U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump looks on during a campaign rally in Prescott Valley, Ariz., Oct. 4, 2016.
Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

Donald Trump tape throws Republican politics into chaos

The Rachel Maddow Show, 10/7/16, 9:01 PM ET

Vulgar Trump tape lends credence to past claims

Rachel Maddow reports on a newly released tape of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump talking about women in lewd, graphic terms, and looks at a report from earlier in the week about lewd Trump behavior on the set of The Apprentice.
There have been some extraordinary 24-hour periods in recent American political history. Consider the chaos surrounding the 2000 presidential election, for example, or the 1998 impeachment crisis, when House Republicans forced one Speaker to resign, only to see his successor quit soon after.

But when it comes to campaign history, Americans have probably never seen anything quite like the developments between Friday and Saturday afternoon.

As most of the planet has learned, Donald Trump was recorded in 2005 boasting about his romantic exploits, which eventually led him to brag about committing sexual assaults. The Republican presidential candidate said, among other things, that he kisses women he considers beautiful – “I don’t even wait,” Trump claimed – which he said he can get away with because of his public profile.

“And when you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump said on the recording. “You can do anything. Grab ‘em by the p—y.”

The GOP campaign issued a brief, wholly inadequate statement on Friday afternoon, which read, “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.”

When this did little to calm the waters, Trump releaseed a hastily crafted video apology in the middle of the night – in which he dismissed the scandal as a “distraction,” before again attacking the Clintons.

This, in turn, caused a wide variety of Republican officials to reject Trump’s presidential candidacy, and in the process, throw GOP politics into chaos.

There’s no shortage of angles to this, but here’s a quick rundown of some of the most notable:

Will Trump quit?

Quite a few GOP officials and insiders desperately want him to, but the Republican nominee has insisted he’ll “never” step down ahead of the election, which is now just 30 days away.

Can the party force him off the ticket?

No, and even if Trump were to quit, it’s almost certainly too late in the process for Republicans to choose a new nominee.

So the RNC has no choice but to support Trump?

That’s not quite right, either. The party is almost certainly stuck when it comes to the ballot, but as of yesterday, the RNC appeared to be shifting its energies into supporting down-ballot candidates, potentially leaving Trump on his own.

How severe is the division within Republicans?

Quite a few Republican officials, staffers, strategists, and donors gave up on Trump after Friday afternoon’s revelations, but a striking number of die-hard Trump backers remain defiant. Some of this was on display outside Trump Tower on Saturday, and note that some of Trump’s GOP critics faced hecklers during public events yesterday. There’s also some preliminary polling that suggests much of the rabid Republican base is sticking with Trump, even if party leaders are not, which will only bolster the candidate’s resolve (and ego).

Indeed, this morning, Trump made no effort to hide his public feud with his own party. The Republican nominee is now urging his surrogates to go after anti-Trump Republicans with vigor.

I’ll have more on this story later this afternoon, in advance of tonight’s presidential debate, which begins at 9 p.m. (ET). As of now, Trump appears likely to participate in the event.

Donald Trump, Republican Party and Scandals

Donald Trump tape throws Republican politics into chaos