Oct 9, 2016 1:06 PM
NH1 News Political Director
MANCHESTER -- Sen. Kelly Ayotte told reporters Sunday that “I cannot vote for Donald Trump based on what he has said and done and the actions he talked about in those tapes and I want my daughter to know that. That is more important to me than winning any election.”
Ayotte's move comes after months of saying she would vote for but not endorse GOP nominee Donald Trump for president.
Ayotte’s change of mind, first in a statement Saturday late morning and again on Sunday with reporters, came hours after extremely lewd comments by Trump regarding his attempts to have sex with women from a decade ago, which rocked the race for the White House, also put more heat on Ayotte to further distance herself from her party’s presidential nominee.
The Washington Post first published the video on Friday afternoon. It captured Trump on an open microphone in 2005 using extremely offensive language when discussing trying to have sex with women. Trump made the comments to Billy Bush, who was a host for Access Hollywood at the time.
The video quickly sparked outrage not only among Democrats but also among many Republicans.
Ayotte's initial statement Friday evening didn't mention that she would no longer be voting for the GOP nominee.
Asked why she changed her mind from Friday into Saturday, Ayotte said "I thought about it and I said I’m not going to vote for him. And what I thought about is the statements and actions in those tapes is fundamentally different. He’s talking about assault, unfortunately in those tapes."
"Having been a former prosecutor and obviously in my prior position as attorney general working with victims of domestic violence and sexual crime, and issues I’ve on in the Senate, I think those statements are fundamentally talking unfortunately about assault. They’re different and I thought about it and I’m not going to be voting for him based on those actions and statements that are talked about in those tapes," Ayotte added.
Ayotte tells NH1 News 'I call things like I see them'
Ayotte's Democratic challenger in New Hampshire's blockbuster U.S. Senate election, Gov. Maggie Hassan, criticized Ayotte both on Friday evening and again on Saturday.
Hassan, speaking with reporters following a campaign event on Saturday afternoon after Ayotte's statement was released, said "I think what we see is Senator Ayotte putting politics and party once again before country and New Hampshire. She has had one example after the next of Donald Trumps despicable words and despicable behavior. As reasons that she should have disavowed him. It took her until now, when the revelation of his comments from a decade ago where made. To decide that politically she couldn't stand with him anymore. Six days ago she said he was absolutely a role model for children. He hasn't changed in six days and anybody who has common sense knows that he was not fit to be commander in chief."
"What you see today was that she finally made the decision that the politics were so bad for her that she would disavow him and at the same time endorse somebody who is biggest apologist for Donald Trump that there is and who has a record of acting in ways that don't help middle class families that dont support women and that allow for discrimination against our gay and lesbian citizens," Hassan added.
Asked Sunday by NH1 News of Hassan's claims, Ayotte said "I call things like I see them. I have denounced and disagreed with Donald Trump on many occasions and called him out. The statements and actions talked about in that tape are fundamentally different and I thought about when my daughter’s old enough years from now to understand and know what’s in those tapes, I wanted her to know where I stand. And that’s more important to me than winning any election."
Then Ayotte trained her fire on her Democratic challenger, saying "that is a big difference between Gov. Hassan and I. She has never called out Hillary Clinton about setting up a private server and mishandling classified information and emails jeopardizing our national security. Or when she’s lied about it. Or the fundamental issues where she’s lockstep with Secretary Clinton on issues like the Iran agreement that make our country less safe. 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 also confirmed in person what her campaign told NH1 News on Saturday, that she would like to see Trump step down as GOP presidential nominee.
Speaking with NH1 News and other news organizations about an hour later, Hassan pushed back on Ayotte's assertion that the governor's "never called out" the Democratic nominee.
"First of all to equate Hillary Clinton with Donald Trump in the same sentence is an outrage. Secondly, she's simply wrong and I will always stand up to my party to secretary Clinton or to the President as I have on numerous occasions, as I did when the President wanted to close Guantanamo."
Trump apologizes but dismisses talk of stepping down
Trump apologized for the comments in a statement Friday evening, but tried to shift the spotlight to former President Bill Clinton.
“This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago. Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course - not even close. I apologize if anyone was offended,” he wrote.
Early Saturday morning Trump put out a video, saying "I've said and done things I regret," he said. "Anyone who knows me knows these words don't reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize."
"I pledge to be a better man tomorrow," he added.
But Trump also tried to turn the tables in the video and once again attack the Clintons, saying “Bill Clinton has actually abused women and Hillary has bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims.”
Later on Saturday, Trump made it clear that he wouldn't step down as GOP nominee.
NHGOP OK with Ayotte's move
Saturday afternoon, NHGOP chair Jennifer Horn said in a statement that there will be "no repercussions from the party directed at those who choose not to support Donald Trump."
Over the past year Horn had clashed with Trump supporters in New Hampshire.
"I have clearly expressed my own concerns about Mr. Trump's qualifications and statements in the past, but I respect that he was nominated by the people in a fair and open process," she wrote in her statement.
"However, I remain deeply concerned about Mr. Trump's erratic behavior, his outrageous comments and his ability to serve as our Commander in Chief. As the mother of five children, including an active duty United States Marine, I understand and respect Senator Ayotte’s decision to write in Governor Mike Pence for president on Election Day," Horn added.
The race between Ayotte and Hassan is one of the most high profile, expensive, and negative Senate showdowns in the country this year.
According to Suffolk University poll conducted earlier this week for the Boston Globe, Ayotte stood at 47% among likely Granite State voters, with Hassan at 41%. Libertarian candidate Brian Chabot was at 3%, with independent Aaron Day at 1%. Six percent said they were undecided.
Forty-eight percent said they have a favorable view of Ayotte, with a third saying they see the GOP senator in a unfavorable light. Hassan had a 42% favorable rating, with 40% seeing the Democratic governor in an unfavorable way.
Hassan had a two point advantage over Ayotte in last month’s MassINC poll for WBUR.
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