By Cameron Rasmusson
A schism is forming between Idaho Republicans over whether the party should support its presidential nominee, Donald Trump, following his recent scandals.
Shortly after the Washington Post released a recording of Trump talking about using his celebrity to kiss and grope women, U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo withdrew his endorsement of the nominee. Crapo released a strong statement against Trump, saying his recorded comments revealed a character unfit for the presidency. Crapo highlighted his years of work in domestic violence prevention as an important factor in his decision.
“Trump’s most recent excuse of ‘locker room talk’ is completely unacceptable and is inconsistent with protecting women from abusive, disparaging treatment,” he said.
“Make no mistake—we need conservative leadership in the White House,” he added. “I urge Donald Trump to step aside and allow the Republican party to put forward a candidate like Mike Pence who can defeat Hillary Clinton.”
U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson quickly followed in renouncing support for Trump, although he did not call for the candidate to step aside.
On the other hand, other key Idaho Republicans have held fast in their support for Trump. Idaho GOP Chairman Steve Yates issued a statement supporting the candidate, as did Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter.
“There’s no question that Donald Trump’s comments about women are unacceptable and unfortunate,” Otter said. “But I accept his apology and his contrition at face value.”
Other Idaho Republicans have criticized Crapo directly for his withdrawal of support from Trump. Jon Menough, chairman of the Idaho County Republican Central Committee, issued a letter saying the organization would no longer provide physical or financial support to his re-election campaign or distribute signs on his behalf. What’s more, committee members who already put up signs vowed to remove them. Menough argued that the committee supported Crapo even when they disagreed with his decisions and expected him to do the same for other Republicans.
“You have lost our respect as a Republican and feel you are no longer worthy of the title ‘Republican’ that we proudly wear,” Menough wrote.
Crapo, a Mormon, joined Utah Republicans and fellow church members in the revolt against Trump. Party leaders in Utah like Gov. Gary Herbert and Rep. Jason Chaffetz issued strong condemnations of the presidential candidate, a sentiment echoed by many state Republicans. For the first time in years, the traditionally deep red Utah is up for grabs in the election. One recent poll showed voters split at 26 percent support for both Clinton and Trump, with independent Evan McMullin close behind at 22 percent. The last time Utah voted Democratic was in 1964.
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