Donald Trump opened a new front in his war with House Speaker Paul Ryan, blasting the nation’s top elected Republican in a series of Twitter posts as a "very weak and ineffective leader" after Ryan said he would no longer support the party's presidential nominee.
“Our very weak and ineffective leader, Paul Ryan, had a bad conference call where his members went wild at his disloyalty,” Trump tweeted, referring to a Monday conference call where some House conservatives challenged Ryan over Trump.
Trump followed with a barrage of tweets.
The back-and-forth intensified divisions within the party four weeks before Election Day as the Republican nominee tumbles in the polls and Ryan shifted his focus to preserving GOP majorities in the House and Senate.
Trump also tweeted Tuesday that a lack of support from Ryan has made it “hard to do well,” in an apparent acknowledgment of the political damage of increasing GOP infighting.
“Despite winning the second debate in a landslide (every poll), it is hard to do well when Paul Ryan and others give zero support!” Trump said on Twitter.
Trump’s remark came a day after Ryan effectively disavowed him without formally pulling his endorsement -- and a poll showed Trump trailing Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by double digits ahead of November’s election.
A 2005 video that surfaced Friday of Trump bragging about groping women prompted a wave of Republican lawmakers to withdraw their support in a last-ditch effort to save their control of Congress. Others, including Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence, are standing by Trump.
Trump Monday that Ryan “should spend more time on balancing the budget, jobs and illegal immigration and not waste his time on fighting Republican nominee,” but his remark Tuesday went further in alluding to his worsening chances.
He’s previously described Republican establishment support as less relevant to his White House prospects. “I can win one way or the other,” Trump said in an NBC News interview in June.
Trump has heralded unscientific online reader polls on news websites that showed him winning Sunday’s second presidential debate. In fact, three more methodologically sound surveys by professional pollsters showed Clinton was seen as the better debater by margins ranging from 5 to 14 percentage points.
Nationally, Clinton has about a 5-point edge on Trump in a race that includes third-party candidates, according to the RealClearPolitics poll average. The forecaster FiveThirtyEight on Monday gave Clinton an 82.9 percent change of winning in its polls-only model, approaching her high of 89.2 percent in mid-August. FiveThirtyEight gave Democrats a 52.6 percent change of winning back the U.S. Senate.
While Trump's candidacy has long exposed the party's divisions, GOP leaders had hoped to prevent an all-out civil war until after the election. But House and Senate candidates fear Trump's 2005 comments about women will drag down their own electoral prospects, if not stain the Republican brand for a generation. Others see no way for Republicans in some races to win without the backing of Trump's loyal supporters.
Brendan Buck, Ryan's spokesman, offered a muted response to Trump.
Ryan is "focusing the next month on defeating Democrats and all Republicans running for office should probably do the same," he said.
Forty Republican senators and congressmen have revoked their support for Trump — with nearly 30 of them urging him to quit the race altogether. Few of these were ever passionate Trump supporters, and Republicans in Congress number 300 in all. The head of the Republican National Committee has stuck by the GOP nominee, citing full coordination with Trump's embattled campaign.
Trump apologized during Sunday's debate but also dismissed his comments about groping women without their permission as merely "locker room talk." The explanation failed to end the controversy, and Trump's attacks on Ryan Tuesday threatened to distract from what Republicans want to be his main message: Going after Clinton.
This report contains material from Bloomberg News and The Associated Press.
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