House Speaker Paul Ryan warned large Republican donors this week that his chamber's majority in Congress could be weakened this fall because of Donald Trump's campaign for the presidency.
Ryan issued the forecast at a private meeting with top contributors during the summit held in Colorado Springs by the industrialists Charles and David Koch, The New York Times reports
The Kochs have said that their vast donor network plans to spend more than $42 million this election cycle on candidates in down-ballot races to help maintain the GOP majority in the Senate.
The Republicans' fear of losing its slim control the Senate was well known with Trump at the top of the ticket, but Ryan's comments marked the first time concerns were raised about the House, the Times reports.
Ryan pleaded that the donors not assume that the House could not be lost and to not focus solely on retaining the Senate, a GOP operative present at the session told the newspaper.
Their efforts include fully disavowing Trump — even if it could distance his core voters — and developing ads that distinguish GOP candidates from Trump.
They are also considering an ad approach that would advocate standard Republican principles that would "provide voters with a different, nonthreatening view of Republicans" that would not be associated with Trump, according to the Times.
"Do we run the risk of depressing our base by repudiating the guy, or do we run the risk of being tarred and feathered by independents for not repudiating him?" asked Glen Bolger, a Republican pollster. "We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t."
Jay Bergman, an Illinois oil executive and top Republican donor, told the Times that Trump's recent attacks on the parents of a Muslim Army captain who was killed in Iraq in 2004 led him to focus his attention on keeping the Senate.
In the Senate, Republicans hold 54 seats, compared with 44 for Democrats and two for independents. The House margin is wider, with 247 GOP seats, to 186 Democrats.
According to the Times, the Republican donors had hoped that Trump would tone down his inflammatory rhetoric but that has not been the case.
The presidential nominee this week refused to endorse Ryan, as well as Arizona Sen. John McCain and New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, in their re-election races.
After strong attacks from across the Republican spectrum, Trump said Friday that he would back the incumbents
, citing the need for unity in his quest to defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton in November.
"The conclusion has become that the guy is incorrigible," Thomas Davis III, a former House member from Virginia, told the Times.
He remains close to many Republican Party leaders.
"He’s going to leave our candidates with no choice but to go their own separate way."
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