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Has Trump Made It Difficult For Republican Candidates To Ask People For Their Votes?

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Donald Trump's poll numbers are in decline while the number of women who've accused him of sexual assault has increased this week. Trump says all those women are lying. He's also maligned how they look. Many Republicans have found it difficult to support their candidate. Trump has assailed them, too, says he now feels unshackled just 24 days before the election. Michael Graham is podcast editor for "The Weekly Standard," and he joins us now over Skype. Mr. Graham, thanks so much for being with us.

MICHAEL GRAHAM: Thank you, and thank you for the funeral dirge-like music in the break. It perfectly fits the mood among conservatives.

SIMON: (Laughter) Well, then I'm glad we - I'm glad we could pick up your spirits. Listen, I just mentioned Donald Trump's name a few times and that's a few times more than Speaker Ryan will. Is he playing this a little too cute?

GRAHAM: I don't know about too cute. I mean, what do you do? He has a job as the speaker of the House and the top elected Republican in the country. He has that job. And, you know, it's like when you're a lawyer and you have a, you know, a client who comes in who's not necessarily (laughter), you know, worthy, and you do your job anyway. On the other hand, he's also a conservative. And he sees the things that he believes in being set alight by Donald Trump. It's awful.

SIMON: Has Donald Trump done for the Republican brand - if I might put it this way - what the Galaxy Note 7 burning smartphone is doing for Samsung right now?

GRAHAM: Oh, we dream of the Galaxy Note 7, really, because it occasionally makes phone calls when it's not catching on fire. No, this is, as I said of the Martha Coakley Senate race when she lost to Scott Brown a few years ago when I was in Massachusetts, this isn't the Hindenburg. This isn't the Titanic. This is the Hindenburg crashing into the Titanic.

SIMON: Will Republicans - and I'll put Speaker Ryan back into this question again - will he regret not supporting Donald Trump or not cutting loose from him entirely when all the accounting is done?

GRAHAM: Yes, both. He will (laughter) but I want to be, I mean, I think the deal is, to me, and this is the frustration that many of us have had - people who listen to "The Weekly Standard" podcast and know that we've been saying all along - that no matter what the options were, whether it was a contested convention or, you know, forcing Trump off the ballot after things really blew up in September, those are all awful choices. None were as awful as Donald Trump Republican nominee. That was always the worst possible outcome.

What hasn't been touched - the only tiny little sliver of good news - are the ideas that make many of us conservative and Republicans. You know, Donald Trump is not a limited government, individual liberty, free markets guy. And so, you know, Trump is this kind of - what's the phrase you smart radio types use? - sui generis kind of guy. You know, he's there, it's this horrifying hurricane that's blasting over us and we'll have to pick through the rubble afterwards. But we still have the ideas that I believe are the winning ideas in America.

SIMON: Sui generis, I think, was a short stop, if I'm not mistaken. But let me pick that up again. Still, he's - I mean, he's the Republican nominee. He won Republican votes, millions of them, in the primaries. So how does the party now say we want the votes of Muslims, immigrants, women, people with disabilities, I mean, any - when the Republicans have a nominee who, near as I can tell, has only said nice things about Vladimir Putin?

GRAHAM: You do it by the power of the ideas. I mean, the perfect example - and the guy who would have been a fantastic nominee and the guy that Hillary Clinton feared running against because her record is so awful - is Marco Rubio, who's - you know, people forget this - he was the tea party guy. He ran against the GOP establishment in Florida. And if you had the same ideas presented by people who are opening doors rather than Donald Trump who is slamming those doors, those ideas would wildly prevail.

I just want remind everybody because this - you guys are covering this, NPR - 1.5 million people losing their Obamacare, the plan they didn't want in the first place, they were forced out of the plan they wanted, right now, because it's collapsing - U.S. foreign policy - collapsing the assault on free markets from the Democratic party. People just - people who live in the Uber and iPhone economy just don't buy the idea, the fundamental premise of the Obama-left, so they're ready. We just need the right spokesperson, and that clearly wasn't Donald Trump.

SIMON: Michael Graham of "The Weekly Standard," thanks so much for being with us.

GRAHAM: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.