Dyed-in-the-wool supporters of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump gathered at a debate watch party in Santa Clarita Sunday night, declaring their candidate the winner in the second presidential faceoff of the general election.
They roundly dismissed the crude remarks he made about women in 2005 that had set his campaign into free-fall over the weekend, and they believe he handled the controversial subject well during the debate.
About 30 Republicans took over a room at JJ's Bar & Grill to cheer on Trump, loudly applauding their candidate and shouting "bitch" and "liar" at the TV when his opponent Hillary Clinton made a point that upset them.
They watched as Trump apologized during the debate for the taped remarks, revealed on Friday, in which he brags about his sexual advances on women in graphic detail.
"This was locker room talk," Trump said when questioned about the recording during the debate. "I'm not proud of it. I apologized to my family. I apologized to the American people."
But Trump had to be pressed several times by moderator Anderson Cooper on whether he was saying that he never did force himself on women in the way he described on the tape. Trump finally said "women have respect for me. And I will tell you, no, I have not...".
The politically troublesome remarks had dozens of Republicans pulling their endorsement from Trump over the weekend. But the comments were waved away by several of the Trump supporters in attendance at the Santa Clarita watch party.
"I like him, I think he's for us," said Paige Weaver, membership vice president of the Santa Clarita Republican Women's Club. "I have sons. Guess what? They don't talk nice when there's no girls around."
Prior to his debate appearance before an audience of undecided voters at Washington University in St. Louis, Trump held a Facebook Live session with several women who have accused former President Bill Clinton of unwanted sexual advances, including rape.
During the debate, Trump said his wrongdoing was "just words," but Bill Clinton's was "far worse."
"What he's done to women — there's never been anyone in the history of politics in this nation who has been so abusive to women," he said.
Trump then said Hillary Clinton "attacked those same women and attacked them viciously."
Hillary Clinton responded that people can draw their own conclusions "about whether or not the man in the video [Trump] or the man on the stage respects women."
Trump's remarks about the Clintons drew some of the loudest cheers of the night among the debate watchers at JJ's.
Some in attendance also said they liked their candidate's talk on trade and his answer to one question from a member of the debate audience who asked the candidates how they would help Muslims like her deal with being labeled as a threat to the country.
Trump said Islamophobia is a "shame," but added that Muslims in the United States should report "when they see hatred going on."
"As an example, in San Bernardino, many people saw the bombs all over the apartment of the two people that killed fourteen and wounded many, many people," he said. "Muslims have to report the problems when they see them."
Asked if they thought Trump in the end was able to shake off the political crisis that developed over his latest remarks, several people at the Santa Clarita watch party said yes. Gala Caprice Cruz, who helped organized the event, said Trump supporters were sticking by the GOP nominee's side in large numbers.
"Everybody that I've talked to, it's not having an impact," she said.
The candidates' third and last debate is scheduled on Oct. 19 at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
This story has been updated.
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