Gov. Gary Herbert, Sen. Mike Lee and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, all running for re-election in Utah, have now publicly denounced Donald Trump in the wake of a video in which Donald Trump brags about sexually assaulting women. If none of them pay a substantial penalty for turning on their party’s nominee, their desertion could very well presage a mass exodus of Republicans rescinding their endorsement of, or even their tacit support for, Trump.
Lee (wisely) never endorsed Trump but wouldn’t say he was refusing to vote for him. After Friday’s bombshell, however, Lee put out a video demanding Trump step down as the nominee.
Chaffetz and Herbert had previously endorsed Trump but have now withdrawn that support:
Chaffetz said in an interview: “I’m out. I’m pulling my endorsement.
“I can not support in any way, shape or form the comments or approach Donald Trump has taken. This is so over the top, it is not even acceptable in locker rooms. It shouldn’t be acceptable anywhere. We are talking about the president of the United States. I want someone of high moral values.”
Gov. Herbert expressed his disgust on Twitter:
Donald Trump's statements are beyond offensive & despicable. While I cannot vote for Hillary Clinton, I will not vote for Trump. #utpol
— Gary R. Herbert (@HerbertForUtah) October 8, 2016
All three men have comfortable leads in their re-election bids so it’s safe enough for them to do this. But other Republicans will be watching carefully to see if there’s any kind of backlash from the base, Fox News, AM Hate Radio or any other significant corner of the right wing.
If there is, it won’t keep the three Utah Republicans from being re-elected but it will force other, more vulnerable, Republicans to continue supporting Trump, however tepidly.
But if there’s no backlash? We’re going to see a massive stampede of Republicans openly denouncing Trump, especially in blue states; a strategy Maryland’s Republican Governor has been employing to great effect:
Gov. Larry Hogan continues to earn high marks from Marylanders, including for his outspoken disavowal of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, according to a new Washington Post-University of Maryland poll.
A party completely abandoning its candidate is not unprecedented, even this late in the cycle. In 1996, the GOP cut Bob Dole loose just 2 weeks before the election and Dole was not even a fraction as toxic as Trump.
Herbert, Lee and Chaffetz have become a bellwether for the Republican Party. There’s an excellent chance their fellow GOPers are going to follow their lead and desert the historic disaster that is the Trump campaign. And that’s before Trump impending implosion at Sunday night’s debate.
Republicans brought this pox upon themselves and it’s going to be a pleasure watching them pay for it on election day.