Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL), a conservative in a safe seat who investigated Clinton with the House Select Committee on Benghazi, also announced on Saturday she would not vote for Trump and asked him to "step aside."
Some current and former Trump allies began to join the stampede as well. Radio host Hugh Hewitt, who had dutifully supported Trump over the last several months, abruptly shifted course on Saturday morning.
"For the benefit of the country, the party and his family, and for his own good, [Donald Trump], should withdraw," he
. "More and worse oppo coming."
A former Trump policy coordinator on Saturday morning denounced his ex-boss. "I regret my decision" to join the campaign, Pratik Chougule said in a post on Linkedin. "Although I left the campaign in August for a variety of reasons, I wish that I had done so sooner and spoken out more forcefully against a candidate who embodies the worst excesses of our culture."
At the same time, Trump did get some backup from prominent evangelical supporters who indicated a willingness to overlook his sins.
- "I in no way condone [the comments] but I don't condemn him," Pastor Darrell Scott, a Trump adviser, said. He explained that Trump's 2005 remarks came before he had "spiritual influences" in his life.
- Tony Perkins, who leads the conservative Family Research Council, told BuzzFeed that he did not reject Trump in the wake of the tape but made clear his support for the candidate "has never been based upon shared values, it is based upon shared concerns" about various issues, including terrorism and the supposed "systemic attack on religious liberty" during the Obama era.
Democrats, eager to fan the flames, are rapidly moving to demand more Republican candidates renounce Trump or be tarred by association. Hillary Clinton's campaign rapidly
featuring the 2005 footage.
The news comes as Trump looks to bounce back in Sunday's town hall with Clinton after a difficult first debate last month that included withering attacks on his treatment of women — attacks Trump made dramatically worse the next week by feuding with former Miss Universe Alicia Machado and telling voters to "check out [a] sex tape" that apparently did not exist.
The sustained fight over Trump's treatment of women helped generate additional stories about his comments and behavior over the years, stories that will only get more attention now.
The Associated Press published a detailed exposé of his work on The Apprentice, with numerous sources recalling lewd and inappropriate remarks similar to the 2005 audio. The Los Angeles Times detailed complaints from Trump employees in a lawsuit that they had to hide staff he found physically unattractive to prevent him from firing them.
Just as Trump's attack on Machado helped shine a light on related stories about Trump and women, Trump's 2005 boasts about what sounds like nonconsensual behavior could bring back some darker claims that have so far stayed on the edge of the campaign.
Take Jill Harth, a makeup artist who once sued Trump in 1997 for allegedly groping her in a manner not dissimilar to Trump's 2005 comments. Trump denied the claim and she dropped the suit after several weeks, but she gave an interview to the Guardian standing by her accusation earlier this year.
The audio also could scramble Trump's strategy for the next debate. In response to the Machado story, his campaign launched a series of attacks on former President Bill Clinton's sex scandals and Trump suggested at a rally last weekend, without evidence, that the former secretary of state had also cheated on her husband.
That tack, along with the Machado story, provoked a backlash from many Republicans, including some prominent Trump supporters who urged him to stop. Trump told the New York Post earlier this week that he would avoid the topic in the debate.
With Trump's latest statements that no longer looks to be the case. On Friday, he responded to the latest news initially by claiming, "Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course" and went into further detail about the former president's personal scandals in his video statement. It seems likely he'll bring the topic up early and often on Sunday night.
Trump could try to seize on a new Wikileaks dump of apparent material from Clinton's private speeches dropped on Friday just hours after the Access Hollywood tape. But with so many damaging stories surrounding Trump and his campaign seemingly unable to control its message, it will be difficult to change the subject. With 30 days to go, every minute spent defending his behavior is a minute closer to a loss.