“Our party is in its deepest crisis since Watergate in 1974,”
- Ron Nehring, former chairman of the California Republican Party
In the aftermath of the "Trump Tape", there has been a surge in GOP officials who have either rescinded their support for Trump or have openly called for him to step down. As the WSJ put it, "the speed and breadth of the abandonment of Mr. Trump’s candidacy shocked some long-time party members and exposed a shattered party without a clear path forward." The latest full list of republicans bailing on Trump is shown in the table below courtesy of Taniel, and can be tracked on The Hill's website.
Those declarations are mostly symbolic, with the RNC having little effective power to impact Trump's process. As Ron Nehring notes, former chairman of the California Republican Party, “it doesn’t matter whether Donald Trump were to bow out. It’s too late to change the candidate on the ballot."
However, in a surprising move showing the dwindling support for Trump within the GOP, this evening the WSJ reported that the Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus on Saturday told party officials to redirect funds away from nominee Donald Trump to down-ballot candidates. In practical terms, the party will be working to mobilize voters who support GOP House and Senate candidates regardless of their position on the presidential race.
As the WSJ explains, that means the RNC will push Floridians who support both Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio to vote. Before today, the RNC wouldn’t have sought to turn out Clinton voters, leaving split-ticket voters for Senate campaigns to target.
The GOP nominee has not made the large-scale ground-game investments that are typical of a major-party nominee. So the RNC has picked up the lion's share of that slack. Before this move, the RNC's field staff prioritized Trump, meaning that they would focus first on turning out voters for Trump, even if that meant those voters may not support GOP candidates down the ballot.
Earlier on Saturday, Politico reported that the RNC directed a mailing vendor to hold off on all projects related to the RNC-Trump joint "Victory" fund.
While the RNC did not immediately comment on the WSJ story, Sean Spicer, the RNC's chief strategist, said on Twitter to briefly cast the story as "not true."
Not true https://t.co/59j2wbo6G0— Sean Spicer (@seanspicer) October 8, 2016
Which most likely means it is, and is just the latest indication of the chaos spreading through the RNC at this moment.
Meanwhile, if the RNC is trying to send Trump a not so subtle message to get out of the race, so far it has failed: the real-estate mogul has emphatically declared he would not drop out in a message on Twitter on Saturday.
The media and establishment want me out of the race so badly - I WILL NEVER DROP OUT OF THE RACE, WILL NEVER LET MY SUPPORTERS DOWN! #MAGA— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 8, 2016
As The Hill notes, legal experts are skeptical that the party could remove Trump without his consent. But if Trump were to step down, the RNC would vote on a new nominee after a meeting with its 168-member committee.
The latest fallout may explain why the RNC chairman is no longer set to appear on tomorrow's Face the Nation, with the slot going to Rudy Trump as the "campaign wanted a campaign person" according to Politico's Jake Sherman.
>@Reince no longer appearing on Face the Nation. replaced by Rudy G. Trump campaign wanted a "campaign person"— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) October 8, 2016