CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Less than a week after sending out an ambiguous message that said Donald Trump “may” want to “reexamine his candidacy,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said she continues to support the Republican presidential nominee.
Capito, like many other Republican officials, rebuked Trump this past weekend, after a 2005 video was released that showed the billionaire businessman bragging about being able to sexually assault women because he is famous.
The release of that video caused many ranking Republicans to denounce Trump’s comments, and more than a few Republican members of Congress to proclaim that they would not vote for their party’s nominee. Others openly called for Trump to step down and make way for his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.
Many of those Republicans — especially those in tight political races — now are fleeing Trump, a candidate that has offended and disparaged women, immigrants and people who are physically disabled. Polls now are showing the Republican presidential candidate falling behind in once-competitive swing states.
But in West Virginia — one of Trump’s most solid regions of support — lawmakers continue to embrace his campaign, including the Republican and Democratic candidates for governor, who squabbled in a debate Tuesday night over who supported and liked Trump more.
On Wednesday, Capito responded to questions about her position on Trump and her earlier comments regarding his candidacy.
“I remain no less offended than my statement on Saturday described, however, the Republican ticket represents a better future for West Virginia,” Capito said in a prepared statement. “Hillary Clinton’s promise to put coal miners out of work will cause further damage to West Virginia’s already struggling economy. For this reason, my position has not changed. I will continue to support the Republican ticket as I have pledged to do throughout this election cycle.”
Capito isn’t the only Republican federal lawmaker to rephrase her comments on Trump after the candidate insisted that he would not step down and threatened to retaliate against Republicans who abandoned him.
Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., both have walked back their statements on Trump. Fischer had said, “it would be wise for him to step aside,” and Thune had said Trump “should withdraw” so that Pence could become the nominee.
The controversy has put Republicans in a difficult situation. They face attack ads from Democrats for not condemning Trump earlier, and a revolt from unfazed Republican voters who are angry that some in the party are abandoning Trump.
Capito never explicitly said she would not support Trump and never actually called for him to step aside. In many ways, her initial comments on the video of Trump were much more reserved than her fellow Republican congress members, including former Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.
“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’s statement read.
McCain added that he and his wife would “write in the name of some good conservative Republican who is qualified to be president.”
West Virginia’s other Republican congress members, while condemning Trump’s comments, never suggested that they would abandon Trump, who still is expected to win the Mountain State by a large margin.
Rep. Alex Mooney said Trump’s comments were “offensive.” Rep. David McKinley called them “distasteful.” Rep. Evan Jenkins said they were “extremely demeaning and deeply offensive.”
Jenkins and McKinley have not addressed the issue since. Mooney tweeted about Trump’s performance at the presidential debate Sunday night.