McCain drops Trump support following latest controversy
PHOENIX — John McCain has finally jumped off the Donald Trump train.
McCain, who stuck with the Republican presidential nominee even after Trump said he’s "not a hero″ for being captured in Vietnam and a "loser″ because of his 2008 presidential campaign against Barack Obama, said Saturday he finally had enough after hearing Trump’s sexist comments about women. McCain said he and his wife, Cindy, won’t vote for Trump and instead will write in the name of some "good conservative″ on the ballot.
The state’s senior senator joins counterpart Jeff Flake who had said months ago he could not back Trump. And that was before the disclosure Friday of audio tapes of a 2005 conversation Trump had with Billy Bush who at the time was hosting "Access Hollywood.″
Trump talks about grabbing women by the crotch, using a far cruder word, kissing women without the consent and trying to have sex with a married woman.
The billionaire issued both a video statement and a tweet saying he still has support and does not intend to withdraw. But Flake, in his own tweet Saturday, said Trump is "wrong about his level of support.″
"He needs to withdraw from the race,″ Flake wrote.
It took McCain much longer to reach the same point.
"I have wanted to support the candidate our party nominated,″ said McCain. The senator said he thought it was important to follow the party rules that resulted in Trump’s nomination.
"But 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 the even conditional support for his candidacy,″ McCain said.
A parade of federal, state and local GOP officials and candidates has abandoned Trump in the wake of the release of the audio tapes.
But not everyone who was condemning Trump was ready to jump ship.
Gov. Doug Ducey added his voice Saturday to the chorus of Republicans blasting the candidates for his comments.
In a prepared statement, Ducey called Trump’s statements "insulting and terribly demeaning to women, and I disavow them 100 percent.″
"They are completely unacceptable,″ the governor said.
"Angela and I have three boys and we work hard every day to raise them the right way and to have the utmost respect for women,″ Ducey said in his statement. "We should demand the same from our leaders, especially those who want to occupy the White House, the highest office in the land.″
But the governor, who has endorsed Trump for president, stopped short of saying he would not vote for his party’s nominee. Gubernatorial press aide Daniel Scarpinato said there would be no further comment Saturday.
Also stopping short of saying she will not vote for Trump is Congresswoman Martha McSally, seeking another term.
"Trump’s comments are disgusting,″ she said in a statement.
"Joking about sexual assault is unacceptable,″ McSally continued. "I’m appalled.″
And Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu said late Saturday he also remains a Trump supporter, saying an earlier tweet saying he won’t support the candidate was sent by a staffer without his consent.
But Yavapai County Sheila Polk said she’s heard enough. Polk became among the first Arizona Republicans to abandon Trump in an early Saturday tweet.
Former Gov. Jan Brewer pronounced herself "repulsed by the detestable language″ Trump used -- but not so repulsed as to cause her to yank her support.
"There is too much at stake if we elect Hillary Clinton,″ Brewer said in a Facebook post, saying the Democratic nominee’s actions "have literally put our national security at risk with her emails, illegal basement server and destruction of evidence.″ Brewer said Clinton implemented "pay-to-play,″ trading access to her as secretary of state for donations to the Clinton Foundation and then, "at the end of the day, she just lies about all of this.″
Also sticking with Trump is Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, another early Trump backer.
"He’s got good policies,″ said Arpaio, engaged in his own reelection campaign. "What happened 10-11 years ago his is his problem.″
Trump, traveling on a bus with Bush and apparently unaware that his comments were being taped, spoke of being "attracted to beautiful (women).″
"I just start kissing them,″ he said. "Just kiss. I don’t even wait.″
Trump then boasted that, being a star, "they let you do it, it you can do anything,″ saying that includes grabbing them by the crotch though using a more vulgar term.
He also talked about hitting on a married woman, being rebuffed, and then making comments about her "big phony (breasts)″ but, here too, using a different term.
"I’m not condoning what he said,″ Arpaio said, but added that the statements are what "everybody does in bathrooms and locker rooms.″
The comments, however, were enough to finally drive Sen. John McCain off the Trump train.
McCain said he and his wife, Cindy, will not vote for Trump but also will not cross party lines. Instead he vowed to "write in the name of some good conservative Republican who is qualified to be president.″
The senator did not say who that is.
But Matt Roberts, spokesman for the secretary of state’s office, said Arizona law allows the tallying of only the votes for write-in candidates who pre-register with the state. A total of 16 met the deadline which passed last month.
That list also does not include Pence.
Robert said his boss, Republican Michele Reagan, has no one to un-endorse as she never endorsed Trump in the first place.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said he can’t announce he’s abandoning Trump because of the latest comments because "I never got on the Trump train to begin with.″
"I couldn’t take his candidacy seriously,″ Montgomery said, saying Trump offered no positions that were consistent with his conservative values.
Republican State Treasurer Jeff DeWit, who also is chief operating officer of Trump’s national campaign, did not return a call seeking comment.
There also was no response from Attorney General Mark Brnovich, also a Republican. Brnovich had hinted earlier this year he was not a Trump supporter, declining to be a delegate to the Republican National Convention where he would have to vote for Trump, saying he had other commitments.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas also did not return a call seeking comment. Douglas earlier this year used a staffer and the state email system to announce her endorsement of Trump. Douglas said at the time that Trump "shares my belief that the federal government’s role in education needs to be reduced rather than expanded.″
Press aide Charles Tack, the staffer who sent the release from his state computer during business hours, said at the time neither he nor his boss did anything wrong.
"She needs to be able to communicate to the people who elected her her thoughts on an important election that’s coming up and how she thinks it could affect education,″ he said.