- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 3, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina’s top state House Democrat doubled down Wednesday on his call for top elected Republicans to withdraw their support of Donald Trump.

Alternatively, state Rep. Todd Rutherford said, Gov. Nikki Haley and Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster must tell the state’s voters if they still plan to vote for the GOP nominee, given several days of events that have some within Trump’s own party questioning his candidacy. In its own release, the South Carolina Democratic Party took on McMaster separately, saying the Republican who is often mentioned as a 2018 gubernatorial candidate “is in for a rude awakening” if he thinks Trump is his ticket to the governor’s mansion.

Republicans nationwide have faced scrutiny this week due to the feud between Trump and the parents of a Capt. Humayun Khan, a decorated Muslim Army captain killed in Iraq. At least one House Republican has pulled support, saying he’d rather back Hillary Clinton than the GOP pick. U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, who has said he’d support the GOP’s nominee, told The Associated Press he was “growing increasingly uneasy” with that decision and was “nearing the line” past which he could no longer back Trump.

Trump declined to endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan’s re-election bid, saying he’s “just not there yet” - echoing Ryan’s demurral before endorsing Trump himself. On Fox Business News, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Trump backer, said the nominee had been “remarkably underperforming” in recent weeks.

“What is most troubling for the people of South Carolina … is the fact that their governor and lieutenant governor continue to stand by his side no matter what,” Rutherford, D-Columbia, said in a news release. “It is not enough to simply voice your disagreement with Mr. Trump’s disgusting comments on a daily basis. The time has come for the leaders of our state to put country ahead of party and publicly reject his candidacy altogether.”

Haley - who initially backed Marco Rubio before siding with Ted Cruz over Trump - attended last month’s Republican National Convention and has reluctantly said she’d back the party’s nominee. In a statement Monday, she expressed support for Khan’s family and made no mention of Trump.

McMaster, the first elected official to endorse Trump, gave a speech officially nominating the candidate at the convention. On Wednesday, he tweeted “Nothing’s changed,” with a link to his nomination speech.

President Barack Obama on Tuesday castigated Trump as “unfit” and “woefully unprepared” to serve in the White House, challenging Republicans to withdraw their support for their party’s nominee, declaring “There has to come a point at which you say ‘enough.’”

“Donald Trump’s most recent meltdown is even more bizarre and troubling than usual,” said Rutherford, seconding Obama’s evaluation. “The Republican nominee for president is becoming more dangerous and unhinged by the minute and there seems to be no end in sight.”

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Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP . Read more of her work at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/meg-kinnard/

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