By Staff Writer Will Rierson
Republican leaders pulled away from Donald Trump in droves after leaked audio suggests that the GOP presidential nominee can have his way with attractive women because of his celebrity status. His “grab them by the p**** comment” and rumors of worse caused a conservatives crisis weeks before Election Day. After a strong comeback in a town hall debate with Hillary Clinton, many wonder if Trump can survive the recent turmoil.
In 2005, NBC’s Access Hollywood host Billy Bush had a very adult conversation with Donald Trump before entering a soap opera set to film an episode. Unbeknown to Trump, he was videoed making vulgar comments about his success with accosting attractive women. It is believed that he referred specifically to a Days of Our Lives actress. In October of 2016, the 11-year-old never before seen video was leaked by the Washington Post before NBC could report it.
Republican politicians ranging from House Speaker Paul Ryan to Trump’s running mate Mike Pence strongly repudiated the recorded remarks. Calling them vile, sexist, and unacceptable, many members of Congress unendorsed Trump and some called for him to drop out of the race. Every female Republican senator except Joni Ernst of Iowa withdrew support for the nominee. Utah Mormons Senator Mike Lee and Represenative Mia Love called for Trump to get off the ticket. Westerners, Southerners, Northerners, the Libertarian-leaning, moderates, movement conservatives, and the religious right all joined in denouncing him. Even the Republican National Committee silently set plans to withdraw television advertising support for Trump. In the first 24 hours after the video leak, it appeared that the party had disavowed its presidential nominee. Trump responded with a half hearted apology and explanation that it was “locker room talk,” then went on to criticize the party establishment for not standing by him.
Some Republicans, like Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, denounced Trump’s language but stopped short of unendorsing him in anticipation of the second presidential debate the following Monday. Trump and Hillary Clinton were at each other’s throats during the entire town hall debate, showing a level of animosity more reminiscent of a reality TV show than a presidential debate. The audience barely got any questions in the entire time, as Trump and Clinton kept lashing out at each other and ignoring the moderators. The candidates mostly fulfilled their reputations. Trump viciously prosecuted Hillary’s record and vaguely promised positive change. Clinton seemed polished and well versed in her talking points but had more difficulty overcoming Trump’s barrage than she did in the first debate. Both survived to campaign another day.
House Republicans held a conference call Tuesday morning to discuss their plans as Trump became increasingly divisive. Speaker Paul Ryan reportedly said he has no intention of helping Trump win anymore and is focused on maintaining the Republican majorities in Congress. Representatives who were unsure of pulling their support of Trump felt that his debate performance shored up support among the party’s working-class voter base, prolonging their shaky committal to the nominee.
It appears that Republican opinion leaders will continue to remain divided in the coming weeks, with half refusing to vote for Trump and half sticking by his side. A divided conservative voting bloc means that Trump’s chances of winning the election are slim to none, giving a Clinton the Oval Office once again. Down-ballot candidates on the Republican ticket will suffer greatly if anti-Trump voters stay home or select Democrats in protest. Rumors have spread that RNC lawyers are exploring options to kick Trump off the ticket and even Pence is looking for a way out. Replacing Trump would be difficult because many absentee votes have already been sent in and party rules state that the candidate must leave on his own accord. Pence can drop if he wants to, but a new vice presidential pick won’t help Trump at all. He has to help himself by sincerely apologizing to the American people and improving his rhetoric, or he can cut his losses and let someone else steer the GOP to victory. We all know that isn’t likely to happen.