WASHINGTON – Some Republicans who were for Donald Trump before they were against him are now promising to vote for the GOP presidential nominee.
Dozens of Republicans repudiated Trump after he was caught on videotape making crude, predatory comments about grabbing women. Endorsements were withdrawn and many lawmakers called for the nominee to drop out of the presidential race. Weeks later, several Republicans are back on the Trump train, while others in tough races won't say whether they're voting for their party's standard-bearer.
Several Republicans have tied themselves into rhetorical knots in trying to support the White House candidate — or back away from him.
Consider Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. He was one of the first to denounce Trump, saying hours after the 2005 "Access Hollywood" videotape was made public on Oct. 7 that the Republican candidate's "abhorrent" comments meant Chaffetz could "no longer in good conscience endorse" him.
Now Chaffetz has reversed course, saying on Twitter this week that while he won't defend or endorse Trump, "I am voting for him." Trump's Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, "is bad for the USA," Chaffetz said.
Chaffetz chairs the House Oversight Committee and has vowed to continue investigations into Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, should Republicans hold their majority in the House.
Sens. John Thune of South Dakota and Mike Crapo of Idaho also have reversed course on Trump. Both called for the GOP nominee to step down in the wake of his videotaped comments, but both now say they will vote for him.
Trump "has a lot of work to do, I think, to win this election. But I'm certainly not going to vote for Hillary Clinton," Thune said.
Crapo also expressed disdain for Clinton and confirmed he "will vote for the Republican ticket," Trump and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, the vice presidential nominee.
Nevada Rep. Joe Heck and Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey won't say how they're voting.
Heck, who is locked in a close race with Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto in the race to succeed retiring Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, refuses to say who he will vote for in the presidential race, calling it "a personal decision."
His vote "is a secret ballot just like your ballot is a secret ballot," Heck told reporters.
Toomey, trying to ward off a strong challenge from Democrat Katie McGinty, has refused to endorse Trump but has not denounced him either. In an unusual campaign pitch to moderate voters, Toomey has launched a TV ad in Philadelphia that recounts praise from Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine, while at the time airing ads that criticize Clinton in other parts of the state.
Kaine said at a campaign stop in Pennsylvania that Toomey is trying to "straddle with respect to Donald Trump," adding: "I think Donald Trump poses a clear enough challenge that people ought to be able to go on the record and say what they think about him."
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., has done verbal contortions as she struggles to distance herself from Trump while not alienating his most fervent supporters. For much of the year, Ayotte said she supported the nominee but would not endorse.
At a recent debate with her rival, Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, Ayotte called Trump a role model for children, then said she misspoke. Ayotte withdrew her support from Trump after the videotape was made public, and said she'd write-in vice presidential nominee Pence instead.
But in a radio interview this week, Ayotte agreed with a host who said that if Trump is elected president, "he's going to need some people in the Senate who can actually make some of the changes he's talking about."
Ayotte responded, "That's right."
Hassan has said Ayotte waited too long to denounce Trump and that the senator's previous support showed a "concerning lack of judgment."
Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, also has been all over the map regarding Trump. Stewart said Thursday he'll vote for Trump, despite denouncing him previously for his vulgar comments about women. Stewart said in a video statement that a vote for a third-party candidate is the same as voting for Clinton.
The new comments mark the latest shift by Stewart, who called Trump "our Mussolini" earlier this year, but then signed a letter put out by the Utah Republican Party in August supporting Trump. Stewart called on Trump to step aside after the 2005 tape was made public earlier this month.