The Republican Party was at the brink of civil war after its presidential nominee Donald Trump signaled he would retaliate against ‘turncoat’ lawmakers who withdraw their support from his campaign following his obscene remarks about women surfaced, according to a leading US daily.
On Twitter, Trump attacked the Republicans fleeing his campaign as “self-righteous hypocrites” and predicted their defeat at the ballot box.
In a set of talking points sent to his supporters ahead of his second presidential debate against his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, Trump’s campaign urged them to attack turncoat Republicans as “more concerned with their political future than they are about the country,” The New York Times reported.
Even before the second debate against Clinton, the party faced an internal rift unseen in modern times, the paper said.
But much of the Republican party appeared to be in a state of paralysis, uncertain of how to achieve political distance from Trump without enraging millions of voters who remained loyal to the controversial billionaire’s campaign.
Republican leaders in the House of Representatives offered scant guidance to their members, scheduling a conference call this morning but leaving lawmakers to fend for themselves in the meantime, the Times quoted two members of Congress, who spoke on condition of anonymity, as saying.
A wave of defections from Trump’s candidacy, prompted by the revelation of a 2005 recording that showed him bragging about sexual assault, was met with boastful defiance by the Republican presidential nominee.
But pressure from Trump did not deter new expressions of resistance yesterday. Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee, a former chairman of the Republican Governors Association, announced he would not vote for Trump. So did multiple members of Congress, including Representative Kay Granger of Texas, the lone woman in the state’s large Republican delegation.
Mitt Romney, the party’s 2012 presidential nominee and a vocal critic of Trump, has laid out plans to campaign more publicly for Republican Senate candidates in the coming weeks, according to two people familiar with his plans.
Steven Law, a close aide of the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, said the party had descended into chaos.
“The Republican Party is caught in a theater fire; people are just running to different exits as fast as they can,” Law said.
For Democrats, Trump’s rapid unraveling has opened a new universe of political opportunity. They are now confident that they will take control of the Senate, and the party plans this week to lay the groundwork for what could become a sweeping expansion of the political map.
With Trump sliding in the presidential race, senior Democratic officials had already been nudging Clinton to rearrange her campaign schedule and advertising in ways that could help lift Democrats in close congressional races.
“Barring an unforeseeable, if not miraculous, political recovery for Trump, the Republican exodus from his camp is expected to pick up pace in the coming days as lawmakers digest his debate performance and receive new polling on how voters are processing his apparent demise,” the Times said.