Speaker Paul Ryan told top donors on Wednesday evening that he’s growing concerned about whether House Republicans will be able to weather the political storm this November — and suggested the outcome for his party could be dire.
During a conference call, Ryan said he believed that House Republicans had taken a serious hit amid Donald Trump’s freefall following release of the now-infamous “Access Hollywood” video, according to a person who was on the call. Ryan noted that Republicans lost more than 20 seats in 2008, when John McCain lost to Barack Obama by seven percentage points. By comparison, Ryan pointed out grimly, Trump is trailing by around 10 percent nationally.
“Speaker Ryan holds routine calls with top supporters, top grassroots organizers, and many others. This is an opportunity to discuss our efforts to win in November,” said Zack Roday, a Ryan spokesman.
Ryan’s comments came as new stories were breaking in the New York Times, Palm Beach Post and Rolling Stone alleging that Trump improperly touched four women in separate incidents going back decades. The Trump campaign denied the allegations and has threatened to sue at least one of the publications, yet the controversy over Trump’s sexual interactions with women — and his vulgar comments about them — has dominated the presidential race for the last five days, led to a collapse in his poll numbers, and threatens to sweep away the House and Senate GOP majorities.
Trump is furious that Ryan told his House GOP colleagues in a Monday call that he will no longer defend the Republican presidential nominee or campaign with Trump. During that discussion, Ryan — who is still endorsing Trump — added that members should worry about their own races, not the presidential battle.
Wednesday evening, according to the participant, Ryan sought to clarify his earlier remarks on Trump. Ryan told that he had never intended to pick a fight with Trump, but rather to simply highlight the need to maintain the party’s hold on the chamber. For his members to survive, Ryan said on the call, they would need Trump to do well in November.
But Ryan also had tough words for Trump. The speaker said that the media was set on driving a wedge between Trump the congressional wing of the party, but that Trump — whom Ryan described as lacking political discipline — had failed to understand that dynamic.
Ryan is aware that Trump’s troubles have put the House in play. Democrats must net 30 seats in order to capture the majority, a tall order but one that’s become less unrealistic as Trump craters.
Ryan also said on the call that he would be appearing with College Republicans on Friday, when he would be laying out a case against Hillary Clinton. Ryan was joined on the call by Spencer Zwick, his top fundraiser and a top ally of Mitt Romney.
Trump has already launched into an all-out attack on Ryan on Twitter and in public rallies. In a campaign stop in Florida on Wednesday — before the latest sexual impropriety allegations emerged — Trump complained that Ryan never called him after Sunday’s debate with Hillary Clinton. And Trump suggested Ryan is part of some “sinister deal” to undermine his bid for the White House, although he didn’t offer specifics.
Read in full on Politico: Ryan sounds alarm on Trump