A civil war has broken out in within the GOP, with Trump supporters vowing to take vengeance on Republicans not supporting his campaign.
Republican politicians are fleeing from the Trump campaign after Friday’s release of a newly uncovered video from 2005 in which he brags about groping women.
By 6:30 PM (EDT) Saturday night, more than 50 Republicans had denounced Donald Trump and his vile words about women, many of them withdrawing their endorsements and asking him to step down; and the list keeps getting longer.
On Monday, Speaker Paul Ryan held a phone conference with House Republicans announcing that he would no longer be defending Trump or campaigning for him and that he would be focusing his efforts on down-ballot races. “You all need to do what’s best for you in your district,” he advised Republican House members.
Retaliation by Trump was swift, with The Telegraph reporting that: “On Twitter, he attacked the some three dozen defectors as ‘self righteous hypocrites.’ At rallies, he assured his supporters that these politicians are not leaving because he is a sleazy, lady-groping casino boss; it’s because he is speaking truth to power and standing up to ‘corrupt’ Washington.”
As NBC News reports, Trump is not only using Twitter to hit back at Republicans, he is looking to mobilize his base and “lead them into battle as GOP civil war breaks out.”
The recent defections from Trump amount to an unprecedented rejection of a nominee by their own party, but it was only the first volley in the GOP’s civil war. Trump and his supporters are now returning fire themselves by lashing out at defectors, promising political retribution, and finding new targets for his base’s rage as election day nears.
With polls showing a Trump collapse, the infighting could push Republican losses to new heights if the party can’t get it under control before election day.
Steve Benen of The Rachel Maddow Show writes on their blog today that “At Trump campaign headquarters… the candidate’s chief spokesperson is threatening the party with an alarming warning: Trump voters will reject down-ballot Republicans.”
The Washington Post reports that Republican politics have “tumbled toward anarchy” and quotes a former GOP senator saying, “It’s every person for himself or herself right now.”
The New York Times reports that Republican losses in the Senate due to this clash could be devastating:
But disavowing Mr. Trump, whose supporters make up the largest share of the Republican base, risks alienating those voters, potentially a no less lethal choice for Senate candidates in key races. And if Mr. Trump loses to Hillary Clinton, as polls now indicate is likely, the loss of those Senate contests could be crushing for a party that was already teetering and counting on a chance to rebuild after the election. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted just before the debate showed Mr. Trump’s support cratering, with Mrs. Clinton assuming an 11-point lead nationally.
The Rachel Maddow Blog reports that around midday Monday: “Trump’s Republican backers protested outside RNC headquarters – one carried a sign that read, ‘Better to grab a p***y than to be one’ – at a gathering that was reportedly organized by Trump’s state director in Virginia, who was later removed from his post.”
NBC News talked to Trump supporters at a Trump rally in Pennsylvania Monday evening. Angie Stroud, 52, told NBC that she knows every single name of Republicans who have denounced Trump, adding that she keeps an updated list on her Facebook page for other Trump supporters to reference.
“I won’t vote for any of them,” she said, adding:”The only thing worse than a Democrat is a Republican who acts like a Democrat.”
Many attendees expressed bewilderment with the reaction to the 2005 tape. “Nobody has the guts to take the gloves off on the Clintons until Trump, and they jump ship over a tape?” Jim Dodson said of the GOP dissenters.
Others spoke of targeting specific Republicans like Speaker Ryan. “People will not be happy with Paul Ryan,” Carol Stofflet said, adding: “They’ll remember it when he wants to run again for any public office.”
The New York Times reported similar opinions when talking to Trump supporters in Arizona. For instance “Paula Barche Rupnik, a Republican from Scottsdale, Ariz., was planning to vote for Senator John McCain in his re-election campaign this year. But she changed her mind this weekend, after he rescinded his support for Donald J. Trump.”
“I want to send a message to John McCain,” said Ms. Rupnik, 58, told The New York Times. “If he doesn’t get elected, the American people that support Trump are going to blame it on those Republicans who didn’t support him.”
Stephen Cotta, 61, a Navy veteran who owns a cannabis testing lab in Tempe, described Mr. McCain as a “traitor” and echoed Mr. Trump’s view that he was “not a hero.” Mr. Cotta said he, too, would vote for Ms. Kirkpatrick.
“If you can see McCain and Hillary aren’t that far apart on their philosophies, O.K., that’s why they can stand up so adamantly to Trump,” Mr. Cotta said.
The New York Times adds that “There was similar disgust among Mr. Trump’s supporters in New Hampshire, where Senator Kelly Ayotte — locked in a tight re-election battle against Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat — became the first senator to disavow Mr. Trump after the recording’s publication.”
“I think the Republican Party is out for itself,” said Buddy Greene, adding: “They are not looking at issues of regular folk in the country.”
It appears that the more Trump becomes isolated from the Republican Party, the greater the damage might be in down-ballot races. We certainly hope so.