Republicans’ frustration with Donald Trump has reached new heights, with party leaders scrambling to persuade their presidential nominee to abandon divisive tactics that have triggered sinking poll numbers and low morale.
Party chairman Reince Priebus is appealing to the New York billionaire’s adult children to help amid new signs of a campaign in trouble.
Trump’s operation has been beset by internal discord, including growing concern about election preparedness and a lack of support from Republican leaders, according to two people familiar with the organisation’s inner workings.
One said Trump privately blames his own staff for failing to quiet the backlash from his party after he criticised an American Muslim family whose son, a US Army captain, was killed in Iraq.
The inner tension comes as Priebus and a handful of high-profile Trump allies consider whether to confront the candidate directly to encourage a new approach following a series of startling stances and statements. In the midst of the uproar over his continued criticism of the Khan family, Trump infuriated Priebus and other party leaders by refusing to endorse GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan’s re-election.
This came after one of the most tumultuous weeks of Trump’s presidential campaign.
Campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who said that Trump and Priebus have spoken several times in the last two days, played down the conflict with Ryan. He said the campaign has “sort of had a rule of not getting involved in primaries” and noted that Ryan’s rival, a Trump supporter, “is not going to win.”
Manafort said that while Trump didn’t take a position in the primary, “he’s going to support Paul Ryan. He does support Paul Ryan.”
Trump dismissed suggestions that the GOP frustration was hurting his campaign, even as he openly contemplated an election day loss.
“Wouldn’t that be embarrassing to lose to crooked Hillary Clinton? That would be terrible,” he said in Florida. He also insisted: “We’ve never been this united.”
In an interview with Florida’s WPEC-TV, Trump was asked if he was being “baited into battles”. “I think that’s probably right,” he acknowledged. “We’re going to focus more on Hillary Clinton.”
Powerful Republicans in Washington and New York’s Trump Tower concede things will not change unless Trump wants them to.
“The candidate is in control of his campaign,” Manafort saidx, highlighting his inability to control the nominee: “I’m in control of doing the things that he wants me to do.”
Clinton, meanwhile, kept up her assault on Trump’s business practices, holding up a Trump-branded tie as she spoke at the Knotty Tie Company in Colorado.
“I really would like him to explain why he paid Chinese workers to make Trump ties,” she told employees in Denver, “instead of deciding to make those ties right here in Colorado.”
Trump blamed the media – “so dishonest” – for growing criticism of his recent statements and his unwillingness to accept guidance from senior advisers.
The tension within Trump’s camp is complicated by his frequent travels without his senior advisers and his adult children, who wield significant influence in the campaign.
Former Trump adviser Barry Bennett acknowledged signs of poor morale among the campaign staff he maintains contact with, but he also said it would be silly to dismiss Trump’s chances with three months before election day.
Trump reported raising $80 million in July for his campaign. Clinton raised about $90m over the same period.