Donald Trump’s candidacy has long exposed divisions within the Republican Party. But GOP leaders had hoped to prevent an all-out civil war at least until after the election.
They appear to be failing.
The top Republican in Congress on Monday effectively abandoned Trump, while the head of the Republican National Committee, or RNC, declared he was in full coordination with the embattled presidential nominee — opposing positions that highlight a political party increasingly battling itself as Election Day approaches.
Pro-Trump protesters clogged the sidewalk in front of the RNC’s Capitol Hill headquarters on Monday.
“He already has to fight Hillary and Bill (Clinton) and the media. Now he has to fight other Republicans?” asked Kelley Anne Finn, 58, from northern Virginia. “We’re not voting for any of the people who aren’t voting for Trump.”
Forty Republican senators and congressmen have revoked their support for the Republican presidential nominee — with nearly 30 of them calling on him to quit the race altogether in recent days. Few were passionate Trump supporters to begin with, the last straw being a video released late last week revealing the former reality television star using predatory language regarding women a decade earlier.
House Speaker Paul Ryan told fellow lawmakers on Monday he would not campaign for or defend the floundering businessman in the election’s closing weeks.
Ryan essentially conceded defeat, saying he would devote his energy to ensuring Clinton doesn’t get a “blank check” as president with a Democratic-controlled 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, who is third in line for the presidency, “should spend more time on balancing the budget, jobs and illegal immigration and not waste his time on fighting Republican nominee.”
Later in the day, one of Ryan’s closest friends, Republican chairman Reince Priebus, privately assured anxious RNC members the party would not abandon its nominee under any circumstances. In a national conference call, the chairman described Trump’s apology for his sexually aggressive comments as “heart-felt.” Trump apologized during Sunday’s debate, but also repeatedly described groping women without their permission as “locker room talk.”
“Everything is on course,” Priebus said, according to a participant in the call. He said the RNC would continue to coordinate the party’s field efforts in battleground states with the Trump campaign, despite recent reports to the contrary.
The intraparty chaos underscored the perilous predicament Republicans find themselves in one month from Election Day. (AP)