The last 24 hours are likely to go down as the craziest in presidential election history. After The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold published a leaked recording of Trump bragging to Billy Bush about sexually assaulting women, Trump apologized (sort of), a rarity in his sixteen-month campaign for president, and released a video attacking Bill Clinton’s sexual history. In response, dozens of elected Republicans have revoked their support for his candidacy, in some cases demanding that he drop out of the race in favor of his running mate Mike Pence.
There are two reasons why there has been a rush to abandon Trump. Obviously, the recording is horrifying. In just 90 seconds, Trump commits a host of sins: He proudly admits to sexually assaulting women and to using his fame and power to get away with it; he dehumanizes women; and he brags about trying to sleep with a married woman, despite being newly married at the time. If Republicans could excuse past allegations of sexual assault and misogyny as allegations, or as Donald being Donald (or worse, boys being boys), they cannot excuse this because it is so blatant. But the other reason is simply that, with 30 days until the election, Republicans believe that Trump is going to lose and to lose badly. In the case of Senator Kelly Ayotte, abandoning Trump is a way to try to save her skin, to say nothing of her dignity. (She, hilariously, is writing in Pence.) But for others, the talk of getting Trump to drop out for Pence is a last-ditch plan to win the presidency.
Over 35 high-profile Republican governors, senators, and congressman have abandoned Trump today, the most notable being John McCain, who Trump viciously attacked over a year ago. That they would abandon him now and not after he made racist comments about Mexicans, called to ban Muslims from entering the country, or failed to disclose his tax returns does not make this the noble gesture many pundits are spinning it as. Instead, it’s a fitting end for the way that Republicans have managed this election: By the time they finally get their act together and make a statement, it’s too late.