Friday's revelation of a 2005 video in which Donald Trump served up vile descriptions of how he loves to molest women has opened a breach – between the Republican presidential candidate and the leadership of his party – that simply can't be healed. His already damaged campaign is imploding. Sunday's televised debate promises to be excruciating.
Dozens of senior figures in the party are calling for Mr. Trump to withdraw. But he remains defiant: "I'd never withdraw. I've never withdrawn in my life," he told The Washington Post Saturday morning. "No, I'm not quitting this race. I have tremendous support."
The question now is simply how low that support will go.
In the video, released Friday by the Washington Post, Mr. Trump is overheard, thanks to a hot mic, talking about how he loves to kiss and fondle women, how he likes to "grab them by the pussy."
"And when you're a star, they let you do it," he says. "You can do anything."
Mr. Trump has already said terrible things about, among others, Latino immigrants ("They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime. They're rapists") while retaining the begrudging support of his party's leadership. But this disrespecting of women proved to be a tipping point.
Senior Republicans, such as House Leader Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said they were "sickened" by Mr. Trump's "repugnant" comments.
"No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner. Ever," declared Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus.
With typical ham-fistedness, Mr. Trump at first described the comments on the tape as "locker room banter," adding "I apologize if anyone was offended." Later, with his campaign melting down, he released a video in which he said: "Anyone who knows me knows these words don't reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong and I apologize." In both cases, however, he went on to assert that former president Bill Clinton was guilty of much worse.
Every Republican candidate for the House, Senate or state office now faces this question: In light of Mr. Trump's comments about women, do you still support him? By Saturday evening, the senators, representatives, governors and other senior figures in the party disavowing the Republican presidential nominee numbered in the dozens.
Many of them said they would write in a presidential vote for vice presidential candidate Mike Pence, who also declared himself "offended" by Mr. Trump's remarks, adding he hoped Mr. Trump would "show what is in his heart when he goes before the nation tomorrow night." Watch Mr. Pence's actions very carefully over the next couple of days.
We don't know whether the Republican National Committee and the Republican Congressional leadership will openly repudiate Mr. Trump as a candidate. Saturday afternoon, Politico reported early signs that the RNC was suspending support for Mr. Trump's campaign, though the party leadership may wait until after Sunday's debate before making any final decision.
But this breach is too wide to paper over. Mr. Trump is now, effectively, campaigning on his own.
In this presidential election, if they are talking about you, you're losing. Mr. Trump and the Khan family. Ms. Clinton's health. Mr. Trump's tax returns. People today are talking about Donald Trump like never before. Expect to see his support plummet in the coming days, especially among formerly undecided women voters.
"Nobody respects women more than Donald Trump," Mr. Trump repeatedly insisted. Tell that to journalist Megyn Kelly ("blood coming out of her wherever") or former Miss Universe Alicia Machado ("she gained a massive amount of weight") or the women Mr. Trump lusted after in the 2005 video.
His contempt for women has put Donald Trump's campaign on the rocks.