Trump’s campaign teeters as House speaker won’t ‘defend’ him


Donald Trump’s presidential aspirations took more tough hits Monday as the nation’s top elected Republican all but conceded the race to Hillary Clinton and a new poll showed the billionaire nominee facing a double-digit poll deficit.

With Trump’s campaign already teetering on the precipice after revelations of his lewd comments about women, House Speaker Paul Ryan told fellow Republicans that he could no longer “defend” Trump, according to a person on the conference call, and that the priority now was maintaining the party’s control of Congress.

As Trump and Clinton headed Monday to key swing states after their fiery debate clash, with 29 days to go until Election Day, Ryan said he would not campaign with or for the provocative New York real estate mogul for the remainder of the race.

“He will spend his entire energy making sure that Hillary Clinton does not get a blank check with a Democrat-controlled Congress,” the source said.

“You all need to do what’s best for you in your district,” Ryan said, effectively giving his blessing to lawmakers to sever ties with the controversial GOP flagbearer.

Trump quickly fired back on Twitter, saying: “Paul Ryan should spend more time on balancing the budget, jobs and illegal immigration and not waste his time on fighting Republican nominee.”

Ryan’s distancing from Trump veered the already unprecedented 2016 race into uncharted waters, as Trump grapples with the fallout from his own remarks and the subsequent wave of Republican lawmakers abandoning him, including some who have urged him to step aside.

Ryan, who has had a testy relationship with Trump from the start and has criticized him on numerous occasions, stopped short of rescinding his endorsement.

There has been “no update in his position at this time,” Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said.

Trump’s candidacy suffered a crippling blow after a 2005 tape was released Friday in which he made lewd comments about women, including his ability to grab them by the crotch with impunity because, as a celebrity, “you can do anything.”

A new NBC News – Wall Street Journal poll, conducted after the video was released but before Sunday’s debate, showed Clinton with an 11-point lead in a four-way election — 46 percent to 35 percent — and a 14-point lead in a head-to-head match-up.

– Back on the trail –

On Monday, the White House hopefuls returned to the campaign trail — Trump to Pennsylvania and Clinton to Michigan and Ohio — to court voters in battleground states after a fiery second debate in St Louis.

Trump sparred with Clinton on Sunday in the town hall-style debate, which was a study in heated personal attacks and a stark reminder of the divisiveness that has come to mark the presidential race.

Before tens of millions of television viewers and a live audience including Bill Clinton and three women who have accused the former president of sexual misconduct, Trump threatened to jail his Democratic rival and lobbed incendiary allegations against her husband.

The 70-year-old real estate mogul apologized for “locker room talk” in which he bragged about groping women. But he stated baldly that “Bill Clinton was abusive to women.”

Asked repeatedly and directly if he had ever kissed or groped women without their consent, Trump finally answered: “No, I have not.”

Shattering the last vestiges of political decorum, Trump threatened the former secretary of state — whom he accused of having “hate in her heart” — with imprisonment if he wins the presidency.

“If I win, I’m going to instruct the attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation because there’s never been so many lies, so much deception,” Trump said.

The 68-year-old former first lady and US senator, who is vying to be America’s first female president, pushed back by saying Trump’s lewd comments merely showed his true self.

“This is who Donald Trump is, and the question for us, the question our country must answer is that this is not who we are,” she said.

When Clinton said that it was “awfully good” that someone with Trump’s temperament was “not in charge of the law of our country,” he shot back: “Because you’d be in jail.”

– Clinton lead grows –

In the morning after the bitter battle, President Barack Obama offered his glowing support for Clinton.

“Just like Michelle says, when they go low, we go high. @HillaryClinton went high and showed why she’ll be a POTUS for all Americans,” Obama said Monday on Twitter.

Two separate polls showed Clinton had prevailed in the second of three presidential debates, and the NBC-Wall Street Journal poll only added to the bad news for Trump.

With the Republican nominee reeling, his running mate Mike Pence was left to put a brave face on the crisis.

“I think last night he showed his heart to the American people. He said he apologized to his family, apologized to the American people, that he was embarrassed by it,” he told CNN.

“And then he moved on to the real choice in this election, which is really not just a choice between two candidates — it’s a choice between two futures,” said Pence, who had said over the weekend he himself was “offended” by Trump’s remarks.

© 2016 AFP

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