A growing number of GOP leaders are calling for Donald Trump to step aside as their party’s presidential nominee, and some say Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, should take his place.
Trump has vehemently said he won’t drop out. But if he did so, some prominent Republicans say the 57-year-old Pence, who has served as a bridge between Trump and the Republican establishment, would be well-suited to take his place. Other Republican lawmakers said they would write Pence in on their ballot.
Influential Republicans have been reaching out to Pence about what role he might be willing to play in the event Trump drops out, according to Bloomberg News.
Trump has been showered with bipartisan attacks since Friday, when an 11-year-old video surfaced in which he made vulgar and sexually charged comments about women.
Those calling for Trump to step aside included the No. 3 Senate Republican, John Thune of South Dakota; Sens. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Mike Crapo of Idaho and Dan Sullivan of Alaska; and Nevada representative and Senate candidate Joe Heck.
Thune tweeted Saturday that Pence should take the spot at the top of the Republican ticket "effective immediately."
Sasse urged Trump to “let Mike Pence try,” and Crapo said the party should “put forward a conservative candidate like Mike Pence who can defeat Hillary Clinton.”
South Dakota Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard tweeted Saturday that the election is "too important," and that Trump should withdraw in favor of Pence.
Indiana Republican U.S. Rep. Todd Young, who is running for U.S. Senate in one of the most competitive races in the country, told IBJ Saturday that he is wrestling with the “very serious question” of whether to still support Trump for president.
Young’s hesitation followed the public disclosure Friday of a 2005 video in which Trump bragged in vulgar terms about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women, saying "when you're a star, they let you do it."
In the video, Trump talks about groping women in the “p---y" and trying and failing to “f--k” a married woman.
“This gives many Americans, myself included, pause and serious consideration about how we move forward,” Young said at a Saturday afternoon campaign event at a Fishers senior living facility. He called the comments "highly offensive."
Young is facing former Democratic U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh—who has said Trump's comments were "deeply disturbing and have no place in society"—in a race that could decide control of the U.S. Senate. A poll out Thursday says Bayh has a one-point lead in the race, though Democrats question its accuracy because the pollster who conducted it has worked for Young.
Pence on Saturday issued a statement saying he won't "condone" or "defend" Trump’s comments about women. "As a husband and a father, I was offended by the words and actions described by Donald Trump," he said in the statement.
He continued: "We pray for his family and look forward to the opportunity he has to show what is in his heart when he goes before the nation tomorrow night," referring to the second presidential debate, which will be at Washington University in St. Louis.
Even if the RNC could persuade Trump to drop out and exercise its authority to fill a vacancy on the ticket, the transition would be sure to be chaotic—in part because ballots have already been printed and early voting has begun in some states.
Trump 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."
In a videotaped midnight apology, Trump declared: "I was wrong and I apologize" after being caught on tape bragging about aggressively groping women in 2005. He also defiantly dismissed the revelations as "nothing more than a distraction" from a decade ago and signaled he would press his presidential campaign forward by arguing that rival Hillary Clinton has committed greater sins against women.
"I've said some foolish things," Trump said in a video posted on his Facebook page early Saturday. "But there's a big difference between the words and actions of other people. Bill Clinton has actually abused women and Hillary has bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims."
Young said this is not the first time during the campaign that he has had misgivings about supporting Trump.
“I think the failure to honor the service of Sen. John McCain was one of those moments,” Young said. “Another moment was the Kahn family and the comments made at that time."
Young was referring to Trump's refusal to back away from his assertion that McCain was "not a war hero," despite being captured in Vietnam and tortured as a prisoner of war, as well as Trump's feud with the Muslim parents of a slain American soldier.
But Young said he would not support Hillary Clinton as president.
“I know we cannot have four years, or, god forbid, eight years of [Democrats’] continued economic policies or national security policies,” Young said. “It’s not in the best interest of the American people.”
Indiana Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb, who is running for governor against Democrat John Gregg, said in a statement Saturday that his support of Trump is no longer assured.
"The actions and statements made by Donald Trump in the video released yesterday are offsensive and unacceptable," Holcomb said in the statement. "While I have not made a final decision, my vote and support of any candidate should never be taken for granted."