BATON ROUGE — Republicans in Louisiana’s U.S. Senate race split Monday on whether to chastise GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump for his predatory comments about women or to continue embracing his candidacy, trying to navigate an awkward political path as they compete for votes in a state expected to support Trump.
None of the major GOP contenders for the Senate seat — U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, U.S. Rep. John Fleming, state Treasurer John Kennedy and retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness — said they’ve changed plans to vote for Trump in the Nov. 8 election.
Over the weekend, Boustany and Fleming denounced Trump’s comments in a 2005 video in which he’s heard bragging about how his fame allowed him to “do anything” to women.
“I strongly condemn these reprehensible comments. There is no situation where derogatory and chauvinistic language characterizing women in this way is acceptable,” Boustany said in a statement.
On Twitter, Fleming said: “Donald Trump’s comments are reprehensible. No man should ever speak like that.”
But neither Boustany nor Fleming suggested Trump’s descriptions of groping and kissing women without their permission would keep them from voting for him.
Boustany spokesman Jack Pandol said the congressman believes Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton “must not become president.” Boustany “continues to urge Donald Trump to work to repair his relationship with women and independents who are crucial to victory this fall,” Pandol said.
Fleming said while he “condemns” Trump’s comments, he intends to vote for him.
“The choice for voters this November is a decision between Mr. Trump and Secretary Clinton, who instituted the disastrous Obama foreign policy. With that choice, I will be voting for Mr. Trump,” Fleming said.
Kennedy stayed silent about the video until Monday and then issued a more muted statement saying while he doesn’t agree with Trump’s comments, the video won’t change how he casts his ballot.
“I don’t approve of his language or what he said. I’m glad he apologized. I’m voting for Trump and Pence,” Kennedy said.
Maness didn’t offer any criticism of Trump, saying he remains in full support of the presidential contender.
When asked if he was concerned about the language Trump used in the recording, Maness replied in a statement: “I have only one thought or concerning Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and that is what their election will mean for the issues important to America.”
He suggested the video was a “planned Clinton campaign distraction that I’m not assisting,” and he said the quick condemnation of Trump’s comments by Republicans showed a lack of courage.
“Kennedy, Fleming, Boustany and all the Republicans who backed away from Trump look really stupid right now after Trump knocked it out of the park in last night’s debate,” Maness said.
The Senate race’s leading Democratic candidates, Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell and lawyer Caroline Fayard, upbraided Trump for the comments. Campbell said he rejects “Trump’s lifetime of disrespect for women.”
Fayard said the “disgusting and hurtful comments” show Trump is unfit for office.
Campaigns for both said Campbell and Fayard support Clinton for president.