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Republican Sens. Ben Sasse and Deb Fischer said Saturday that GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump should step aside as a candidate in favor of vice presidential nominee Mike Pence.

Sasse always had stood opposed to Trump, but Fischer's rejection in the wake of a video disclosure of Trump's lewd comments about and behavior toward women represented a stunning withdrawal of support by Nebraska's senior senator. 

Meanwhile, Gov. Pete Ricketts issued a statement condemning Trump's comments as "not only reprehensible and offensive, but they are dangerous."

"His apology video was inadequate," the governor said.

Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Lincoln joined Fischer and Sasse in a call for Trump to "step aside and allow Mike Pence to become the Republican nominee."

"As Americans, we are faced with two strikingly bad choices," Fortenberry said.

"Donald Trump, who has abused women, and Hillary Clinton, who has enabled the abuse of women. It's all wrong."

Republican Rep. Adrian Smith of Gering said: "Donald Trump has said many things that are inappropriate, even indefensible, including his comments about women in the video.

"If Mr. Trump is unable to restore confidence in his ability to serve as the Republican nominee, he should step aside."

Sasse was the first to lead the abandonment of Trump and turn toward Pence. 

In a tweet following the video disclosure, Sasse said: "Character matters. (Trump) is obviously not going to win. But he can still make an honorable move: Step aside and let Mike Pence try."

Later, a Sasse spokesman said Nebraska's freshman senator is "likely to write in Pence because he wants to see Republican principles beat Hillary Clinton."

Fischer described Trump's behavior as "disgusting and totally unacceptable."

Sasse was unavailable for comment because he was traveling overseas on a trip tied to national security issues.

Since the launch of this year's presidential caucus and primary season, Sasse opposed Trump's candidacy, beginning with a trip to Iowa to campaign against him.

While other elected Republican officeholders fell in line behind Trump once he secured the GOP nomination, Sasse stood firm in his opposition. He said that he and his wife, Melissa, would cast write-in votes in November.

Don Bacon, the Republican congressional nominee in metropolitan Omaha's 2nd Congressional District, said Trump's comments about women were "indefensible and offensive."

"I am disgusted by these remarks and no woman should ever be talked about in this way," Bacon said in an emailed statement. 

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSDon.

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Political reporter

Don Walton, a Husker and Yankee fan, is a longtime Journal Star political and government reporter.

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