“Your guy,” was all the message said, punctuated by a red-faced emoji.
“My guy?” Newton thought to herself, although it was true — after much consternation and perhaps a bit of self-delusion, Donald Trump had become her choice for president.
But as she listened to Trump describe how he could do what he wanted to women just because he was a “star,” Newton decided that she had had enough.
“I thought maybe this abrasiveness was just a show,” she said. “But in the weeks since his convention, it’s become evident that this is the man he is. You feel like the rumors are true and that . . . ”
Newton interrupted herself.
“I’m done. This is the nail in the coffin,” she said. “I’m done. I cannot look my children in the eye and tell them I voted for this man.”
Newton’s reaction mirrored that of numerous Republican officials, including several from her state, who took the extraordinary step of calling on their party’s nominee to drop out of the presidential race a month before Election Day.
Her change of heart also raised a question: Why did it take a video of Trump speaking crudely about his treatment of women to finally push supporters such as Newton over the edge?
Since he launched his campaign more than 15 months ago, Trump has delivered an unending series of offensive, inaccurate and hurtful comments. Mexican immigrants were rapists. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was no war hero. Anti-Semitic imagery in his Twitter feed. An American-born judge could not do his job because his parents were from Mexico. As recently as the previous week, Trump was tweeting negative comments about the weight of a former Miss Universe.
For Newton, whose decision to embrace Trump during the Republican National Convention was detailed in a Washington Post profile, her support through it all was partly political. She is a Republican, and she wanted to support her party’s standard-bearer.
She also knew that politics can be ugly. As a council member in Salt Lake County, Newton was familiar with how opponents deploy negative research against the competition. She said she understood that the liberal media had an agenda to ensure that a conservative could not win, and that Trump seemed like easy pickings because he built a brand on being crude and boastful.
Trump had not been Newton’s first choice. She first backed Sen. Marco Rubio, attracted by the Florida Republican’s conservative values and his youthful energy. When he dropped out, she turned to Ohio Gov. John Kasich and, finally, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who she felt was principled if not diplomatic.
She arrived at the Republican convention unsure whether she could support Trump’s campaign. But over the course of that week in Cleveland in July, Newton began to recognize things that she did like about Trump.
She was impressed by his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, and figured the pick meant that Trump recognized he needed to allay the concerns of religious conservatives.
She started to appreciate Trump’s authentic, plain-spoken responses. His blunt language had a genuineness that seemed to rise above typical political doublespeak.
Newton had clung to Trump’s vow that he would approach the general election “humbly,” and that he understood that he might not have deserved the grace that religious voters had given him. She was touched by the testimonials from Trump’s children, who described their father as a generous man who taught them to respect the working class.
“The convention ended up being the high point,” Newton said.
Newton left Cleveland with Trump-Pence memorabilia and offered a “Make America Great Again” baseball cap to her 20-year-old son. Her son took the gear gleefully but told his mom that he would wear it ironically because Trump didn’t represent his values.
As the general election campaign continued, Newton’s support for Trump disintegrated with each subsequent controversy.
She tried to console herself by saying that at least Trump was being authentic — and that more honesty would be good for the country.
“And think of the Supreme Court,” she said, echoing an argument that many Republicans have made to justify their decision to vote for Trump over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Newton watched the first presidential debate with her two youngest sons, ages 14 and 12. The debate, she admitted, kind of embarrassed her.
“One is lying about emails and jeopardizing national security,” she said. “The other one is a bully who kept interrupting her.”
“Time and time again, he was so frustrating because he's so easily distracted,” Newton said. “We still don’t really know his plans — how does he address issues of access to health care after Obamacare? How do you stop the intervention of big government? He didn’t know anything about policy. I was getting more and more hesitant.”
And then came the video. It did not show the words of some pundit with an agenda, nor did it contain the foggy recollections of a former employee or business rival. No, Newton said, this was him, undeniably him, so casually acting like “a vile man who disrespects women and the sanctity of marriage.”
It was too much.
Newton wondered: Had she tricked herself into supporting him? How many more chances could he get?
“I tell my kids that how much someone knows is not as important as who they are,” she said. “You can be the smartest man or woman, but if your character is flawed, you will always sacrifice your principles. Even if I want a conservative in the White House and if I want a conservative in the Supreme Court, I have to be able to look my children in the eye and be proud of the man or woman I supported for president. I can’t do that with Trump, and I can’t do that with Clinton.”
On Friday night, hours after the video was first disclosed by The Post, she knew she would have no need for the Trump paraphernalia in her closet. Knowing it would be too late for the Republican Party to put Pence at the top of the ticket, she began researching third-party candidates to see who might align with her values.
She went to the basement and fished out a banner she had picked up before the GOP convention, when the Utah delegation was debating whether it could possibly support this man. It read: “Never Trump. Never Hillary.”
“I don’t know what the future holds for this country,” she said. “But I have to do what’s right.”
On Saturday morning, she texted her oldest son: “I’m not voting for Trump.” He quickly replied, “It’s about time.”