Paul Ryan Will No Longer Defend Trump, Looks To Protect House Majority
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House Speaker Paul Ryan will no longer defend his party's embattled presidential nominee Donald Trump and will instead focus on protecting the GOP's congressional majority in the final month of the campaign.
Ryan told Republican members of his decision in a conference call Monday morning, according to someone on the call. The move comes after a wild weekend in the race for the White House that saw many lawmakers rescind their endorsements of Trump and call for him to leave the race after a 2005 video surfaced of Trump making lewd comments about women and bragging about groping and kissing them without consent.
The speaker told his members "you all need to do what's best for you in your district" and that he will not defend Trump or campaign with him over the next 29 days until Election Day on Nov. 8. Ryan had been planning to campaign with Trump on Saturday, the day after the video surfaced, but that appearance was quickly scrapped.
According to sources, Ryan will now spend his energy to make sure that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton doesn't get a blank check with a Democratic-controlled Congress if she does win the presidency. This is what Ryan sees as best for the party and for his members, not himself, and he was aware there may be other political pressures to get him to do otherwise, but his concerns about keeping the majority superseded that.
"The speaker is going to spend the next month focused entirely on protecting our congressional majorities," Ryan press secretary AshLee Strong said.
As to speculation that Ryan could rescind his endorsement of Trump, Strong said "there is no update in his position at this time."
Republicans have a 30-seat majority in the House, and it's one that wasn't considered very fragile until the events of the past 72 hours. While so many Democratic pick-ups remain a long shot, if Republicans stay home from the polls, frustrated with their two choices, more seats than expected could be lost. In the Senate, however, Democrats only need to flip five seats (or four with a Clinton victory) to take back control.
But while many of the more than 30 Republicans who called for Trump to drop out came from competitive districts, not all lawmakers were ready to dump Trump en masse.
Another source on the call said many lawmakers were "really fired up" and wanted to stick with the GOP nominee. The vast majority of House Republicans represent safe GOP districts and therefore have little political incentive to distance themselves from Trump.