House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) announced Monday that he will no longer defend Donald Trump, and instead will “spend the next month focused entirely on protecting our congressional majorities.”
Did not withdraw endorsement
While the Speaker stopped short of withdrawing his endorsement of Donald Trump, it was clear that Mr. Ryan was joining the growing number of Republicans that fear a crushing defeat of Mr. Trump at the polls could cost them their congressional majorities. Elders of the Republican Party are walking an increasingly perilous tightrope with Mr. Trump.
Trump responded to the defections of GOP lawmakers over the weekend by predicting they will backfire and called them “self-righteous hypocrites.”
On the one hand, by continuing to support Trump they risk a down ticket backlash from voters who are appalled by Mr. Trump’s attitude towards women and will vote against anyone connected with the Trump brand. On the other side are Trump’s diehard GOP supporters, who may decide to punish anyone they feel is deserting Mr. Trump. The Wall Street Journal reported one Republican lawmaker saying to Speaker Ryan:
This isn’t rocket science—the better Donald Trump does, the better our party does. — The Wall Street Journal
Trump’s options have narrowed
Some feel that Trump’s campaign will become even more derisive in the remaining weeks before the election as his options have narrowed. By appearing Sunday with three women who claim to have been sexually assaulted by former President Clinton, Trump clearly signaled that he intends to use Bill Clinton’s actions with women as a defense for what he said on the 2005 tape.
How the public view tapes
What is unknown at this point is how voters will view the Trump tapes in the larger context of the election. The only barometer to how voters feel about a ‘sex scandal’ was the public’s reaction to the impeachment of former President Clinton.
In the wake of the House of Representatives' approval of two articles of impeachment, Bill Clinton's approval rating has jumped 10 points to 73 percent, the latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll shows. — CNN
An NBC News poll released on Monday tracked the question “How much does Donald Trump respect women?” before and after the release of the tape. The poll showed that before the release of the 2005 tape, 39% said: “not at all.” The “not at all” number grew to 46% in the days following the release of the 2005 tape. The same poll showed that for 81% of Republicans, the release of the tape made ‘no difference’ in their support of Trump.
Paul Ryan’s conundrum
The poll numbers demonstrate the problem that Speaker Ryan has if he makes a total break with Donald Trump. While the release of the tape has certainly damaged Trump, it is unclear how deep the damage is. Mr. Trump continues to remain popular with the Republican base, and the Republican Party can ill afford to anger those voters further.