House Speaker Paul Ryan has never seemed comfortable with GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, but had offered tepid support for the candidate from afar. Now, days after a video of Trump describing sexual assaults on women emerged, the most powerful Republican in Congress has seemingly had enough of the real estate tycoon.
On Monday, a day after Trump debated his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, Ryan told Republican lawmakers that he will no longer defend Trump and will focus instead on defending the majority in Congress. During a conference call with the Republican conference, Ryan urged members to focus on their own reelection campaigns instead of getting Trump to the White House.
Ryan did not withdraw his endorsement of Trump. But Ryan’s decision to abandon his party’s presidential candidate is unheard of in modern politics, and makes Trump’s already difficult road to the White House all the more perilous. According to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted on Saturday and Sunday but before the second presidential debate, Clinton is up 11 points on Trump, 46 percent to 35 percent.
In a statement, Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong confirmed details of the call. “The speaker is going to spend the next month focused entirely on protecting our congressional majorities,” she said.
New of the call was first reported by the New York Times. The Times also reported that some lawmakers on the call were upset with Ryan for giving up on Trump.
Ryan is the latest Republican to distance himself from Trump after a video of him making lewd comments about women shot in 2005 leaked last Friday. Scores of GOP members used the video as an excuse to pull their support from Trump. Some even suggested his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, leave the ticket to scuttle Trump’s campaign.
Since the video was made public, Trump has apologized. But during Sunday’s debate, he dismissed his language as “locker room talk” and accused Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, of being “abusive to women.” The businessman called Clinton a “liar” and the “Devil.” If voters were looking for some form of contrition from Trump, they did not get it at the debate.
Losing Ryan is a huge blow to Trump. But what comes next could be even worse. Other Republicans who have tolerated but never embraced Trump now have license to abandon Trump’s ship, one that appears to be quickly sinking.
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