Republicans in Tight Races More Likely to Abandon Donald Trump

PHOTO: Sen. John McCain in Washington, Jan. 7, 2009; Sen. Rob Portman in Washington, Feb. 25, 2015; Sen. Kelly Ayotte in Washington, Sept. 20, 2016.PlaySusan Walsh/AP Photo; Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images; Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images
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While Donald Trump’s nontraditional presidential campaign has attracted its share of criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike, recent controversies, like the discovery of a video in which Trump is captured making disparaging remarks about women and subsequent claims of sexual assault made against him, have pushed many in the GOP to a breaking point.

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An ABC News count of notable Republicans running for election to Congress this year finds 35 candidates who have said they will not vote for Trump. Of those, 20 are running in competitive elections, defined by ABC’s race ratings as toss-ups or leaning toward one party. Safe districts and states are termed solid.

Six of the 34 anti-Trump candidates are running for seats in the Senate. They include Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, who are locked in tight races to retain their seats but have taken a slight edge in the polls.

In July 2015, Trump, giving rise to one of the first controversies of his campaign, said that McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee and a Vietnam veteran who spent over five years as a prisoner of war, was “not a war hero” and that he likes people “who weren’t captured.”

Of the other Republican Senate candidates opposed to Trump, Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Joe Heck, running to replace Democratic Sen. Harry Reid in Nevada, find themselves in races rated as toss-ups. Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, an outspoken critic of Trump, is facing a stiff challenge from Rep. Tammy Duckworth. Their state is rated as leaning Democratic.

Sen. Mike Lee of Utah is the only Republican in a safe race who has voiced his intention not to vote for the New York real estate mogul. Both Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho, whose seat is also rated "Solid Republican" and Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska, who is not up for reelection, recently reversed their position. The two flip-flopped and pledged a ballot for Trump after rescinding their support earlier in the month.

In House of Representatives races, candidates’ stances on Trump appear to be directly tied to the competitiveness of their districts. Of the 10 Republican incumbents running for re-election in congressional districts rated as toss-ups by ABC News, seven have pledged not to vote for Trump.

Each of the seven races looked competitive before the candidates disavowed support for their party’s presidential nominee, indicating that a rebuke of Trump was not the cause of the representative’s electoral trouble but perhaps a way to attract votes from independents and across party lines.

The majority of the seven races feature first-term representatives who benefited from Republicans’ strong showing in the 2014 midterm elections, as well as Rep. Scott Garrett of New Jersey, a seven-term congressman whose state appears increasingly likely to back Democrat Hillary Clinton at the top of the ballot by a wide margin.

As for other representatives who have turned away from Trump, the two best known are from Utah, whose large Mormon population has expressed widespread disapproval of him. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, whose 3rd Congressional District is safe, and Rep. Mia Love of Utah’s 4th Congressional District — rated leaning Republican by ABC News — both Mormons, have said they will not vote for Trump.

They join Lee, one of their state’s U.S. senators, as well as Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, in pledging not to vote for Trump. Utah is rated by ABC News as a toss-up in the presidential race ratings.

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