Election 2020

Paul Ryan to Stop Defending Trump, Focus on House Majority

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) listens at a news conference on Capitol Hill on Sept. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

In a conference call with other Republicans in Congress, House Speaker Paul Ryan on Monday said he will not defend Republican nominee Donald Trump, and he encouraged his fellow members of the GOP to focus on winning congressional races this November.

Ryan told members “you all need to do what’s best for you and your district,” CNN reported. Ryan’s spokeswoman, AshLee Strong, explained that “the speaker is going to spend the next month focused entirely on protecting our congressional majorities,” rather than helping Trump win the White House.

The Associated Press reported that Ryan promised to focus on “making sure that Hillary Clinton does not get a blank check,” suggesting he has written off the presidential election for his party.

The House speaker did not say whether or not he was reversing his endorsement of Trump, although sources told Politico that he had discussed doing so.

Ryan is merely the latest Republican to distance himself from the nominee after a video of Trump expressing lewd comments in 2005 sparked new criticism of his character. No fewer than 41 Republican members of Congress, governors, and prominent figures disavowed him, following the news.

The issue came up in the second presidential debate on Sunday night, but Trump shifted the focus away from what he dismissed as “locker room banter.” He hit back against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton even harder, connecting her to her husband’s sordid past.

Ryan’s move has prompted speculation that private polling shows a powerful swing against the Republican nominee.