Paul Ryan's job as speaker "may be under threat" from a pro-Donald Trump rebellion within the House of Representatives, CNN reported Wednesday.
At issue for the top Republican in the country is a Monday conference call with House membership during which Ryan said he would no longer defend Trump or campaign for him, instead focusing on congressional races to ensure a GOP majority.
Ryan's "position to abandon the GOP nominee has angered other Republicans who have expressed their concerns with Ryan's position on a private conversation call earlier this week," CNN's Manu Raju reported. "Why are these few votes important? Because if the House majority does stay Republican, Ryan needs 218 votes to stay on the House floor. He can only afford a handful of defections."
One lawmaker and member of the Freedom Caucus, Rep. Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma, took to Twitter earlier Wednesday to express his disappointment with Ryan's lack of support for Trump.
At a Florida rally Wednesday, Trump slammed Ryan again for not saying "good going" after the second debate and suggested something nefarious was afoot with House leadership.
"There's a whole deal going on there, you know," Trump told the crowd in Ocala, Florida. "There's a whole deal going on, we'll figure it out. I always figure things out. But there's a whole sinister deal going on."
Raju reported that pro-Trump lawmakers in the House held a private conference call with Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway earlier this week to urge her to shift her candidate's focus away from Ryan.
"This time Ryan got support from these Republicans who actually back Donald Trump. On that private conference call, Kellyanne Conway was urged by several House Republicans to tell Trump to not focus on Paul Ryan and instead train his fire on Hillary Clinton. These Republican lawmakers, I am told, think this intra-party fight has been a major distraction."
Less than 30 days until the election, Trump is staring down double-digit lags in national polls that could have deleterious effects on vulnerable down-ballot Republicans in both houses.
"I never thought the House could be in play, but I keep hearing that if the presidential candidate is down by 10 points or more that becomes possible," one GOP state party chairman told The Hill. "That seemed unthinkable a year ago."
Ryan and the congressional leadership are nervous about losing a majority; Trump is furious for Ryan hitting the eject button on Trump's campaign, calling out Ryan as a "weak and ineffective" leader and following up by declaring "the shackles have been taken off me" Tuesday on Twitter.
And then Tuesday night, he told Fox News' Bill O'Reilly he doesn't want Ryan's support.
"I think we should get support, and we don't get the support from guys like Paul Ryan," Trump told O'Reilly. "I don't want his support. … I don't care about his support."
Of course he had Ryan's support — and he still has the speaker's tepid endorsement — prior to Friday's night's release of an audiotape from 2005 when Trump was caught on a hot mic making sexually explosive comments about women.
Undeterred by that and buoyed by a better debate performance Sunday night, Trump has his sights set on perceived enemies within, and it's tearing the party apart.
"I spoke to Mr. Trump about it yesterday and will again today," Ohio GOP Chairman Matt Borges told The Hill. "We are in a different phase of the campaign now. He needs to knock it off."
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