Republican senators keep expressing “concern” about Donald Trump’s bigoted and outlandish statements, saying they’ll vote for him “but not endorse him.” What’s the difference?

Post-Orlando, Donald Trump is being widely criticized for calling (again) for a ban on Muslims entering the country — yet Republican senators who claim they’re “highly offended” still say they’ll vote for him.

In a speech that was remarkable for inflammatory rhetoric and all-around “truthiness,” Donald even accused the Orlando shooter of being a foreigner (he was born in Queens, New York) and claimed that American Muslims don’t assimilate.

And he has now taken to accusing President Obama of sympathizing with our enemies.

But what have elected Republicans actually done about Donald? When they say they won’t “endorse” him, but refuse to hold nomination hearings for Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court — when they freely admit they’re instead holding the seat open for a Trump appointee — how could that be anything except an endorsement? (And a really scary one, at that.)

They’re saying that Donald, who has seriously implied that he would manipulate the courts if he becomes president, has the measured judgment to fill a seat on the highest court in the land. This is their guy.

It’s painful to watch as Republican senators tie themselves in knots to avoid making any statements on Donald that may backfire politically.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), who’s running against popular Gov. Maggie Hassan, has been trying to have it both ways for a while. She says she’ll vote for Trump, but not endorse him. When reporters approach, she walks briskly past them — seeming to pretend not to hear anything. Just the other day, staffers got between her and a reporter to say she wouldn’t be commenting on Trump.

Wisconsin’s Sen. Ron Johnson is also playing the “vote for but don’t endorse” game.

And Ohio’s Sen. Rob Portman? Give him credit for this much: He won’t even pretend to be sorry. Despite everything Donald has said and done, he still has Portman’s endorsement.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the Senate majority whip, said he won’t talk about Trump. It’s “a distraction.”

Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN) — who is actually retiring from the Senate this year — is even going for the “say no evil” strategy. “I’ve said enough about Donald Trump for a while and I have to focus on a couple of other things,” he said Tuesday.

The Des Moines Register called out Sen. Chuck Grassley for his continuing obstruction of judicial nominees (including his refusal as head of the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold hearings on SCOTUS nominee Merrick Garland) and said this: “As Edmund Burke said, the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. And when it comes to Donald Trump, there are invertebrates that have shown more spine than Sen. Charles Grassley.”

After a while, you have to wonder: Exactly how offensive does Donald have to be in order to lose their support? Just how low can he go?

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)