Paul Ryan is fighting multi-front battles within his own party, and the Speaker of the House doesn't seem to be winning any of them.
While Donald Trump's latest missteps have played out publicly before the world, Politico reported Ryan's intra-party tug-of-war rages behind closed doors and on conference calls.
Forget unity, the nation's top Republican is trying to keep the party from bleeding out:
- Vulnerable Republicans in the House and Senate could lose re-election because of Trump;
- Completely breaking away from Trump risks putting Hillary Clinton in the White House;
- Pulling his endorsement of Trump risks further dividing House membership;
- Not pulling his endorsement risks looking weak and losing face with a growing number of GOP never-Trumpers.
And there's this — Trump is more popular with Americans than Ryan is.
So with less than 30 days until the election, Ryan on Monday put a stake in the ground and decided one battle was the most important — maintaining congressional majorities.
At least for now, that means Ryan will no longer defend Trump nor campaign with him to ensure both houses of Congress are GOP-led.
Ryan told Republican membership he was "willing to endure political pressure to help protect our majority," a person on the speaker's Monday conference call said.
Pulling his endorsement of Trump is still on the table; Ryan and other Republicans fear there's yet more to come of Trump's foibles, at least buying him time in the interim.
"There's a consensus, even among supporters, that the likelihood of something else breaking in a very embarrassing and negative fashion is certainly better than 50-50," never-Trump Scott Rigell, R-VA, told The New York Times. "The conference, members, et cetera, are bracing themselves for another salvo of this."
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