Ryan says he’s done helping Trump
Speaker all but concedes his party’s nominee can’t win presidential election
WASHINGTON >> House Speaker Paul Ryan, the nation’s top elected Republican, effectively abandoned Donald Trump Monday, telling anxious fellow lawmakers he will not campaign for or defend the floundering GOP presidential nominee in the campaign’s closing weeks.
Pro-Trump members of the party rebelled in anger, accusing Ryan of conceding the election to Hillary Clinton.
Indeed, Ryan said he would devote his energy to ensuring Clinton doesn’t get a “blank check” as president with a Democraticcontrolled Congress, according to people on his private conference call with GOP House members. While the Wisconsin Republican did not formally rescind his own tepid endorsement of Trump, he told lawmakers they were free to do just that and fight for their own re-election.
Trump fired back on Twitter, saying Ryan “should spend more time on balancing the budget, jobs and illegal immigration and not waste his time on fighting Republican nominee.”
Trump retained the backing of the Republican National Committee, which has overseen crucial
field efforts for the candidate in battleground states. On a conference call with RNC members, Chairman Reince Priebus said the party remains in full coordination with its nominee.
“Everything is on course,” Priebus said, according to a participant in the call.
Still, Ryan’s announcement underscored the perilous predicament Republicans find themselves in just one month from Election Day. Recent revelations of Trump’s predatory sexual comments about women deepened the worries among GOP officials who fear he’ll drag down their own electoral prospects in November. But others look at Trump’s loyal bands of supporters and see no way for Republicans in other races to win without their support.
Trump himself made no reference to Ryan and the GOP defections at a Pennsylvania rally, except perhaps one line that could apply to fleeing Republicans as well as the Democrats.
“The last 72 hours has framed what this election is all about. It’s about the American people fighting back against corrupt politicians who don’t care about anything except for staying in power,” he said.
Trump’s candidacy long ago laid bare the turmoil roiling the GOP. Some party leaders had hoped to push off a reckoning until after the election, but with Ryan and other lawmakers publicly distancing themselves from Trump — and in some cases even calling for the real estate mogul to drop out of the race — that now appears impossible.
For Ryan, the most pressing goal through the next four weeks is preventing Republicans from losing control of the House, a scenario that seemed remote as recently as a week ago. Although Republicans are not yet panicking given their wide 246-186 majority, Ryan and Greg Walden, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, both acknowledged on Monday’s conference
call that the majority was more in peril in light of Trump’s problems.
Walden told lawmakers they still could win their seats but that it would require delicate maneuvering akin to landing an airplane in a hurricane in a fog, several participants said.
On the other side of the Capitol, there were signs that more Republican Senate candidates were moving to distance themselves from Trump. Two Republicans said they expected to see ads urging voters to back GOP Senate candidates as a check on Clinton’s power in the White House, with one of the Republicans saying the spots could come as soon as this week.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who’s not up for re-election this year, refused to even acknowledge Trump Monday, telling a group of business leaders in his home state of Kentucky that if they expected to hear him discuss the presidential race, they “might as well go ahead and leave.”
Trump supporters are furious at the notion that Republican leaders are abandoning the nominee selected by their party. In the conference call with Ryan, California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher called GOP leaders “cowards,” according to one participant, who, like others, insisted on anonymity.
Trump had hoped to stop the exodus of Republicans running away from his campaign with a solid performance in Sunday’s presidential debate. He did energize his core supporters by hurling insults at Clinton — he called her the “devil” and promised to put her in jail if he’s president — but he appeared to do little to win over new voters.
He also insisted his aggressively vulgar remarks in a 2005 recording that was made public Friday were mere “locker room” talk and tried to turn the attention to allegations of sexual misconduct by former President Bill Clinton.
The 2005 remarks included Trump bragging about how his fame allowed him to “do anything” to women, including grab their genital areas, without their consent.
House Speaker Paul Ryan