Donald Trump insisted there was "great unity in my campaign" yesterday despite signs the Republican Party, in a state of panic, is turning against its nominee.
Senior Republican figures were growing increasingly concerned about Trump's behaviour following his criticism of the family of a dead Muslim American soldier and his refusal to back the re-election campaign of Paul Ryan, the House speaker. Frustration at Trump's divisive tactics and insulting comments reached new heights yesterday, with several extraordinary developments:
Senior Republicans including GOP chairman Reince Priebus, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich were reportedly considering an "intervention" meeting with Trump. They hoped to talk Trump into "a dramatic reset of his campaign", NBC reported. "A new level of panic hit the street," Scott Reed, chief strategist for the US Chamber of Commerce, told the Washington Post. "It's time for a serious reset." Gingrich, a Trump ally, said his friend currently stood no chance of beating Hillary Clinton in November.
"The current race is which of these two is the more unacceptable, because right now neither of them is acceptable. "Trump is helping her to win by proving he is more unacceptable than she is."
Kids, talk to your dad
Reince Priebus, chairman of the GOP, was said to be "livid" over Trump's behaviour and appealed to the New York billionaire's adult children to help calm the situation. A Republican source told Reuters that Priebus "feels like a fool". More than any other senior figure in the Republican establishment, Priebus worked to bring Trump into the party's fold despite the New York businessman's status as an outsider. According to AP, Priebus has already spoken to Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and the Trump children, who are said to agree that the nominee needs to stop picking fights within his own party and take a step back from his criticism over the past few days of the Khan family.
Pence backs Ryan
Mike Pence, the Republican vice presidential candidate, openly split with Trump by giving his endorsement to Ryan. In an indication of how deep the divisions are - even within the Trump campaign itself - Pence said: "I talked to Donald Trump this morning about my support for Paul Ryan, our longtime friendship. He strongly encouraged me to endorse Paul Ryan in next Tuesday's primary. And I'm pleased to do it." Trump antagonised the higher echelons of the Republican establishment on Wednesday when he said he was "just not quite there yet" when it came to backing Ryan. He also refused to endorse John McCain in his re-election bid on Wednesday. Both had been critical of his attacks on the Khan family.
A Plan B candidate?
There were reports that some Republicans were exploring what the process would be should Trump himself pull out of the race. ABC reported that if Trump pulled out before early September, it would be up to the 168 members of the Republican National Committee to choose a successor. In this scenario, there would be enough time get the next nominee's name on the ballot in enough states to win in November's general election. However, there are no indications at this stage that Trump wants to step aside. Kellyanne Conway, a spokesman for the Trump campaign, reportedly said: "I would push back on any formal report that the candidate is going to leave the race."
Trump: I'm in control
Despite the animosity within the party, Trump was remorseless yesterday, taking to Twitter to state: "There is great unity in my campaign, perhaps greater than ever before. I want to thank everyone for your tremendous support. Beat Crooked H!" Manafort also attempted to give the impression that there was no panic within the Trump camp, telling Fox News: "The candidate is in control of his campaign and I'm in control of doing the things that he wants me to do in the campaign. The only need we have for an intervention is maybe with some media types who keep saying things that aren't true."