- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 8, 2016

Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte said Saturday she will no longer vote for Donald Trump, beating a retreat less than a week after she called the GOP presidential pick a role model from a New Hampshire debate stage.

For months, Ms. Ayotte said she planned to support the flamboyant mogul from the ballot box, even as she refused to endorse him.

Her Democratic challenger, Gov. Maggie Hassan, ridiculed Ms. Ayotte for her stance, and the senator herself decided to hop off the tight rope amid a furor over leaked, decade-old audio that features Mr. Trump making lewd comments about women.

“I wanted to be able to support my party’s nominee, chosen by the people, because I feel strongly that we need a change in direction for our country,” Ms. Ayotte said in a campaign statement. “However, I’m a mom and an American first, and I cannot and will not support a candidate for president who brags about degrading and assaulting women. I will not be voting for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton and instead will be writing in Governor [Mike] Pence for president on Election Day.”

For its part, the Hassan campaign called Ms. Ayotte’s decision a “transparent, craven attempt at political self-preservation.”

Senate Republicans such as Ben Sasse of Nebraska have suggested that Mr. Trump give way to Mr. Pence, though such a plan would be difficult even if the mogul decided to drop out, as early voting has already begun in some states.

Ms. Ayotte and Ms. Hassan had been virtually tied in polling conducted before Monday night’s debate, where Ms. Ayotte said she “absolutely” would label Mr. Trump a role model, only to walk it back immediately after the event.

Then, on Friday, the Washington Post released audio and video recording in which Mr. Trump brags about trying to have sex with a married women and about how women allow him to grope them because of his star power.

Mr. Trump apologized in a statement Friday and in a video released early Saturday morning.

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