These Republicans are calling for Trump to step down

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In the wake of a new Washington Post report showing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaking in very lewd terms about women in 2005, some Republicans are calling for Trump to step down as nominee. (Thomas Johnson/The Washington Post)

This post has been updated.

More than 34,000 Republican voters have already cast their ballots for the 2016 general election according to the U.S. Election Project, 8,000 of them in the battleground state of North Carolina and another 5,000 in Florida. Not all of those ballots were cast for Donald Trump, it’s safe to assume, but it’s more than likely that most of them were. And that, in a nutshell, is why it’s far too late for the Republican Party to dump Donald Trump from their ticket.

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) pulled his endorsement from the Republican nominee in June, but requested that the party go a step further in a tweet on Friday evening.

You may recall that we’ve been through this before. In early August, as Trump’s poll numbers started to tank and as he was still embroiled in his fight with the parents of a Muslim soldier killed in Iraq, Republicans started murmuring about potentially replacing him as the nominee. The party can’t simply call Donald Trump and tell him that he’s no longer welcome; there are rules that guide how a nominee is replaced.

Josh Putnam, a University of Georgia lecturer and expert on the machinations of the parties, told me at the time that the rule at issue was Rule 9. Rule 9 reads:

The Republican National Committee is hereby authorized and empowered to fill any and all vacancies which may occur by reason of death, declination, or otherwise of the Republican candidate for President of the United States or the Republican candidate for Vice President of the United States, as nominated by the national convention, or the Republican National Committee may reconvene the national convention for the purpose of filling any such vacancies.

Death, declination or otherwise. No “because we want to” clause.

“Let’s be clear here: The rule is intended to fill vacancies, not to lay the groundwork for a replacement,” Putnam said. “Some have speculated that ‘otherwise’ is ambiguous. Taken out of context it is. However, under the provisions for filling vacancies, it clearly fills in any gap between death and declination (i.e.: an incapacitating illness, but one that leaves the nominee neither dead nor able to decline to run further). And that was the intention.”

The New York Times’ Yamiche Alcindor reports that the party may be exploring where the boundaries of the rule lie.

The party could amend the rule to dump Trump, for example, but that would take a majority of the party’s Rules Committee and two-thirds of the entire party. This would be neither fast nor, necessarily, successful. (Putnam on Twitter on Friday night: “There just isn’t enough time.”) The party’s spokesman later denied a meeting was taking place.

There’s just no national standard for a last-minute candidate replacement; every recent case finds a different, panicked response.

In 2006, then-Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) resigned just five weeks before Election Day over revelations that he had sent sexually explicit messages to congressional pages. Florida Republicans fought, unsuccessfully, to replace him on the ballot with a rising star, State Sen. Joe Negron. In the end, the party came up with the slogan “punch Foley for Joe” to assure voters that a vote for Foley would let the party replace him with its backup candidate. “Mark Foley” came close to winning, but lost what had been (and is again) a safe Republican seat.