- Associated Press - Thursday, October 20, 2016

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, in a break with his party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, said through a spokesman Thursday that the results of the election should be respected.

Trump created a bipartisan uproar after refusing during Wednesday’s presidential debate to say whether he would accept the outcome of the election. On Thursday, at a campaign rally in Ohio, Trump said he won’t commit to honoring the outcome of the Nov. 8 election because he wants to reserve his right to file a legal challenge “in the case of a questionable result.”

But Trump’s two highest-ranking Republican supporters in Wisconsin - Johnson and Gov. Scott Walker - both distanced themselves from his position on Thursday. Neither withdrew their backing.

“Ron believes we need to respect the results on Election Day,” said Johnson spokesman Brian Reisinger.

Trump has also repeatedly said he thinks the election is rigged against him. Johnson disagreed with that during his own Senate debate earlier this week, while agreeing with Trump’s charge that the media is being unfair to him.

Reisinger said Thursday that Johnson continues to disagree with Trump’s unfounded charge that the election is rigged.

Johnson is in a tough re-election contest with Democratic former Sen. Russ Feingold, whose spokesman Michael Tyler said Johnson didn’t go far enough in rejecting Trump.

Donald Trump is threatening to undermine America’s democratic process, but again and again Sen. Johnson refuses to show the leadership or political courage to stand up to him,” Tyler said in a statement. “Now is the time to be an American first, not a partisan politician desperate for re-election.”

Reisinger dismissed Feingold as a “career politician,” saying Johnson was confident he would win.

A Marquette University Law School poll released last week showed the race to be about even, while a Monmouth University poll this week had Feingold up by 8 points and a St. Norbert University poll showed Feingold up by 12.

Walker said in Green Bay that Trump will have to accept the results of the election.

“The bottom line is whether he does or doesn’t, there’s going to be a new president,” Walker told reporters.

Walker had urged other Republican candidates for president to drop out after he did so they could unite behind someone to defeat Trump. Walker has since endorsed Trump.

The governor said he’s “not surprised” that Trump refused to say whether he would accept the outcome of the election.

“It’s similar to what he said in the first presidential primary debate in Cleveland when he was asked about whether he would support the nominee or run as an independent. So none of that surprises me,” Walker said.

No matter what Trump does “all of the other elements of government will go forward,” Walker said.

House Speaker Paul Ryan over the weekend issued a statement through his spokeswoman saying he was “fully confident the states will carry out this election with integrity.”

His spokesman Zack Roday said Thursday that Ryan had nothing new to say. Ryan earlier this month angered Trump by saying he will no longer defend or campaign with him.

Mike Gallagher, a Republican running for an open congressional seat in northeast Wisconsin’s 8th Congressional District, will “fully accept the outcome” of his race “regardless of the results,” said his spokeswoman Madison Wiberg.

She did not offer any comment on the presidential race.

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Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sbauerAP and find more of his work at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/scott-bauer

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