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Ayotte says speaking out on Trump more important than winning election

New Hampshire Union Leader

October 09. 2016 1:02PM
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, and Gov. Maggie Hassan, D-Newfields (right) 

MANCHESTER — U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte on Sunday said that speaking out against Donald Trump’s lewd videotaped comments was more important than winning her tight Senate election, and that she would support Trump withdrawing from atop the GOP ticket.

But Ayotte’s foe, Gov. Maggie Hassan, called Ayotte’s actions “political calculation.”

The two candidates in separate news conferences disagreed on why Ayotte was disavowing Trump over controversial comments that Trump made in a 2005 video that surfaced Friday. Ayotte cited her 12-year-old daughter, Kate, as the reason why the senator wouldn’t vote for Trump, her party’s presidential nominee.

“(Trump was) talking about assault of women and I thought about years from now when my daughter Kate is old enough to know what is in those tapes and to understand what he is talking about, I want her to know where I stood,” Ayotte told reporters.

“I cannot vote for Donald Trump based on what he has said and done and the actions he has talked about in those tapes and I want my daughter to know that,” Ayotte said. “That is more important than winning any election.”

Ayotte said she “would support” Trump pulling out of the race, and she will write in the name of Mike Pence, the GOP vice presidential nominee, for President.

About two hours later on Sunday, Hassan said Ayotte’s change of heart was driven by other considerations.

“This just goes to show that everything for Sen. Ayotte is a political calculation,” Hassan said. “She has been trying to walk herself back from calling Donald Trump a role model for children just, what, six days ago. Nothing has changed about Donald Trump in the last six days. What has changed is that Sen. Ayotte realized that politically she couldn’t stand with him anymore.”

Hassan was making reference to last Monday’s debate, when Ayotte said Trump “absolutely” could be a role model for children. A few hours later she said she had “misspoken,” and that she considered neither Trump nor Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton as good role models.

University of New Hampshire political science professor Dante Scala said the Senate race, which last week looked pretty close to 50-50, now tilts “at least 60-40 Hassan” advantage.

“I think she’s courting disaster by disavowing him,” said Scala, who penned a book on the New Hampshire presidential primary. “She only did it because the alternative was definite disaster.”

Scala said Ayotte risks some Trump backers not voting for her on Election Day; other Republican voters may become disillusioned by party disunity and stay home entirely.

“Regardless of her personal feelings about Trump, it was clear that she thought disavowing Trump was a last resort,” Scala said.

Trump has vowed to stay in the race, despite a growing chorus of elected officials within his party calling for him to drop out following Friday’s release of a 2005 recording of Trump making lewd comments about women.

Ayotte said she has “disagreed and denounced Donald Trump on many issues and called him out” on many issues, but she said Trump’s lewd comments on the video were different.

“Having been a former prosecutor and obviously in my prior position as attorney general working with victims of domestic violence, ... I think those statements are fundamentally talking, unfortunately, about assault.” Ayotte said.

“I will call it like I see it no matter who is in that Oval Office and disagree with them when I think they’re going in the wrong direction on behalf of the people of New Hampshire and obviously where I can work with them on behalf of the people of New Hampshire,” Ayotte said.

Ayotte said Hassan has “never called out” Clinton about her private email server and over questions about handling classified emails.

Hassan said she isn’t afraid to criticize Clinton or her party, questioning why it took so long for Ayotte to reject Trump.

“Most of us were not surprised by his comments that we heard on Friday,” Hassan said. “They reflected what we all had come to know about Donald Trump. They just did it more graphically ...”

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