House Speaker, Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, has not rescinded his endorsement of GOP nominee Donald Trump but will no longer be advocating on his behalf.
On Oct. 10, Ryan told Republican lawmakers during a conference call that he would no longer defend Trump following leaked audio of the business mogul describing women in aggressively sexual terms, CNN reports.
Instead of campaigning on Trump’s behalf, Ryan will shift his priorities to preserving the GOP majority in Congress.
“The speaker is going to spend the next month focused entirely on protecting our congressional majorities,” said Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong.
“He will spend his entire energy making sure that Hillary Clinton does not get a blank check with a Democrat-controlled Congress,” said an anonymous source who had listened to the conference call.
Ryan had reportedly told his fellow House members “you all need to do what’s best for you and your district.”
The house speaker’s comments indicate that he no longer believes that Trump can win the November election and has granted permission to his colleagues to disown the nominee if it helps them keep their seats in competitive races.
Dozens of Republican lawmakers have withdrawn their endorsements for Trump after audio from 2005 surfaced. Caught on a hot microphone, Trump had boasted about how his celebrity allowed him to make unwanted sexual advances on women and recounted his attempts to seduce a married woman.
The explosive audio prompted Ryan to withdraw Trump's invitation to a Wisconsin rally on Oct. 8. During the rally, the house speaker was heckled by Trump supporters who accused him of betraying their nominee.
“Either you believe in your party or you don’t,” Dennis Karbowski of Wisconsin told the Associated Press. “I don’t like Judases.”
Shortly after news of Ryan’s conference call broke, Trump took to Twitter to blast him.
“Paul Ryan should spend more time on balancing the budget, jobs and illegal immigration and not waste his time on fighting Republican nominee,” Trump tweeted.
New polling indicates that Ryan is right to worry about the GOP preserving its majority in Congress. On Oct. 10, a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal found that likely voters now prefer a Democrat-controlled Congress over the current GOP-controlled one by 49 to 42 percent.
The survey found that only 67 percent of Republican voters still support Trump as their nominee. Nine percent said that they could no longer cast a vote for him after the leaked audio while 14 percent called for him to step down from the ticket.