Washington: Pressure from high-profile Republicans and rank-and-file voters mounted on Wednesday to reject Donald Trump's candidacy as his campaign dealt with fallout from his remark that gun rights activists could stop Hillary Clinton from nominating liberal US Supreme Court justices. Nearly one-fifth of 396 registered Republicans in a Reuters/Ipsos August 5-8 poll released on Wednesday want Trump to drop out of the race for the White House and another 10 per cent "don't know" whether the Republican nominee should or not.
MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman from Florida, wrote an opinion piece in the Washington Post saying the party was in "uncharted waters" and called for leaders to start looking for ways to remove Trump from the ticket.
Clinton's campaign announced an outreach effort to woo support from disenchanted Republicans for the Democratic nominee.
John Negroponte, former director of national intelligence under President George W. Bush, and former Republican US Representative Chris Shays of Connecticut were among those that announced their support on Wednesday.
"Donald Trump lost me a long time ago," Shays told MSNBC in an interview. "He does and says everything my mom and dad taught me never to say and do. He doesn't understand the basic requirements of being president of the United States. And, frankly, he's dangerous."
Clinton's campaign now has a website for Republicans and political independents to sign up in support of Clinton.
It lists 50 prominent Republicans and independents who have endorsed her so far, including Hewlett Packard Enterprise Chief Executive Officer Meg Whitman and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Trump, a New York businessman, was seeking to reset his campaign this week with an economic policy speech after a series of missteps that included a prolonged clash with the parents of fallen Muslim American Army Captain Humayun Khan.
But Trump's remark at a Tuesday rally that gun rights activists could prevent Clinton from placing liberal justices on the US Supreme Court immediately sparked a torrent of criticism on social media that he was effectively calling for Clinton's assassination.
"If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do folks," Trump said at the rally at the University of North Carolina. "Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don't know," he continued.
The US Constitution's Second Amendment guarantees a right to keep and bear arms.
Clinton's campaign called Trump's remark "dangerous."
Trump's campaign said the comment was misinterpreted and that he was encouraging gun activists to use their political power.
"What he meant by that was you have the power to vote against her," former New York Mayor Giuliani said late on Tuesday when introducing Trump at another rally.
Trump's comment and the resulting backlash occurred as Reuters/Ipsos polling showed already deep divisions among US voters over Trump's candidacy.
In addition to the poll showing 19 percent of registered Republicans want Trump to drop out, a separate Reuters/Ipsos tracking poll showed that some 44 percent of 1,162 registered voters believe he should exit the race.
Earlier this week, 50 Republican national security officials had signed an open letter questioning the real estate mogul's temperament, calling him reckless and unqualified.
Other top Republicans, including Senator Susan Collins of Maine this week, have disavowed Trump but said they cannot back Clinton, either.
Trump has dismissed the defections and criticism by Republicans as an unsurprising reaction of the so-called Washington elite to his drive to change the status quo.
Even Republicans calling for Trump's ouster from the Republican ticket acknowledge it would be difficult at this juncture to replace him ahead of the November 8 election.
Party rules would require hosting another nominating convention or having delegates vote following the same process used at a formal convention.
In addition, some states require that nominee names on ballots be certified earlier than others.
The deadline in Ohio is August 10; Florida is Sept. 1ember Both are critical battleground states.