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Republicans Heck, Hardy say they no longer support Trump

Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney joined U.S. Senate candidate Joe Heck and congressional candidate Cresent Hardy in dropping support for Republican nominee Donald Trump at a Saturday morning rally in Las Vegas.

Romney was at the event to mobilize voters and volunteers before they canvassed for votes for Hardy and Heck, both R-Nev. He spoke supportively of Hardy and Heck to a crowd of about 75 people and joined the chorus of politicians nationally abandoning Trump.

The three were among many elected Republicans who are abandoning Trump after The Washington Post posted a video of the Republican presidential nominee making vulgar comments about women while speaking to the then-host of “Access Hollywood” in 2005.

In the video, Trump describes trying to have sex with a married woman and claims women let him kiss and grope them because he is famous.

“Both Cresent and Joe have spoken about the developments of the last day with the tape where Mr. Trump has revealed not just offensive language, but offensive conduct,” Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, said Saturday. “I, myself and my party, we love all the people in this country regardless of gender, or ethnicity or religion and I was offended and dismayed by what was said and done by Mr. Trump.

“I think it’s degrading to our women, to our daughters, our granddaughters, to future generations,” Romney said of the recording. “I dearly hope that we will come together as a nation and stand as firmly as we possibly can for the principles that have made us the shining city on a hill.”

Heck, a congressman seeking to replace Harry Reid in the U.S. Senate, said, “I believe any candidate for president should follow and campaign an ethical, moral and decent campaign as they go about the trail.”

Heck cited his commitment to a code of honor, decency and respect during his military service and his personal life as reasons he could no longer support the Republican presidential nominee.

“I can no longer look past the pattern of behavior and comments that have been made by Donald Trump, I cannot in good conscience continue to support Donald Trump, nor can I vote for Hillary Clinton,” he said, talking over loud boos from a man and a woman at opposite ends of the crowd. “My wife, my daughters, my mom, my sister and all women deserve better. All Americans deserve better.”

Heck kept speaking as a campaign volunteer escorted the booing man, 57-year-old disabled veteran Chris Cleveland, from the venue. The man turned from the stage, glared at the volunteer from under his black “Make America Great Again” hat, and stormed toward his car.

“I think Heck is a traitor,” Cleveland said. “He’s for Hillary and I will not vote for him. … That goes for Hardy, too.”

Cleveland said he came to the rally to support Hardy and Heck, expecting them to rally the Republican Party.

“As far as I’m concerned, they came here and campaigned for Hillary Clinton,” Cleveland said. “As soon as he said that, he was campaigning for Hillary.”

Hardy, who is in a tough race for re-election in a Democratic-leaning district, commented about his campaign platform before echoing Heck’s message. He recalled being told as a young man that building a great nation takes a strong national defense, a strong economy and strong families.

“Today I believe we are collapsing on all three,” Hardy said. “With that being said, I also want to make a statement here today. In order to make a strong family, you have to respect women, wives and mothers.

“The disrespect that I’ve heard in recent videotapes …” Hardy said, trailing off. “I will no longer support the guy at the head of the ticket for the Republican nominee.

Hardy stressed that dropping his endorsement for Trump did not mean he would support Clinton.

“That lady has no integrity. She will lie to get whatever it takes to get her elected,” Hardy said to scattered applause. “She’s not somebody we want to elect or trust because of the things she’s done.”

Romney said the greatest thrill of his life was campaigning for president in 2012, seeing the country and meeting people in communities he visited. He acknowledged that his campaign didn’t rally local door knockers effectively and emphasized that Hardy and Heck’s success would hinge on audience members’ rallying Republicans to vote.

“These men who are running for office are men of integrity and character,” Romney said. “We need men like that in Washington, perhaps more than at any other time in our history.”

In an emailed statement, state Sen. Ruben Kihuen, D-Las Vegas, Hardy’s congressional race opponent, called Heck’s announcement a “political calculation.”

“Congressmen Cresent Hardy is flailing in the political winds, but it’s too late now for him to walk away from his ‘100 percent’ support for Donald Trump,” Kihuen’s office wrote in the statement. “Before today, Congressman Hardy has accepted every other vile and disqualifying statement that came out of Trump’s mouth.”

Catherine Cortez Masto, who is running against Heck for Reid’s Senate seat, issued her own statement, claiming that for nine months Heck has been Trump’s “strongest supporter in Nevada,” even as the presidential candidate has “demeaned and disrespected women, made racist comments towards Latinos and showed himself completely unfit to be President.”

“Heck said he had ‘high hopes’ about Trump becoming President, that he completely supported him and that he had no doubts about Trump having his finger on the nuclear button,” Masto’s statement read. “What you’re seeing now is not leadership, it’s Joe Heck trying to save his career.”

Contact Kimber Laux at klaux@reviewjournal.com. Follow @lauxkimber on Twitter.

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