Sen. Jeff Sessions seemed exasperated from the get-go during an interview on This Week on Sunday morning.
“You’ve had this whole morning talking about nothing but negative on the Trump campaign,” he said to host Martha Raddatz, when asked to respond to a less than complimentary story in the New York Times.
He wasn’t wrong.
Across the Sunday morning talk shows, a series of guests used their airtime to plead with, criticize and outright bash Donald Trump—and these were just the Republicans.
It’s not that Hillary Clinton had a stellar week—she didn’t. Another batch of her State Department emails released by Judicial Watch seemed to hint—at best— Clinton Foundation donors attempting using their connections to get meetings at the State Department or—at worst—pay to play.
But what normally would have been a tough week for Hillary took a backseat to Trump’s latest bout of self-destruction.
The Republican nominee began the week seeming to encourage “second amendment people” to take matters into their own hands if Clinton won. By midweek he would declare multiple times that President Obama and Clinton were the founders of ISIS and wrapped it all up by telling a rally in Pennsylvania that the only way his campaign could lose the Keystone state would be because of massive fraud.
Yes, that was all in one week.
Sessions, a steadfast Trump supporter, tried to explain why Trump has failed to switch his message to appeal to a general electorate but eventually settled on an argument that Trump is “wrestling” to stay on message.
“He had a lot of fun in the primaries. He was really charging away. And he enjoyed that,” Sessions said. “But it is a different thing to run a presidential election. You're dealing even with a different constituency. And so he's got to wrestle in his own heart, how does he communicate who he is, what he believes, the change he thinks he can bring to America, why what he's doing is fulfilling the desires of the American people.”
Those desires do not extend to top GOPers two of whom openly disavowed their party’s nominee on Sunday and discussed their search for other options.
On CBS, Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine—a moderate, deal-brokering, well-liked member of the Upper Chamber—said Trump’s attacks on the Khans were “inexplicable,” and that she may vote libertarian.
She announced her non-endorsement of Trump last week, but used Sunday’s appearance to reiterate her decision.
She said she gave a heads-up about her decision to a number of prominent Republicans before going public, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and leaders at the Republican National Committee. And she said none of them tried to talk her out of it.
Now, she’s says she’s mulling a vote for libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, or potentially writing in her choice.
“I know that it is appealing to people that Donald Trump has jettisoned the politically correct stilted campaign speeches that frustrate voters,” she told host John Dickerson. “But the problem is that there’s a big difference between that and treating people with respect and common decency. And there’s where, in my judgment, Donald Trump has failed.”
Then George W. Bush’s secretary of commerce during his second term, Carlos Gutierrez, hit the Republican nominee during an interview on CNN’s State of the Union
Gutierrez is not on the Trump Train. He said he decided he couldn’t back Trump two months ago, when Trump bashed Judge Gonzalo Curiel for his Hispanic ethnicity and then referred to a rally attendee as “my African-American.”
“That, for me, was the end of it,” he said. “I don’t want to go back 50 years. I don’t want to see kids being bullied at school because they have a Spanish last name. I don’t want people talking about ‘my African-American.’ I don’t want people making fun of handicapped people.”
Instead, he’s voting for Hillary Clinton.
“I think that a Trump presidency, in spite of the fact that he’s a Republican, is dangerous,” he said.
And, he added, Clinton could make “a darn good president.”
Gutierrez isn’t alone. Over the last few weeks, a host of Republican insiders -- including top Jeb Bush advisor Sally Bradshaw and former presidential national security advisor Brent Scowcroft -- have said they won’t back their party’s nominee and may support Clinton. Richard Armitage, George W. Bush’s deputy secretary of state, also said he’ll back Clinton.
On Fox News Sunday, Trump’s own vice presidential pick had trouble staying completely positive about him. Though the Indiana governor emphasized that he’s “honored” to stand “shoulder to shoulder” with Trump, he also hinted at frustration over the mogul’s media blacklist -- which The Daily Beast is on.
When host Chris Wallace pressed him on his efforts to get the campaign to provide media credentials to outlets that have criticized Trump, Pence demurred.
“We’ll keep our private conversations private, but that’s an ongoing discussion in the campaign,” he said. “And I’ll -- I do believe in the public’s right to know, whether it’s about these latest allegations about Hillary Clinton or otherwise, and we’ll continue that -- we’ll continue to advance that principle.”