Trump's debate performance may have stopped the bleeding in Florida
As Donald Trump dug in Monday after a ferocious debate performance designed to rally his base, Florida Republican leaders remained largely in hiding, illustrating the agonizing position they now face.
"People are shell shocked," said Republican consultant Alex Patton of Gainesville.
A number of elected Republicans condemned Trump's sexually aggressive comments in a 2005 video that surfaced Friday, but there was no rush to disavow complete support for him and the debate likely made that harder.
"He did stop the bleeding. People have stopped jumping off the bandwagon," said Patton, who is not among the wait-and-see crowd.
"I'm disgusted. My 13-year-old son asked me what it means when someone grabs a girl by the p----. As a father it just smacks you in the face. I'm so tired of having to defend Trump to my friends."
Three prominent Republicans, Sen. Marco Rubio, Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi, were among those who kept quiet Monday. The state GOP chairman was also mute. The Trump campaign in Florida could muster up only two comments of praise following the debate — and both were members of Trump's paid staff.
But Trump's performance excited the base. "After that first debate, he learned fast. He can't sit back. He went after her," said Lucille J. Justin of Plantation. She said she believed Trump's words in the video were, as he insisted Sunday, "locker room talk."
"I'm 79 years old, I've been around the block a couple of times," Justin said. "When you get a group of guys together, how do they talk about women? My little virgin ears have heard it. It was 11 years ago."
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