Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is still supporting GOP nominee Donald Trump, despite the emergence of a 2005 audio recording in which the real estate mogul boasts about predatory sexual behavior toward women.
“I ran against Donald Trump. And while I respect that voters chose him as the GOP nominee, I have never hesitated to oppose his policies I disagree with. And I have consistently rejected his offensive rhetoric and behavior,” Rubio said in a statement released by his office on Tuesday.
“I disagree with him on many things, but I disagree with his opponent on virtually everything. I wish we had better choices for President,” the senator added. “But I do not want Hillary Clinton to be our next President. And therefore my position has not changed.”
On the 2005 recording ― which was reported by The Washington Post ― Trump claimed he tried to have sex with a married woman and said he could grab women “by the pussy” because he is a celebrity. The tape sparked a wave of GOP defections over the weekend, and some lawmakers even called on Trump to drop out of the race entirely.
On Monday, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) essentially conceded the White House a month before votes had even been counted when he told the GOP conference he could no longer defend the nominee, instructing members to handle the fallout as they saw fit.
Rubio’s decision to stand behind Trump comes amid a competitive re-election fight against Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.). The Democratic congressman over the weekend called Rubio a “coward” for not withdrawing his endorsement of the GOP nominee.
But Rubio faces challenges on his right flank as well. Trump carried the Sunshine State primary earlier this year by an overwhelming margin ― beating out its home state senator by 23 percentage points. If he rescinds his endorsement, Rubio risks angering Florida voters who supported Trump, a person he once called a “con man” who shouldn’t have access to the nuclear codes.
The move could also hurt him beyond November’s election. The senator is widely expected to run for the GOP presidential nomination again in 2020.
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Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.