PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Republican vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence is still scheduled to visit Rhode Island on Saturday evening for a high-dollar fundraiser, the state’s GOP chairman said Friday night, after the party’s ticket was rocked by a leaked video showing nominee Donald Trump using vulgar language.
R.I. Republican Party Chairman Brandon Bell said Pence is now expected to land at T.F. Green Airport around 7:30 p.m. Saturday, about two hours later than expected, because he will be in Wisconsin earlier in the day filling in for Trump at an event with House Speaker Paul Ryan; Ryan rescinded Trump’s invitation to the event after the video emerged Friday.
Bell said he still has high hopes for the Newport fundraiser, which will be attended by former Lt. Gov. Bernard Jackvony, former U.S. Ambassador J. William Middendorf and former Rhode Island GOP vice-chairman John Harpootian. The amount of donations coming in for the event are “pretty good,” Bell told WPRI.com.
“Everything’s ready to go,” he said.
Bell paused when asked about Trump’s comments in the leaked video from 2005, which showed him speaking in sexually explicit terms. He called the revelations “demoralizing.”
“I’m disgusted, but I have to let it sink in a bit,” he said. “I have a wife and two daughters, and besides that fact, even if I didn’t have a wife and two daughters, I would still be disgusted by this. It’s disgusting. There’s no other word for it.”
But Bell stopped short of saying he will no longer support Trump for president. “I can promise you I will not be voting for Hillary Clinton,” he said.
Bell contrasted Trump’s leaked comments with the fact that Bill Clinton has his own problematic history with women, including accusations of rape. “I mean, it was 11 years ago,” he said of the Trump video. “I’m not trying to make excuses, but of course the first thing an anti-Hillary person would think is what she has done to objectify Bill Clinton’s victims.”
Former Republican congressional candidate John Loughlin made a similar point:
Bell emphasized that he did not see Clinton’s behavior as a defense of the GOP nominee’s remarks. “I’m not excusing Trump’s comments from 11 years ago – it’s disgusting,” he said. “No one should be spoken about like that. But I think in this context he can get past that with an apology and proving himself over the next 30 days.”
However, Bell added, “he’s already so far down in the polls with women that this is not – to recover from this is going to be extraordinarily difficult.”
Gary Sasse, who co-chaired the campaigns of Trump rivals Marco Rubio and then John Kasich during the primary, noted that Trump’s “lewdness” was drowning out coverage of leaked emails from Clinton’s campaign that revealed she backed “open trade and open borders” in paid speeches to Wall Street executives before her presidential run. Sasse is not supporting Trump or Clinton.
Gov. Gina Raimondo, a Democrat and Clinton backer, joined the chorus of those criticizing Trump:
While a number of senior Republicans have called for Trump to drop out of the race since the video was released, his name will almost certainly be on the ballot in Rhode Island next month even if such an extraordinary turn of events happened. Ballots are already in the process of being printed and mail ballots are being sent to voters, according to Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea’s office.
Trump won Rhode Island’s April GOP primary with nearly 64% of the vote, taking every community but Barrington, as voter turnout spiked compared with recent years. At the time it was Trump’s best showing in any state.
The local host committee for Pence’s Saturday evening fundraiser includes David B. Ford, a former Goldman Sachs director who owns Miramar, one of the Newport mansions; Dee Cushing, who was a major fundraiser for Barry Hinckley’s 2012 U.S. Senate campaign; Rob Matheson, founder of the firm Earlyman; and Hal Pontez, who owns the Houston-based company HPI.