How will Trump’s comments about women affect the race?

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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign town hall event in Sandown, New Hampshire, U.S., October 6, 2016.  REUTERS/Mike Segar - RTSR4I5

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WILLIAM BRANGHAM, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: For more on these developments and their impact on the election, I’m joined from Washington by Roger Simon. He’s the chief political columnist for “Politico.”

Roger, welcome.

I’m curious, when you first saw this videotape, this recording, what was your reaction?

ROGER SIMON, “POLITICO” CHIEF POLITICAL COLUMNIST: Well, I think like 99 percent of America. I was absolutely stunned. I was floored that, you know, a guy who is 59 years old should be behaving this way and acting this way. It was frat boy culture, but he’s no longer a frat boy.

BRANGHAM: I mean, in most circumstances, in most businesses, this talk of preying on women like this would get you fired, but Trump is in this unusual position where he’s somewhat bullet-proof. He’s the nominee. He says he’s not going anywhere. His wife says, “I’ve forgiven him. Let’s all move on.” I mean, if the GOP leaders wanted to do something and try to get him off the ticket, is there any practical way that they could do that?

SIMON: I think they could. I think it would be legally messy. I think it would be difficult. I think the only thing worse than doing it might be not doing it.

But one of the problems is, is that millions of Americans have already voted, using early ballots. So they’ve marked ballots for him, and for Hillary Clinton. And so, what do you do with those ballots?

But, you know, if you really — if the Republican Party really decided that he must go, then you can just hope that it would be like Richard Nixon, where the elders of the party go to him and say, “Mr. President, you got to step down, “or “Mr. Trump, you’ve just got to step down for the good of the party.”

BRANGHAM: Well, in the currently current political landscape. Who are those elders? Who would be the people —

SIMON: That’s a good question. You know, it would have to be the Republican leaders of congress, and it would have to be — I think it would have to be his — Pence, his vice presidential nominee, who has done support for him, but I wouldn’t call it unlimited support. It was hedged a little bit.

And I think Pence was leaving the door open for saying, you know, if anything more comes out, I’m just going to step away from this ticket. And the Republican Party can find a new vice presidential nominee.

BRANGHAM: I mean, you have, obviously, covered a lot of elections. And I’m just curious, we are weeks away from an election. We have a debate in another day. Have you ever seen anything like this? Does this strike you as an unprecedented moment? I know we’ve had a lot in this campaign, but —

SIMON: It strikes me as an unprecedented moment. You know, I’ve been asked that a lot about past crises in this campaign. I don’t use the word loosely, but I’ve been doing this since 1976, and I have never seen a presidential campaign like this.

BRANGHAM: I mean, obviously, one of the things that this has it to put a lot of pressure on is down-ballot Republicans. And it seems like in the next days, many of them have already come out, and some of them are trying to walk that line between decrying his comments and — but yet not saying that they’re not going to support him.

Doesn’t this put pressure on every single down-ballot Republican who is in a close race to reckon with these awful comments?

SIMON: It does put pressure on them. And that’s why some are stepping away from him. They’re deserting him in the sense that they’re not going to go out and campaign for him or with him. What they’re saying is, “He’s running his race. I’m running mine. Just forget about him. Concentrate on me.”

But if there’s one other group I can mention in here, it’s the women of the United States. They’re the ones who have really been victimized here — not the guys in Congress who have nice jobs and might be re-elected or not re-elected. But when you examine Mr. Trump’s statements, he — it is a statement of a serial sexual predator, and we realize that our mothers and sisters and family members are treated this way every day. And it’s important, I think, that we keep that in mind when we’re thinking about how we move forward from this moment.

BRANGHAM: All right. Roger Simon from “Politico” — thank you very much.

SIMON: Thank you.

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