Following the path of other Utah GOP officeholders, Utah State Senate President Wayne Niederhauser told UtahPolicy Tuesday that he no longer endorses Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and believes Trump should leave the race and allow Americans to vote for his vice presidential choice, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.
Trump says he will not quit the race. And Pence says he sticks by the man who tapped him to be his running mate.
Meanwhile, Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes, in a statement to UtahPolicy reiterated Tuesday his statement Friday night condemning Trump’s language but said he would stick with Trump at this time. (Hughes’ lengthy response is at the bottom of this story.)
After Friday afternoon’s blockbuster Trump sexist tape published by The Washington Post, many Utah GOP officeholders jumped off the Trump ship.
Even those who are sticking with Trump now, like U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Hughes, lambasted Trump’s audio-tape comments in which Trump talked about hitting on a married woman and grabbing women’s genitals – which he could do because he was a “star.”
Meanwhile, the Utah Republican Party released a statement standing by Trump, while criticizing his comments, made 11 years ago over a live microphone – unknown to him – as he was being bused to the Hollywood set of a soap opera for an appearance.
Trump apologized to anyone offended by the tape, said he was embarrassed by it, and said he also apologized to his wife, children and family.
But he criticized Hillary and Bill Clinton in a Sunday night televised debate over the issue, saying Bill Clinton had done much worse to women in the past, and Hillary Clinton had criticized the women who alleged the former president had sexually abused them.
In any case, all this is enough for Niederhauser, who leads the 29-member Utah Senate and is a Republican businessman/developer from Sandy City.
In a short statement made to UtahPolicy, Niederhauser said he no longer endorses Trump and wants him to step aside from the presidential race.
On Saturday afternoon, the Deseret News – owned by the Mormon Church – issued a rare editorial on a presidential race.
The News did not endorse Hillary Clinton and, in fact, said it was not. But it did say Trump should step down as the GOP presidential nominee, and that he is unfit to be president of the United States.
The News has not endorsed a presidential candidate, nor has the LDS Church supported a candidate, since 1936 when it endorsed the GOP challenger to then-Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt, only to see Utah (heavily Mormon then, like now) ignore the endorsement and vote for Roosevelt.
Hughes, R-Draper, was the first major Utah GOP figure to endorse Trump, back during the 2016 general session.
In a text to UtahPolicy Hughes said: “My statement on Friday night was not strategic or calculating. It was, and is, my sincere expression of anger over what I heard on that video.
“His (Trump’s) apology read better than it came across on YouTube. His apology and accounting for the incident during the Sunday night debate was not entirely what I was hoping for, either.
“That said, I’m forced to measure the anger I feel over the video from 11 years ago with the genuine fear I have for this country and for my kids when I think about the consequences of a Hillary Clinton presidency.
“With the current Supreme Court vacancy/ideological split and the two or three additional justices that could be appointed, I believe Utah and 49 other states will officially become political subdivisions of the federal government. The IRS, EPA, BLM, and every other federal agency that already pressures our state will have greater authority and power over all of us. It has been going in that direction for some time now.
“I fear Hillary as president will be the final nail in the coffin. I also have an issue about Hillary’s conduct and decisions in the 30 years she’s been in that cottage industry we call Washington, D.C.
“I hesitate to bring up the potentially illegal/criminal activity that I believe she has engaged in because in today’s toxic political climate it could be confused as being dismissive about the Trump video or arguing that two wrongs make a right.
“My Mother and Gram taught me better.
“I will, however, point out that selective outrage isn’t acceptable to me either. I don’t dismiss what I heard on the tape. As I said, I’m still mad about it, and I have to stack that anger against the genuine fear I have with the thought of HRC as president.
“I fall on the side that the fear of a HRC presidency outweighs my anger about that tape. I’m supporting Trump.
Lastly, I would warn all of us to resist the temptation to paint people with broad moral brushes regarding who they can and cannot support for president.
“People of moral conscience and deep character will be voting for Trump, Hillary, or a 3rd party candidate.
“We have difficult choices in front of us. Let’s respect each other and appreciate the dilemmas we find ourselves in. We are all going through this together in real time.”
Donald Trump Jr. and Hughes have become friends this year, Jr. spoke to both the Senate and House Republicans in the Capitol during a fundraising trip here two weeks ago.
UtahPoliciy’s pollster Dan Jones & Associates is now in the field surveying Utahns’ reaction to the Trump tape and Trump’s standing in the election. Those results will be published when they are tabulated.
In an early September poll, Jones found that 39 percent of Utahns favor Trump, 24 percent planned to vote for Clinton, 7 percent didn’t know, and the other votes went to third party, presidential candidates.