After simmering for nearly 24 hours, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s anger at House Speaker Paul Ryan appears to have boiled over. In a series of angry tweets Tuesday morning, the candidate publicly broke with his party’s highest-ranked lawmaker and castigated the GOP as a whole for its disloyalty.
Ominously, Trump declared himself free of whatever restraints were left on his campaign.
It is so nice that the shackles have been taken off me and I can now fight for America the way I want to.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 11, 2016
What that means is unclear, especially given that there didn’t really appear to be much in the way of “shackles” on Trump in the first place.
The proximate cause of this latest meltdown was a conference call yesterday in which Ryan told the members of the House Republican conference that he would no longer publicly support or defend Trump, and would dedicate the remaining weeks before the election to helping them retain their seats.
Coming after the revelation of a videotape that showed Trump bragging that he could sexually assault women at will because he is famous, the announcement appeared to be an admission that Ryan believes Trump will lose the election to Democrat Hillary Clinton, and that the GOP will lose control of the Senate. Retaining a majority in the House, he said, is the only way to avoid giving Clinton “a blank check.”
Trump took a swipe at Ryan yesterday, but it was only this morning that he went on the attack against the House Speaker.
“Despite winning the second debate in a landslide (every poll), it is hard to do well when Paul Ryan and others give zero support!” he tweeted at 7:38 a.m. (Fact check: No scientific polls showed Trump winning the debate. They unanimously said he lost to Clinton.)
“Our very weak and ineffective leader, Paul Ryan, had a bad conference call where his members went wild at his disloyalty,” he wrote at 9:05 a.m. After declaring himself unchained, Trump then attacked the Republican Party as a whole, writing, “With the exception of cheating Bernie [Sanders] out of the nom the Dems have always proven to be far more loyal to each other than the Republicans!”
“Disloyal R's are far more difficult than Crooked Hillary,” he added. “They come at you from all sides. They don’t know how to win - I will teach them!”
That Trump now sees himself as free to do as he pleases in the final weeks of the campaign is anybody’s guess, because it’s not as though he has been particularly restrained in recent days.
On Sunday, against the advice of most in his party, he paraded three women at the debate forum who have accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault and tried to have them seated in his family’s box. He also declared that if he were president now, he would have had Clinton jailed. He called Clinton “the devil.”
Over the weekend he attacked Republicans who distanced themselves from him after the release of the damning videotape, declaring, “So many self-righteous hypocrites. Watch their poll numbers - and elections - go down!”
With his poll numbers plunging, Trump appears to be readying a “stabbed in the back” narrative that he will use to explain how he came to be in a position to lose to Clinton, a move that could depress GOP turnout and/or support for down-ballot candidates.
That’s terrible news for House and Senate Republicans who would be seriously damaged at the polls by that outcome. But by all appearances, that’s just fine with Donald Trump.