A swiftly burgeoning number of top Republican politicians called for nominee Donald Trump to exit the presidential race Saturday, with many urging running mate Mike Pence to take his place.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich said he could no longer support Trump after the release of his vulgar and sexually charged comments caught on tape.
The Republican governor and former Trump rival had pledged to support his party’s nominee during the primary campaign. He said Saturday Trump “is a man I cannot and should not support.”
He said, “I will not vote for a nominee who has behaved in a manner that reflects so poorly on our country.”
South Dakota Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard also tweeted Saturday that the election is “too important,” and that Trump should withdraw in favor of Pence.
South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune, the third-ranking Senate Republican, tweeted Saturday that vice presidential candidate Mike Pence should take the spot at the top of the Republican ticket “effective immediately.”
Nevada Republican congressman Joe Heck said the “only option is to formally ask Mr. Trump to stand down and to allow Republicans the opportunity to elect someone who will provide us with the strong leadership so desperately needed and one that Americans deserve.”
Donald Trump should withdraw and Mike Pence should be our nominee effective immediately.
— Senator John Thune (@SenJohnThune) October 8, 2016
US Rep. Mia Love of Utah joined the chorus, saying Trump’s “behavior and bravado have reached a new low.” She said in a statement that she “cannot vote for him,” adding that “for the good of the party, and the country, he should step aside.”
Alabama Rep. Martha Roby said in a statement: “As disappointed as I’ve been with his antics throughout this campaign, I thought supporting the nominee was the best thing for our country and our party. Now, it is abundantly clear that the best thing for our country and our party is for Trump to step aside and allow a responsible, respectable Republican to lead the ticket.”
Trump was slapped by his own running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who said he was “offended by the words and actions” Trump described in the video.
“I do not condone his remarks and cannot defend them,” the Republican vice presidential nominee said. Having canceled a scheduled appearance in Wisconsin on Saturday afternoon, Pence cited Sunday night’s presidential debate as an opportunity for Trump to “show what is in his heart.”
Several of the Republicans who want Trump out say Pence should take his place as the nominee.
Trump, though, declared he would not yield the GOP nomination under any circumstances. “Zero chance I’ll quit,” he told The Wall Street Journal. He told The Washington Post: “I’d never withdraw. I’ve never withdrawn in my life.” He claimed to have “tremendous support.”
The latest explosive revelation marked a tipping point for some party loyalists, while forcing vulnerable Republican candidates to answer a painful question: Even if they condemn Trump’s vulgar comments, will they still vote for him?
The answer was “No” for a growing number of GOP senators.
“I’m a mom and an American first, and I cannot and will not support a candidate for president who brags about degrading and assaulting women,” New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte said. “I will not be voting for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton and instead will be writing in Gov. Pence for president on Election Day.”
I will not vote for Donald Trump. Read my statement here: pic.twitter.com/F8zajgDZpg
— Kelly Ayotte (@KellyAyotte) October 8, 2016
And Republican Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho revoked his endorsement: “This is not a decision that I have reached lightly, but his pattern of behavior left me no choice.”
Election law experts suggest it would be logistically impossible to replace Trump on the ballot altogether, with early voting underway in some states and overseas ballots already distributed to military servicemen and others.
Ryan fundraising chief Spencer Zwick, however, said he’s been fielding calls from donors who “want help putting money together to fund a new person to be the GOP nominee.”
Zwick told The Associated Press that a write-in or “sticker campaign” relying on social media could “actually work.”
While there has never been a winning write-in campaign in a US presidential contest, such an effort could make it harder for Trump to win.
While funding another candidate could siphon votes away from Trump, the GOP’s biggest donors have little leverage even if they threaten to withhold money for the rest of the campaign. Trump’s campaign has relied far more on small contributors across the country than from the party’s stalwart donors who write the biggest checks possible.