Republican candidate Debbie Lesko said the Stormy Daniels allegations should be investigated. Then she changed her mind.
Former Arizona state Sen. Debbie Lesko, the Republican candidate in the special election for Arizona's 8th Congressional District, almost took a principled stand on Trump's misconduct — but then she caught herself.
But a few days later, when Lesko spoke to the New York Times, she backtracked, saying, "I didn’t mean a formal investigation by government or something like that," adding she found Daniels "a little hard to believe," because "the business that she’s in — I’m sorry."
Lesko, who is squaring off against progressive candidate Hiral Tipirneni in a special election, obviously fears the consequences of appearing disloyal to Trump. In 2016, Trump won the district by 21 points.
But her attempt to downplay a cover-up of sexual misbehavior is galling. The only reason the seat is open is that the Republican who held it, Trent Franks, resigned after he was caught bribing female staffers to have his baby.
Lesko's cowardice is part of a broader pattern. Republicans are only able to take a stand against Trump's behavior when they think there is some benefit to them.
In 2016, after the release of the Access Hollywood tape of Trump boasting about sexual assault, many Republicans pretended to renounce Trump. Then-congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) said he would not be able to look his 15-year-old daughter in the eye and say he supported Trump. And Mitt Romney called Trump's remarks "vile degradations" that "demean our wives and daughters."
Flash forward to today. Chaffetz is now a Fox News commentator who regularly praises Trump and condemns everyone investigating him. Romney, now running for Senate in Utah, claims he is actually even more Trumpish than Trump. And pretty much all Republicans in Congress and most Republican voters do whatever Trump says.
For Republicans like Lesko, staying in the good graces of the party means cheerleading for Trump in any and all circumstances. She just had to remind herself of that.