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Jack Welch, the former GE chief and a longtime Republican, withdrew his support for Donald Trump on Saturday, joining a growing number of GOP luminaries distancing themselves from their presidential nominee in the wake of a widening political firestorm.
Welch, who had publicly backed the real estate mogul, called for the party to find a new nominee as several top Republican leaders said they could no longer back Trump in light of a newly publicized audio clip from 11 years ago. On Saturday, Arizona Republican senator and 2008 nominee John McCain also revoked his support, joining a clutch of top GOP leaders who are running away from Trump.
"Like Republican message on Economy, Security and Supreme Court...Unfortunately, wrong messenger...Party must change nominee now," Welch tweeted Saturday evening.
In a hot mic recording from 2005, Trump was caught making crude comments about women, appearing to brag about groping them. Although Trump apologized in a video statement and has flatly refused to drop out, it has done little to quell the damage.
In a tweet on Sunday hours before the second presidential debate, Trump blasted party officials and candidates criticizing him as "self righteous hypocrites," who would go on to lose their elections.
Welch told CNBC in September that he planned to vote for Trump because he likes the real estate mogul's policies on tax reform, government regulations and national security more than those of Hillary Clinton.
"I have no ax to grind with the Clintons. ... I'm supporting an agenda," Welch said at the time.
"It's Donald Trump's agenda, and I'm for it. I like starting here, and fighting like hell for it, because I know it will grow the economy 4 percent-plus."
Trump now faces the possibility that the scandal could undermine his financial position, which already lagged that of his Democratic challenger, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Late Saturday, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Republican Party may divert cash from his campaign and focus on down-ballot races, a sign that party officials view his bid as doomed.
Meanwhile, McCain—a self-described "maverick" who gave conditional backing to Trump after he secured the nomination, yanked that support in a sternly worded statement issued Saturday. He said there were "no excuses" for Trump's behavior.
"Donald Trump's behavior this week, concluding with the disclosure of his demeaning comments about women and his boasts about sexual assaults, make it impossible to continue to offer even conditional support for his candidacy," McCain said, adding that his wife, Cindy, agreed.
"Cindy and I will not vote for Donald Trump. I have never voted for a Democratic presidential candidate and we will not vote for Hillary Clinton. We will write in the name of some good conservative Republican who is qualified to be President."
—CNBC's Matthew Belvedere contributed to this report.
DISCLOSURE: GE was formerly the parent company of CNBC.