House Republican leaders are paralyzed over how to respond to Donald Trump’s vulgar comments about women, aware that he could turn against them but also cognizant that the GOP nominee has now put control of the chamber in serious danger.
The leaders are tentatively planning to tell Republican lawmakers on a Monday morning conference call that they should feel free to abandon Trump as they seek to save their own political careers, according to multiple sources involved in planning. But top aides and lawmakers warn that the plan could change depending on Trump’s debate performance.
Story Continued Below
If Trump isn’t “contrite,” as one source involved with the planning put it, and if he continually pokes elected Republicans, GOP leaders believe they could face a groundswell of lawmakers urging them to publicly distance themselves from his candidacy, according to multiple aides and lawmakers. So far, leaders have held the line on their long-running approach of condemning Trump but not withdrawing their endorsements.
Trump, however, is telegraphing he’ll be the opposite of contrite. He’s begun to lambaste the party’s leadership for not supporting him after video surfaced of him bragging about trying to lure a woman into an affair and claiming he abruptly kisses women and grabs their genitals with impunity.
On Sunday, Trump tweeted, “So many self-righteous hypocrites. Watch their poll numbers – and elections – go down!” He also noted on Twitter he had “Tremendous support (except for some in Republican ‘leadership’).”
A POLITICO/Morning Consult poll that was in the field Saturday showed Trump’s base of support was not overwhelmingly turned off by the tape, which was first reported by The Washington Post. The survey also showed that the Republicans who disavowed Trump risked backlash from their own base.
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and House …