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'Republicans who are backing away are gutless': Some California House members say they're sticking with Trump

Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Elk Grove) talks with voters after speaking to a tea party group in 2014. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Elk Grove) talks with voters after speaking to a tea party group in 2014. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

At least three California Republican House members say they are standing with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump because Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is worse.

Over the weekend, dozens of Republican representatives and senators, including some of California's 14 House members, repudiated Trump over comments he made in 2005 about touching women without consent. Though they distanced themselves from his comments, only California candidates in tough races said outright that they would no longer support him.

In a letter on his campaign website, Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Elk Grove) called the outcry over the recorded remarks a "grand diversion."

"Donald Trump wasn’t my first or even second choice for president, but I can certainly tell the difference between a fire and a fireman. And when a fireman is trying to save my house from burning down, the fact he uses lewd and vulgar language in private conversations with other guys doesn’t change the nature of the emergency," he said.

McClintock detailed several policy differences between Trump and Clinton, and emphasized that because the next president will nominate one or more justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, the election will have far-reaching ramifications.

Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Corona) took a similar tack in a statement on his campaign website, saying Trump was right to apologize and Clinton is still the wrong choice.

"I continue to believe electing Hillary Clinton will only further lead our nation down the wrong path, economically and in terms of national security," he said.

Some Republicans are concerned voters might avoid conservatives throughout their ballot if Republicans disavow Trump. Calvert has joined a chorus of Republicans urging voters to help them keep control of the House and Senate.

Since the release Friday of a video showing Trump chatting privately with then-Access Hollywood host Billy Bush, Republican leaders like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) have said they cannot support Trump and have withdrawn their endorsements. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told House members he would not defend or campaign for Trump, though stopped short of pulling his endorsement.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) told the Orange County Register on Monday that Ryan and other Republican leaders who back away from Trump are "cowardly."

"I think the Republicans who are backing away are gutless. We don’t have to just be concerned about saving House seats. We have to be concerned about saving the United States of America,” he told the Register.

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