YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — GOP U.S. Senator Rob Portman on Friday called a video showing fellow Republican Donald Trump boasting about groping women “the final straw” in his decision to rescind his endorsement of the presidential candidate.
“I found his comments, the most recent ones, to be offensive. I found them to be demeaning, degrading to women. For me, it was the final straw,” Portman said during his first U.S. Senate race debate with Democratic challenger Ted Strickland.
Portman responded to a question asking why he didn’t withdraw support earlier given previous Trump statements offensive to women and minorities.
“I’m proud of our party and he won our nomination fairly and squarely, and I think his policies are better on rebuilding the military and growing the economy. But for me, I could no longer support him,” Portman said.
Strickland, a former Ohio governor, said Portman is guilty of “cowardice” for not acting sooner.
“He should have rejected this man while he was saying these outrageous things, and he didn’t because he was thinking about his own political career,” Strickland said.
Portman in turn criticized Strickland for staying silent when Hillary Clinton called half of Trump’s supporters a “basket of deplorables.”
He also criticized Strickland for remarks in August to a labor group that appeared to celebrate the death of late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
Most of the debate was a rerun of familiar jabs over job growth.
Portman repeated his mantra that Ohio lost 355,000 jobs and was 48th in job creation when Strickland was governor, which coincided with the national recession.
“Forty-seven other governors figured it out,” Portman said.
Strickland said Ohio had the fifth-fastest growing economy when he left office.
“Ohio was on the road to recovery, and we are experiencing that even today,” Strickland said.
Portman has been well ahead of Strickland in fundraising and polls.
The two meet again in Columbus on Monday and in Cleveland on Oct. 20.