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Republicans’ Josh Duggar problem

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Until Thursday, Josh Duggar was a popular man in the Republican party.

From former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee to former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, nearly every 2016 presidential candidate courting the social conservative vote has been happy to pose for a photo with the high-profile member of the Duggar family from TLC's reality-TV series "19 Kids and Counting."

But that relationship is bound to change after news Thursday that the 27-year-old Duggar is stepping down from his leadership position of the conservative lobbying group Family Research Council amid a tabloid report he molested several underage girls over a decade ago.

Until recently the Duggars were a popular family in the Republican Party. But allegations of sexual misconduct against Joshua Duggar have complicated matters. (Video: Tom LeGro/The Washington Post)

“Twelve years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret,” Duggar said in a statement posted on Facebook on Thursday.

It's safe to say the GOP's courtship with Duggar is off.

[What happens to TLC’s ’19 Kids and Counting’ after the Josh Duggar allegations?]

The problem: There's no shortage of photos on Twitter and Facebook of Duggar posing cheek-to-cheek with some of the Republican Party's most prominent leaders.

Candidates who had been cozying up to Duggar may need to reverse course and denounce his actions. That would be difficult given the Washington-based Duggar's increasing prominence within the party. Duggar spoke as recently as late April at a marriage rally in Washington.

"Marriage begins with the Lord," he said, to cheers.

In January, Duggar posted a photo with the head of the Republican National Committee at the March for Life event.

Huckabee may have the furthest to run. The Duggars made their national political debut in 2008 when they actively campaigned for him.

"I've pointed them out as an example of something that's wholesome and wonderful," Huckabee told People Magazine in January.

But on Friday, Huckabee decided to take a step closer to the family.

"Good people make mistakes and do regrettable and even disgusting things," Huckabee wrote in a Facebook post announcing his continued support for the Duggar clan.

Huckabee's 2016 Web site still features pictures of the Duggar family patriarch, Jim Bob, and matriarch, Michelle, as two people who "like Mike."

If Huckabee stays with the Duggars, he should probably take note that the family's track record of supporting winning candidates isn't great.  In October, as Josh Duggar touched down in Kansas to campaign for Sen. Pat Roberts, The Washington Post's Elahe Izadi couldn't find a single statewide candidate the family supported who won. (Roberts did pull out his reelection against Independent Greg Orman, though.)

Maybe the rest of the 2016 GOP field should just give this one to Huck.