Ayotte stands as only major N.H. Republican to renounce Trump

  • Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte talks to reporters Tuesday Oct. 4, 2016 in Hudson, N.H. telling them she “misspoke” when she said Donald Trump is a role model for children during a live televised debate Monday evening. (AP Photo/Jim Cole) Jim Cole

Monitor staff
Published: 10/11/2016 12:22:57 AM

U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte stands alone as the only top-ticket Republican in New Hampshire to renounce Donald Trump after a 2005 video surfaced showing the GOP presidential nominee talking about kissing and groping women without their consent.

Republican candidates for governor and Congress condemned the three-minute video but did not withdraw their support for Trump.

Gubernatorial candidate Chris Sununu and U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta cast blame instead on the top of the ticket for distracting from their races and issues. Sununu did not respond to a call for comment, instead putting out a statement through his campaign spokesman.

“Chris Sununu immediately denounced Donald Trump’s comments last week in the strongest of terms,” spokesman Dave Abrams said Monday, referring to a tweet that Sununu sent out Friday calling the remarks “unacceptable” and “offensive.” “Chris is greatly disappointed by the broader tone and the direction of national politics driven by both the Trump and Clinton campaigns. It’s beneath the dignity of the office they seek and offers little to improve the lives of Americans.”

Guinta, who is seeking re-election in the 1st Congressional District, echoed that sentiment in a statement from his spokesman.

“The comments that surfaced on Friday were entirely unacceptable, and the Congressman immediately stated so without hesitation or equivocation,” Guinta spokesman Jay Ruias said in a statement Monday. “Our entire nation has suffered from the rhetoric coming from Republicans and Democrats this cycle.”

GOP congressional candidate Jim Lawrence, who is running in the 2nd District, has yet to make any statement.

The video’s release by the Washington Post on Friday led to widespread Republican defections from Trump. At least 10 sitting U.S. senators and 18 members of Congress called for the businessman to drop out of the presidential race, and an additional dozen revoked their support. Key among them is House Speaker Paul Ryan, who said Monday he will no longer support Trump on the campaign trail.

Ayotte – who for months said she supported but did not endorse Trump – announced Saturday she would not vote for Trump and would instead write in GOP running mate Mike Pence for president. She told reporters Sunday she would support Trump dropping out of the race.

Democratic challenger Maggie Hassan slammed Ayotte’s decision as politically motivated and called it “far too little, far too late.”

Trump won the state’s presidential primary in February by double digits. But his candidacy has proven a torturous subject for Republicans running in New Hampshire, who have been forced to contend with controversial remarks including attacks on a Gold Star Family and a former beauty queen, whom he allegedly called “Miss Piggy.”

In the 2005 video, Trump describes trying 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,” Trump says. “Grab them by the p----. You can do anything.”

Trump denied he had grabbed women without their consent during a debate Sunday night, and he repeatedly characterized his words as “locker room talk.”

Democrats seized on the footage, and at a Monday press conference, they slammed Sununu for continuing to support Trump.

“Continued support suggests these kinds of behaviors are acceptable, and they are not acceptable,” said state Rep. Cindy Rosenwald, a Nashua Democrat, according to the Union Leader.

It’s not yet clear how Trump’s remarks will affect his standing in the polls. Real Clear Politics shows Democrat Hillary Clinton with a 6-point lead over Trump in New Hampshire.

In a year when voter turnout will be key, division among Republicans on Trump could hurt the entire ticket, said Dante Scala, a political science professor at the University of New Hampshire.

“This signals significant disunity, even disarray among New Hampshire Republicans,” he said. “The more of that there is, the more likely it is going to have a bad effect, or depress, Republican turnout in general.”

At the State House, few top elected Republicans renounced Trump.

House Speaker Shawn Jasper called the video footage “very disturbing,” but said Trump still has the “opportunity to win his vote.”

“I expect better from people who are running for elected office. He was 59 at the time, this was not a youthful indiscretion,” said Jasper, of Hudson, who added he will not support Clinton. “I am not renouncing him. I am very, very disappointed in him.”

Senate President Chuck Morse said he is “disappointed and angered” by Trump’s remarks in the video, but he will vote for him.

“His personal behavior and lack of civility is troubling to me,” he said in a statement. “The other nominee, however, has a deep-rooted and fundamental problem in telling the truth to the American people.”

(The Associated Press contributed to this report. Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or amorris@cmonitor.com.)

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