Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said Tuesday he is not revoking his endorsement of Donald Trump, despite the presidential candidate’s lewd and vulgar comments in a 2005 video about groping women without their consent.
“I ran against Donald Trump. And while I respect that voters chose him as the GOP nominee, I have never hesitated to oppose his policies I disagree with,” Rubio said in a statement. “And I have consistently rejected his offensive rhetoric and behavior. I disagree with him on many things, but I disagree with his opponent on virtually everything.
“I wish we had better choices for President. But I do not want Hillary Clinton to be our next President. And therefore my position has not changed.”
Rubio denounced the tape Friday after its publication in The Washington Post, calling Trump’s remarks “impossible to justify.”
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In the now-infamous tape, Trump brags about kissing women and grabbing them by the genitals: “When you’re a star, they let you do it.”
Sunday in a debate against Hillary Clinton, Trump apologized but dismissed what he labeled “locker-room talk” as opposed to sexual assault. He maintained he had never acted on his words.
Rubio’s Democratic opponent, Jupiter Rep. Patrick Murphy, spent the weekend demanding that Rubio disavow Trump, accusing him of “cowardice” for remaining silent.
“Marco Rubio stands for nothing but his own pursuit of power,” Murphy said in a statement after Rubio upheld his Trump endorsement.
Rubio delayed any further dealing with the Trump video by visiting areas hit last week by Hurricane Matthew. But by Tuesday, facing the prospect of attending public events where he would be hounded with Trump questions, Rubio’s campaign issued the statement maintaining his endorsement.
A Rubio campaign source, however, told the Miami Herald that the senator “will not be going to any presidential campaign events” for Trump or his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.
“Marco’s totally focused on his own race,” the source said.
On Saturday, Rubio and Pence are both slated to speak at a GOP dinner in Tampa. But that was put together by the Republican Party of Florida, not Trump’s team.
Florida polls show Clinton leading Trump and Rubio leading Murphy, which suggests a significant number of voters plan to split the ticket and pick a Democrat for president and a Republican for Senate. For Rubio, standing by Trump risks alienating some of those Clinton voters.
But dumping Trump might have hurt Rubio with base Republican voters — a potential problem for his reelection and his future ambitions within the GOP. Rubio has not ruled out seeking the presidency again in 2020 or 2024.
A Real Clear Politics average has Rubio ahead of Murphy by 4.4 percentage points.
Few Florida Republicans have rescinded their support for Trump. A notable exception is U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, a Rubio friend, who said over the weekend, “If I support him for President, I will be telling my boys that I think it’s OK to treat women like objects — and I’ll have failed as a dad.”