October 12, 2016 - 11:24 AM
WASHINGTON - While a host of prominent Republicans in Congress have jumped off the Donald Trump train, some of them are climbing back aboard after taking heat from loyalists of the controversial billionaire candidate.
At least four lawmakers who just days ago said that Trump should step aside as the GOP presidential nominee have rushed to clarify that they are, in fact, going to vote for him despite his vulgar remarks about groping women.
For instance Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., said on Friday that Trump's leaked 2005 remarks about grabbing women's genitals were "disgusting and totally unacceptable." The first-term Republican called for Trump to "step aside and allow Mike Pence to serve as our party's nominee."
But in a Tuesday interview with Nebraska radio station KLIN Fischer reversed course. "I never said I was not voting for our Republican ticket," she said, calling it "not a tough choice" to keep supporting Trump.
Ditto for Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., who tweeted on Saturday that "Donald Trump should withdraw and Mike Pence should be our nominee effective immediately."
When Trump refused, Thune's tone softened. The No. 3 Republican in Senate leadership told the Rapid City Journal that he has "reservations about the way (Trump) has conducted his campaign and himself."
"He has a lot of work to do, I think, to win this election," Thune told the newspaper. "But, I'm certainly not going to vote for Hillary Clinton."
Thune is seeking re-election next month while Fischer doesn't face voters again until 2018.
In the House, GOP Reps. Scott Garrett of New Jersey and Bradley Byrne of Alabama have taken the same approach: calling for Trump to step aside and supporting him after he failed to do so.
Byrne on Saturday said Trump "cannot defeat" Clinton and urged him to allow Pence to lead the GOP ticket.
It seems anybody who thought Byrne was withdrawing support for Trump was jumping to conclusions.
Byrne told a critic on Twitter that he is "committed to making sure (Clinton) doesn't win."
"He never backed off his pledge to support the Republican ticket," said Byrne spokesman Seth Morrow. "It is now clear Trump is not going to step aside, and the Congressman will continue to support the Republican ticket."
As for Garrett, the seven-term incumbent said Saturday that he was "appalled" by Trump's comments and called Pence "the best nominee for the Republican Party to defeat Hillary Clinton."
On Wednesday, Garrett campaign manager Sarah Neibart said, "Donald Trump remains the nominee of the Republican Party, and Rep. Garrett has always said he will vote for the Republican Party nominee." Garrett is in a tight race for re-election.
News from © The Associated Press, 2016