Prominent Illinois Republicans distanced themselves from Donald Trump Monday.
Both Gov. Bruce Rauner and U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., criticized the Republican presidential nominee for comments about kissing and groping women that were revealed with the release of a 2005 Access Hollywood video.
Kirk, who is in a reelection campaign against U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., called for Trump to quit the race. Kirk originally said he would support the Republican nominee for president, but he has since publicly feuded with Trump.
“I think (the video) reveals who he really is, and we shouldn’t elect such a misogynistic candidate to the presidency,” Kirk said.
Kirk said he thinks he can still win reelection without the votes Trump supporters, many of whom were angered by Kirk’s call for Trump to drop out.
Kirk has also run ads where he speaks Spanish to criticize Trump.
“Just because your party nominated the wrong guy is not a reason to back him,” Kirk said. “In the recent primary, we made a mistake. I would say that the average Republican voter is not infallible. They can make a mistake. In the case of the Trump nomination, we made a mistake.”
Last week, Trump told supporters in New Hampshire that Kirk is against him for political reasons.
“I guess there’s a gentleman in Illinois that’s not doing so well,” Trump said. “This guy was actually taking out ads against me. I said, ‘Are you sure he’s a Republican? Maybe he’s a Democrat.’ And he’s not doing well. But, hey, that’s his problem.”
The release of the Trump video coincided with President Barack Obama’s visit to Chicago for several fundraisers, including one for Duckworth.
“We won’t stand for the likes of Donald Trump running us down,” Duckworth said at the Sunday fundraiser.
On Monday, Rauner offered his most specific criticism of Trump to date. Rauner has repeatedly refused to talk about the presidential race.
“The rhetoric, the language, the statements in that tape that’s recently come out: disgusting, appalling, outrageous. Beyond any reasonable bounds of decency,” Rauner told reporters in Chicago.
Earlier in the campaign, Rauner said he would support the Republican nominee, but he pointed out that he hasn’t endorsed Trump for president.
Both Kirk and Gov. Bruce Rauner skipped this year’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
In addition to Rauner and Kirk, U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, called on Trump to abandon his presidential campaign.
Kirk spoke via phone with WBEZ’s Jenn White Monday from his campaign bus in downstate Illinois.
WBEZ's Jenn White: What was it about this tape that pushed you to call for Donald Trump to step aside as the Republican presidential nominee?
Senator Mark Kirk: I just feel like he has become a malignant clown. The RNC should [hold] an emergency meeting to make sure we have a new candidate.
Q: Trump has apologized for his remarks. He also dismissed it as locker room talk. Why was that not enough of a satisfying response for you?
A: It’s not enough because I think it reveals who he really is and we shouldn’t elect such a misogynistic candidate to the presidency.
Q: A lot of elected Republicans in Illinois are probably trying to figure out if they should distance themselves from Trump. What kinds of conversations are you having with other Republicans in Illinois?
A: We’ve already had a number of Republicans who have criticized Trump. I think I was the first to call for him to step down.
Q: Do you feel like some of those Republicans will follow your lead?
A: It’s likely. I don’t think Trump is wearing well.
Q: You called on the Republican Party to take the unprecedented step of naming an emergency replacement for Trump. Who do you think that should be?
A: I won’t get into details over hypotheticals.
Q: So there’s not an individual in mind for you, not even his running mate Mike Pence?
A: Not at all. I don’t have a replacement.
Q: Is that move even possible given that early-voting has already begun?
A: Well, when you’ve got a candidate this flawed you probably should get a better one.
Q: If Donald Trump remains on the ballot, what does that mean for your party?
A: For our party it means that the American people will likely figure out what’s going on and they will figure out we’ve nominated the wrong guy.
Q: But what do you think it means for the future of your party, and for those down-ticket races like yours?
A: It means that the Trump disaster could cost us the Senate and the House.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the ‘Play’ button above to listen to the entire segment.
Tony Arnold is WBEZ's Illinois politics reporter. Follow him at @tonyjarnold.
Patrick Smith produced the interview between Jenn White and U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk.