Following Sunday night’s off-the-rails presidential debate, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan held a conference call with high-ranking Republicans to inform them he would no longer defend Donald Trump and instead focus his energies in the month before Election Day to ensure that the GOP retain their “congressional majorities.”
However, the speaker stopped short of un-endorsing Trump, the New York Times reports. According to sources on the call, Ryan told his fellow Republicans that he would spend the next weeks before November 8th “only campaigning for House seats and promoting our agenda.”
Ryan also recommended to those on the call that “you all need to do what’s best for you and your district” to make sure “Hillary Clinton does not get a blank check with a Democrat-controlled Congress.”
Following news of Ryan’s decision to focus on Congress and not the White House, Trump tweeted, “Paul Ryan should spend more time on balancing the budget, jobs and illegal immigration and not waste his time on fighting Republican nominee.” Trump’s spokesman Jason Miller tweeted, “Nothing’s changed. Mr. Trump’s campaign has always been powered by a grassroots movement, not Washington.”
Although Ryan didn’t flatly state it on the call, the move suggests that he is resigned to conceding the presidency to Hillary Clinton, the New York Times writes; following Trump’s leaked video scandal, the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll has Clinton opening a 14-point lead over Trump in the final month heading into Election Day.
“The speaker is going to spend the next month focused entirely on protecting our congressional majorities,” Ryan’s spokeswoman AshLee Strong confirmed of the Wisconsin representative’s plans.
Despite Ryan’s decision, many Republicans on the conference call remained firmly in support of Trump, even as many in the GOP abandon the mogul.
According to the Washington Post, Oregon representative Greg Walden, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, compared the tightrope between supporting Trump or disavowing the nominee – a move that could alienate voters fervently for or against Trump – to landing a plane in a hurricane.
“You have to trust the instruments,” Walden said of monitoring polls.