At least two members of Arkansas’ Congressional delegation have opened the door to GOP Presidential nominee Donald Trump stepping down from the ticket.
A political firestorm began Friday and has grown through the weekend resulting from a 2005 recording that features Trump having a private conversation with Billy Bush, then a co-host with “Access Hollywood” as they arrived on the set of “Days of Our Lives,” where Trump made a cameo appearance.
Trump said, “You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful – I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. You just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. … Grab them by the p—-y. You can do anything.”
Trump, then married to his current wife, Melania, can be heard saying he had tried without success to have sex with a married woman, even taking her furniture shopping.
More recordings have emerged with Trump agreeing during a radio interview with Howard Stern that it was OK with Trump for Stern to refer to Trump’s daughter Ivanka as a “piece of ass.”
‘DEMEANING AND SHAMEFUL’
U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who has been a vocal advocate for Trump, moved to distance himself during a Saturday night speech to the Republican Party of Iowa Reagan Day dinner. Following are excerpts of his prepared remarks that were provided to Talk Business & Politics.
“Americans want change. I do. I know you do.
“And that’s why the last 24 hours have been so disappointing. Donald Trump has let down his supporters yet again. Let’s not beat around the bush: his words on that tape were demeaning and shameful.
“Donald doesn’t have much choice at this point: he needs to throw himself on the mercy of the American people tomorrow night.
“He needs to take full responsibility for his words and his behavior, he needs to beg their forgiveness, and he needs to pledge to finally change has ways.
“And he needs to ask for one last chance to stop the dangerous consequences of a Hillary Clinton presidency and to bring the change this country needs so badly, from higher wages for working families to better health care to safer streets.
“If he doesn’t do those things, if he won’t do those things, then he should step aside and allow the Republican Party to replace him with an elder statesman who will.
“Because this election is about something much bigger than Donald Trump. It’s about you. It’s about America and our future.”
Cotton is over the next four days attending seven political events in Iowa, home of the all important first political caucuses for the 2020 presidential election cycle. Cotton’s name is often mentioned as a potential future presidential candidate. His Senate term ends in 2020. A state law passed in 2015 would allow him to run for president and for the Senate at the same time.
U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, said he would support Pence leading the GOP ticket.
”Donald Trump’s recently surfaced comments from 2005 are disgusting and would be fighting words had they been said about my wife or daughter. In these uncertain times, America needs leadership we can respect and trust and our current choices of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are proving to provide neither. My preference is for Mr. Trump to give serious thought as to what is best for our country. If that is to step aside and let Gov. Pence lead the ticket to prevent a Hillary Clinton presidency, then I would be in full support,” Westerman said in a statement to Talk Business & Politics.
However, U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, the last member of Arkansas’ Congressional delegation to respond to a Talk Business & Politics request for comment on the controversial matter, says he will stick with Trump.
”Mr. Trump’s recently revealed lewd and sophomoric behavior some 11 years ago is completely inappropriate and offensive, and I am glad that he took responsibility and apologized swiftly – something that, sadly, others in similar positions when confronted with actions of a similar nature have failed to do,” Hill said in a statement. “Because I strongly believe in the benefits to the country of conservative appointments that will support my priorities of new policies for faster economic growth, a return of the United States to our rightful role as leader in foreign policy, and an assured safe homeland, I support the Trump-Pence ticket.”
Link here for comments from other Arkansas GOP leaders about the controversy.
RISING GOP OPPOSITION TO TRUMP
While not directly calling for Trump to step down, Cotton and Westerman are part of a growing number of Republicans openly uncomfortable with Trump at the top of the ticket. Of the 331 GOP governors, U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives, 54 – 16% – have said they will either not support or vote for Trump, according to a Saturday night report from National Review.
The ranks of anti-Trump Republicans continue to swell. Of the GOP’s 331 total congressmen, senators and governors, 54 of them — or 16 percent – have now publicly stated their opposition to the Republican nominee.
Even Hugh Hewitt, the popular conservative talk radio host who in recent months has chastised Republicans who publicly criticized Trump, has called for Trump to leave the race.