their predictions that Trump would never become the party standarbearer, but now back the brash political neophyte who has electrified the conservative voting base even while antagonizing many in the party.
Others, however, are vowing to never support Trump and his insult-laden campaign, complicating his ability to raise the finances necessary to mount a winning 2016 bid.
Trump mostly used his own money to prevail in his bruising primary battle against 16 rivals, but he has acknowledged he may need to raise $1 billion or more to compete in the general election.
Enter the mega-donors, including VanderSloot, who recalled thinking Trump's campaign was a "joke" when he first launched his presidential bid last June.
"But honestly given the two choices that we have at this moment, he's the best one," said VanderSloot, whose $1.2 billion net worth made him Idaho's richest man in 2014, according to wealth intelligence firm Wealth-X.
"I am worried but full of optimism," VanderSloot acknowledged in a telephone interview, saying he could support Trump financially if asked to do so.
"Donald Trump could be the best thing that ever happens to this country. Now, am I certain of that? No. But he's by far the best bet at the moment, and he's prepared to move the needle."
Trump's campaign and the Republican National Committee announced last week they were launching a committee to raise funds.
Among its vice chairs are New York Jets owner Woody Johnson and building materials magnate Diane Hendricks.
VanderSloot, who made his fortune heading wellness company Melaleuca, has expressed concern about Trump's shallow foreign policy experience.
"It's just a little scary but again, we know the direction that the other two candidates would take us," he said, referring to former secretary of state Clinton and Democratic rival Senator Bernie Sanders.
Most Republicans, including VanderSloot, view Barack Obama's presidency as an economic blight, and say a Clinton victory would lead toward European-like socialism.
Trump would use his business background, VanderSloot argued, to help the economy return to more free-market principles, despite his protectionist rhetoric.
"If he stays conservative, he can get things done," VanderSloot said.
Trump's "frivolous attacks" on those who oppose him are troubling, and "I do not like that at all," he added.
"On the other hand, he's been effective with it. So that gives us some hope that maybe you can get a leader who will lead."'Disaster'
Some mega-donors are already on board, including casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who is poised to shell out up to $100 million in support of Trump, The New York Times reported.
Others were firmly resisting, including hedge fund manager Paul Singer who has signaled he will not support Trump -- or Clinton, for that matter -- and TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, who has donated nearly $30 million to Republicans since 2012.
"I cannot think of a worse candidate, or for that matter human being, than Donald Trump" for president, said Charles Foster, founder of prominent immigration law firm Foster Global Immigration Solutions and a onetime donation bundler for Jeb Bush.
"It's a disaster," he told AFP.
"I could not conceive of ever, under any circumstances, supporting him in any way. I will support anybody other than Donald Trump."
That includes Clinton.
"I don't agree with her on certain policy issues, but she is so much better as a human being, with more common sense, competency, intelligence," Foster said.
While backing Clinton would be too extreme for many of his fellow Republican donors, Foster noted that he knows of very few Bush or Ted Cruz supporters prepared to back Trump, whom he described as "a narcissistic, demeaning bully."
VanderSloot said opting for Clinton would be a mistake, and warned that Republicans must support congressional Republican candidates come November.
"If you have Donald Trump losing, and the Republicans lose the Senate, in my opinion it's over, the hope of this country is over," VanderSloot said.(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)