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LEAD | South Dakota’s senior U.S. senator said Tuesday that the current presidential campaign represented “a race to the bottom,” but that he would still likely cast his ballot for GOP hopeful Donald Trump.

In the wake of Friday’s release of an audio tape in which Trump made lewd and sexually charged comments, Republican U.S. Sen. John Thune on Saturday called for Trump to step aside and let his running mate, Mike Pence, assume the top spot on the Republican ticket.

"The video that came out on Friday was to me out of all the statements made, that have come out during the campaign, was more offensive than anything that I had seen,” Thune said of the 2005 audio on which Trump can be heard describing his attempts to have sex with a married woman.

Nonetheless, the Senate’s third-ranking Republican said he would be voting solely for GOP candidates this election cycle.

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Following a tour of the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead Tuesday afternoon, Thune said he had “reservations about the way (Trump) has conducted his campaign and himself.”

“He has a lot of work to do, I think, to win this election,” Thune said. “But, I’m certainly not going to vote for Hillary Clinton.”

Thune also said he expected Clinton and Trump to “duke it out” in the four weeks remaining before the general election, but that he hoped both candidates would promote issue-oriented, inclusive and positive messages that focus on what they would do for the nation if elected.

“I hope Trump will lay out what he wants to do for the American people,” he said.

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