If there are Republicans who believe that Donald Trump’s performance in last night’s debate offered some new life to his gasping campaign for president, House Speaker Paul Ryan is evidently not among them. On a conference call with House Republicans this morning, he reportedly told his colleagues that as far as he is concerned, the presidential race is lost and all that remains is to try to prevent giving Hillary Clinton “a blank check.”
According to multiple reports, Ryan told his colleagues that with regard to Trump, they should do whatever they believe will work best for them, be that an endorsement or a repudiation of the GOP nominee. For his part, Ryan said that he would neither defend Trump nor campaign for him for the remainder of the election.
After his remarks, Ryan faced angry pushback from fellow Republicans on the call who accused him of throwing the election to Clinton. Ryan came back on the call to stake out his position: While he will not support or defend Trump, he said, his endorsement of the GOP nominee still stands.
Trump fired back on Twitter:
Paul Ryan should spend more time on balancing the budget, jobs and illegal immigration and not waste his time on fighting Republican nominee— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 10, 2016
Before the candidate weighed in, spokesman Jason Miller, attempting to remain upbeat, insisted on Twitter that the nation’s highest-ranking elected Republicans essentially abandoning the GOP nominee was no big deal.
Re: today's Congressional call:— Jason Miller (@JasonMillerinDC) October 10, 2016
Nothing's changed. Mr. Trump’s campaign has always been powered by a grassroots movement, not Washington.
The Ryan call was still going on when NBC News and The Wall Street Journal released a new poll, taken entirely after Friday’s revelation of a recording in which Trump bragged that his celebrity allows him to sexually assault women with impunity.
The numbers were devastating: In a four-way race that includes Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein, Clinton leads Trump 46 percent to 35 percent. In a head-to-head matchup, Clinton leads 52-38.
If those numbers were to hold through Election Day, Trump would be facing a massive electoral defeat that could sweep untold Republican members of Congress from office and land not just the White House and Senate, but the House of Representatives, under Democratic control.
Dartmouth political science professor Brendan Nyhan, on Twitter, highlighted the historic significance of polling numbers that are that bad: “Getting 35% support in a poll with a major party nomination in hand is some sort of achievement in this polarized age,” he wrote. “Redefining the floor.”