Republicans in South Dakota change their tune on Donald Trump

Sen. John Thune (R-South Dakota) accepted a star quilt for his granddaughter from elders of the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe in September 2016. Photo from Twitter

Republicans in South Dakota -- where the Native vote has long played a role in determining elections -- are staying aboard the Donald Trump ship.

Sen. John Thune (R-South Dakota), the third highest-ranking Republican in the Senate, emphatically called on Trump to drop out after an explosive report in The Washington Post on Friday documented Trump's desire to sexually assault women. But now he says he will vote for his party's top candidate.

"I intend to support the nominee of our party and if anything should change then I'll let you know, but he's got a lot of work to do I think if he's going to have any hope of winning this election," Thune told KELO-TV on Tuesday, just three days after his post on Twitter.

Thune, whose lost his first Senate run in 2002 due to the power of the Native vote, is running for re-election. His Democratic opponent is Jay Williams, who is trying to make sure South Dakotans don't forget about Trump.

"Since the early days of my campaign for U.S. Senate I have publicly asked Thune to reject Donald Trump, and until recently, he has steadfastly supported him," Williams said on Sunday. "This exemplifies John Thune’s poor judgment of character, and a lack of leadership to do what he should have known is best for our country."

Rep. Kristi Noem (R-South Dakota) is also seeking re-election in the House. She rebuked Trump soon after the 2005 video surfaced.

"No one should ever talk about a woman - another person for that matter - in the repulsive way that Donald Trump did. Period," Noem wrote on Twitter on Saturday.

But Noem isn't willing to abandon Trump -- she told Argus Leader Media that she "appreciated" his apology for the remarks. Her Democratic opponent, Paula Hawks, isn't quite as forgiving.

"For me, it was enough to reject Trump when he called women dogs, when he called women pigs, when he told women they looked better on their knees. Is there really anything different about Trump's recent statements other than the disgusting nature in which he brags about sexually assaulting women?" Hawks said in a press release. "These aren't South Dakota values."

In terms of the Senate, RealClearPolitics lists South Dakota as Safe GOP but doesn't offer a view on the House race. Native Americans represent 8.9 percent of the population in the state, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and their votes could shift the outcomes.

One final South Dakota Republican, Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R), isn't running this year but he too has changed his tune. He also called on Trump to drop out yet is now vowing to vote for him.

“I believe the point in this country in terms of this presidential election should be to defeat Hillary Clinton.” Daugaard told Argus Leader Media.

Read More on the Story:
Thune Talks About Frustrations With Trump's Campaign (KELO 10/11)
This Senate Republican wanted Donald Trump gone. Now it looks like he’ll vote for him. (The Washington Post 10/12)
Daugaard: Trump should drop out, but if he doesn't I'll vote for him (The Sioux Falls Argus Leader 10/12)
Republicans urge Trump to quit — then back him (AP 10/12)

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