Alabama Rep. Martha Roby, one of the first Republican House members to withdraw her endorsement of Donald Trump after the Access Hollywood tape was published in 2016, failed to secure enough votes to win the party’s nomination outright on Tuesday.
Former Rep. Bobby Bright, her opponent in the Republican primary on Tuesday (who previously held the seat — as a Democrat), has made Roby’s critique of the president the cornerstone of his attack ads. “Roby turned her back on the president when he needed her most,” Bright’s attack ad says.
This message appears to have resonated with some voters. Roby, after failing to meet the 50 percent threshold to secure the nomination, now faces a runoff election against Bright on July 17. With nearly all precincts reporting on Tuesday evening, Roby had 39 percent of the vote to Bright’s 28 percent.
In October 2016, an Access Hollywood tape was leaked featuring Trump bragging about acts of sexual assault. (More recently, Trump has taken to suggesting the tape is fake, but Billy Bush, who was the show’s host at the time, says it’s real.)
Roby, like a lot of Republicans at the time, took a stand and said she would not vote for him — but stopped short of endorsing Hillary Clinton. “I cannot look my children in the eye and justify a vote for a man who promotes and boasts about sexually assaulting women,” she said.
Donald Trump's behavior makes him unacceptable as a candidate for president, and I won't vote for him.— Rep. Martha Roby (@RepMarthaRoby) October 8, 2016
Full statement: pic.twitter.com/Ge7GU1TSvm
Her comments led to a near-immediate backlash, spurring Tea Party groups to push for a last-minute write-in candidate in 2016. Roby still ended up winning by an approximate 9-point margin that year, but her margin of victory was much narrower than previous elections; she took the district by more than 25 points in both 2012 and 2014.
All of this goes to show that whatever squeamishness some Republicans may have with the president’s behavior, voters still see the GOP as the party of Trump.