Republican leaders from Utah to Alabama have called on Donald Trump to leave the presidential race as a party in crisis grappled with the fallout from its White House nominee’s vulgar and sexually-charged comments caught on tape.
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Mr Trump said on Saturday he would “never” quit.
House Speaker Paul Ryan and various other high-profile Republicans refused to abandon their nominee, who has long faced criticism from within his own party, but never to this degree.
Frustration turned to panic across the GOP with early voting already underway in some states and election day one month away.
Mr Trump “is obviously not going to win”, Nebraska senator Ben Sasse tweeted.
“But he can still make an honourable move: Step aside & let [vice presidential nominee] Mike Pence try.”
However, Mr Trump said he would not yield the GOP nomination under any circumstances.
He told The Washington Post: “I’d never withdraw. I’ve never withdrawn in my life.”
He claimed to have “tremendous support”.
VP nominee Pence, Trump’s wife Melania ‘offended’ by comments
Mr Pence said he could not condone or defend Mr Trump’s comments about women.
“As a husband and a father, I was offended by the words and actions described by Donald Trump in the 11-year-old video released yesterday,” he said in a statement on Sunday.
“I do not condone his remarks and cannot defend them. I am grateful that he has expressed remorse and apologised to the American people.
The video was taped only months after Mr Trump married his third wife, Melania.
In a statement, Melania Trump called her husband’s words “unacceptable and offensive to me”.
“This does not represent the man that I know,” she said.
“He has the heart and mind of a leader. I hope people will accept his apology, as I have, and focus on the important issues facing our nation and the world.”
Trump apologises, but lashes Clinton
In a video-taped midnight apology, Mr Trump declared “I was wrong and I apologise” after being caught on tape bragging about aggressively groping women in 2005.
He also defiantly dismissed the revelations as “nothing more than a distraction” from a decade ago and signalled he would press his presidential campaign by arguing that rival Hillary Clinton has committed greater sins against women.
“I’ve said some foolish things,” Mr Trump said in a video posted on his Facebook page.
“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.”
Mr Trump later addressed what was arguably the most difficult day of his candidacy on Twitter: “Certainly has been an interesting 24 hours!”
Some Trump loyalists defiantly defended their nominee.
“I still have my Trump sign on my yard and everybody on my street does too,” said Pennsylvania GOP chairman Rob Gleason on Sunday.
“It’s business as usual, with door-knocking today.”
One by one, outraged GOP lawmakers have condemned Trump’s comments in a 2005 video obtained and released Friday by The Washington Post and NBC News.
In the video, Mr Trump is heard describing attempts to have sex with a married woman.
He also brags about women letting him kiss and grab them because he is famous.
“When you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything,” Mr Trump says in the previously unaired comments.
He adds seconds later: “Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”
Alabama Republican Martha Roby said Mr Trump’s newly disclosed comments about women and how he treats them make him “unacceptable” for the office.
Mr Ryan said the day before that he was “sickened” by Mr Trump’s remarks and revoked an invitation for Mr Trump to appear at a GOP event in Wisconsin, but he did not pull his endorsement.
Moves to find a new Republican nominee
Mr Ryan’s fundraising chief Spencer Zwick said he’s been fielding calls from donors who “want help putting money together to fund a new person to be the GOP nominee”.
Mr Zwick said a write-in or “sticker campaign” relying on social media could “actually work”.
While there has never been a winning write-in campaign in a US presidential contest, such an effort could make it harder for Mr Trump to win.
Mr Zwick did not identify which “new person” might be the focus of a write-in campaign, although he was briefly supportive of a third run for Mitt Romney, the 2012 nominee, last year.
While funding another candidate could siphon votes away from Mr Trump, the GOP’s biggest donors have little leverage even if they threaten to withhold money for the rest of the campaign.
Mr Trump’s campaign has relied far more on small contributors across the country — giving a few bucks here and there, mostly online — than from the party’s stalwart donors who write the biggest checks possible.
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