DES MOINES | A growing chorus of GOP elected officials in Siouxland called Saturday for Donald Trump to exit the presidential race over vulgar and sexually offensive comments about women caught on tape a decade ago.
South Dakota Sen. John Thune became the first member of the Senate Republican leadership team to urge the outspoken billionaire businessman to step aside
"Donald Trump should withdraw and Mike Pence should be our nominee effective immediately," Thune, who is running for re-election this year, said in a tweet.
A short time earlier, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard also took to the social media site to offer a similar rebuke of Trump.
"Enough is enough. Donald Trump should withdraw in favor of Governor Mike Pence. This election is too important," Daugaard tweeted.
Both Republican U.S. senators from Nebraska also pushed for Trump to step down.
Trump "is obviously not going to win. But he can still make an honorable move: Step aside & let Mike Pence try," Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska tweeted Saturday.
While Sasse emerged as a national leader of the "NeverTrump" movement, Fischer's rejection in the wake of the video's disclosure represented a stunning withdrawal of support by Nebraska's senior senator.
Fischer, one of five GOP female senators withholding support for the GOP nominee, described Trump's behavior as "disgusting and totally unacceptable."
As events unfolded Saturday, Trump insisted he would never withdraw from the race, even as pressure mounted for him to step aside.
"The media and the establishment want me out of the race so badly," Trump tweeted. "I WILL NEVER DROP OUT OF THE RACE, WILL NEVER LET MY SUPPORTERS DOWN!"
A Northwest Iowa state senator who dropped his Republican Party affiliation earlier this year in protest of Trump’s offensive statements and behavior pushed Iowa GOP leaders Saturday to also withdraw their support for their party's nominee.
Sen. David Johnson, an Ocheyedan independent who switched from Republican to no party last June, said Saturday he hoped both Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds would withdraw their support for Trump when they hold their weekly news conference on Monday.
"Now that Trump's true anti-women sickness has been revealed, surely these two state leaders must condemn Trump publicly," said Johnson, who issued the challenge after the early-morning release of a videotape in which the New York billionaire is heard making lewd and sexually demeaning comments about women 10 years ago.
"As I said in June, Donald Trump is a bigot, misogynist and racist, and is unfit to be president of a great nation," Johnson added in a statement where he also challenged GOP U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst; U.S. Reps. Steve King, David Young and Rod Blum; and state GOP chairman Jeff Kaufmann to withdraw their support of Trump.
King, whose district covers northwest and north-central Iowa, did not immediately respond Saturday to media requests for comment.
Trump had earlier issued a video statement on Facebook in which he apologized over the lewd comments he made about women caught on a "hot mic" in a leaked 2005 video that was released on Friday. He also called the footage of his comments a "distraction" from bigger issues at stake in the Nov. 8 election.
"I've never said I'm a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone that I'm not. I've said and done things I regret, and the words released today on this more than a decade-old video are one of them. Anyone who knows me, know these words don't reflect who I am," Trump said in the video.
Ernst spokeswoman Brook Hougesen referred reporters to a statement the senator issued on Twitter saying “The comments DJT made are lewd & insulting. There is no excuse, and no room for such reprehensible and objectifying talk about anyone, ever.” The tweet did not address the status of her support for the GOP standard bearer.
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts issued a statement condemning Trump's comments as "not only reprehensible and offensive, but they are dangerous."
"His apology video was inadequate," Ricketts said.
Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., whose represents large parts of northeast Nebraska, did not immediately issue a statement Saturday regarding the Trump video.
Branstad spokesman Ben Hammes issued a statement Saturday saying: “Gov. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Reynolds think these comments were reprehensible and offensive but support the vision Donald Trump and Mike Pence have for a stronger, more secure America.”
Grassley issued a statement, saying "The comments were terrible and shameful, and this kind of talk about our fellow human beings shouldn't be acceptable to anyone. His apology was necessary and appropriate. For myself, I'm working and campaigning on the issues” that include national security, illegal immigrants, the economy, job creation, health care and government regulations.
Former Lt. Gov. Patty Judge, an Albia Democrat seeking to unseat Grassley in next month’s general election, called Grassley’s response “pathetic” for refusing to condemn Trump’s candidacy:
“Sen. Grassley’s denial that preventing sexual violence is a serious issue should offend all Iowans,” Judge said in a statement. “I would not stand idly by and continue to support a presidential candidate who has repeatedly expressed such disdain for women.
Iowa Democrats were swift in condemning Trump’s vulgar comments and behavior toward women contained in the audio made public by the Washington Post on Friday.
“Up to this point, Donald Trump’s offensive remarks toward women have consisted of verbally abusive statements and complete disrespect. New audio reveals a clear pattern of sexual harassment and a man who imposed himself on women with his unwanted sexual advances. His words are unfit for our children’s ears, and he is clearly unfit to be president,” Iowa Democratic Party chairwoman Andy McGuire said in a statement.
“I have five daughters, and I would not let any of them anywhere near Donald Trump under any circumstances out of fear for their safety,” she added. “My husband and I taught our two sons to treat women with honor and respect. It is clear that Donald Trump does not share those same values.”
The latest Trump controversy comes as Iowa Republicans prepared to gather for their 2016 Reagan Dinner – an annual fundraiser that includes Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton as Saturday night’s featured speaker.
Lincoln Journal Star staff writer Don Walton contributed to this story.