- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 8, 2016

Donald Trump’s political mettle is being tested once again, this time over lewd remarks he made about women over a decade ago that has led some Republicans to call on him to pull the plug on a campaign that has rattled the political establishment in Washington, attracted millions of working-class voters and divided the GOP.

Buried in negative headlines 31 days out from the election, Mr. Trump scrambled Saturday to stop the bleeding as he prepared for his second debate against Hillary Clinton Sunday in St. Louis.

The town hall-style showdown was already being billed as a do-or-die moment for Mr. Trump before recordings surfaced of him in 2005 bragging about trying to have sex with a married woman and opining about how women will let him do anything to them — even “grab them by the p—y” — because of his celebrity status.

“I never said I’m a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone that I’m not,” Mr. Trump said in a video posted online early Saturday morning. “I’ve said and done thing i regret and the words released today on this more than decade old video are one of them. Anyone who knows me know these words don’t reflect who I am.”

He also struck a defiant note, saying that he would not withdraw from the race and that whatever he said pales in comparison to what former President Bill Clinton has done to women, and how Hillary Clinton has treated those women.

The apology was too little too late for some Republicans — in particular those that were either part of the “Never Trump” movement or that reluctantly embraced him after he won the nomination or in competitive congressional races, where candidates have grown increasingly concerned he is becoming a drag on their campaigns.

SEE ALSO: Ben Sasse of Nebraska becomes third senator calling on Trump to drop off ticket

These lawmakers said Mr. Trump is a dead man walking and should be replaced on the ticket — with several of them floating the name of his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.

“Character matters. @realDonaldTrump is obviously not going to win,” Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska said on Twitter. “But he can still make an honorable move: Step aside & let Mike Pence try.”

Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois also called on Mr. Trump to drop out, while Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, who is locked in a tight re-election battle, said she could no longer support Mr. Trump and planned on writing in Mr. Pence’s name.

South Dakota Sen. John Thune, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, agreed it was time to sub in Mr. Pence.

Donald Trump should withdraw and Mike Pence should be our nominee effective immediately,” Mr. Thune tweeted.

Bad signs also emerged in the swing state of Colorado, where Sen. Cory Gardner and Republican Senate candidate Darryl Glenn, who thrilled crowds during Mr. Trump’s coronation at the Republican National Convention, called for the New York businessman to bow out and to let Mr. Pence to take his place.

“If Trump is truly committed to making America great again, then this is the only way forward,” Mr. Glenn said.

But the Indiana governor, meanwhile, released a statement Saturday afternoon, saying “I do not condone his remarks and cannot defend them.”

“I am grateful that he has expressed remorse and apologized to the American people,” Mr. Pence said. “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.”

GOP lawmakers started running for shelter shortly after The Washington Post released audio and video recordings Friday in which Mr. Trump shares some of his sexual escapades with Billy Bush of “Access Hollywood” aboard a bus on his way to tape a segment for a soap opera.

“You know I moved on her actually,” he said of an unnamed women, later identified by Variety magazine as entertainment journalist Nancy O’Dell. “You know she was down on Palm Beach. I moved on her and I failed. I’ll admit it. I did try and f-ck her. She was married.”

“I moved on her very heavily, in fact, I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture, I said, ‘I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture,’” he said, adding the he “moved on her like a b-tch.”

Mr. Trump also said that he is “automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them.”

“It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything,” he said.

When Mr. Bush chimed in with, “Whatever you want,” Mr Trump responded that he could “Grab them by the p—y.”

“You can do anything,” he said.

Mr. Trump has been left for dead several times during the campaign, and signaled Saturday that he is not going down without a fight.

In his defiant apology, Mr. Trump tried to shift attention to Mrs. Clinton and her husband’s extramarital affairs.

“Let’s be honest: We’re living in the real world,” Mr. Trump said. “This is nothing more than a distraction from the important issues we’re facing today. We are losing our jobs, we’re less safe than we were eight years ago, and Washington is totally broken. Hillary Clinton and her kind have run our country into the ground.”

“I’ve said some foolish things, 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,” he said.

The response marked a shift in strategy for Mr. Trump and his campaign, which has applauded him over and over again following the first debate for showing restraint by not moving the conversation in that direction.

Top Republicans, meanwhile, condemned Mr. Trump’s caught-on-tape remarks.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said “no woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner — ever” and House Speaker Paul Ryan said he was “sickened by what I heard today.”

“Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified,” Mr. Ryan said, adding that Mr. Trump would not be appearing with him as scheduled at an event Saturday in Wisconsin.

Mr. Lee, whom Mr. Trump said he would consider nominating for the Supreme Court, blasted Mr. Trump in an online post, saying he has become too big of a distraction to be the party’s standard bearer.

“The way Mr. Trump has spoken to women, I wouldn’t hire that person …. I wouldn’t want to be associated with that person,” Mr. Lee said, before speaking directly to Mr. Trump.

“I respectfully ask you with all due respect, to step aside, step down, allow someone else to carry the banner of these principles … rather than weighing down the American people, rather than weighing down the very principles that will help us win in November,” Mr. Lee said.

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