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Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Monday told rank-and-file Republicans that he will not defend or campaign with Donald Trump going forward, though he is not rescinding his endorsement of the embattled GOP nominee, according to sources on a conference call.

Ryan told his GOP colleagues they need to deal with Trump in a way that ensures that they win their own congressional races in November.

{mosads}“You all need to do what’s best for you in your district,”  Ryan said, according to a source on the call.

The conference call with GOP colleagues came just days after a 2005 audio recording emerged of Trump boasting about grabbing women’s genitalia and trying to have sex with a married woman.

The audio has been catastrophic for the Trump campaign. Over the weekend, a flurry of GOP House and Senate lawmakers revoked their endorsement of the New York billionaire and reality TV star. And nearly all elected Republicans said they were repulsed by the tape, in which Trump is heard saying because he is a celebrity he can do anything, including “grab” women “by the p—y.”

Ryan has rebuked Trump throughout the campaign for making incendiary remarks about Mexicans, Muslims, Jews, women and other groups. But he endorsed Trump earlier this summer, arguing that GOP policies would have a better chance of being enacted with a Republican in the White House.

On the call, Ryan told his colleagues he will spend the final month of the campaign protecting the GOP’s House and Senate majorities and making sure Democrat Hillary Clinton does not get a “blank check” with a Democratic-controlled Congress.

Ryan said that Hill Republicans need to make the best of a bad situation, a senior GOP lawmaker on the call said. It’s now critical, Ryan emphasized, that Republicans preserve their House and Senate majorities.

During the comments portion of the call, a number of House Republicans ripped Ryan and his team for not doing more to help Trump.

“There was an undeniable opposition to Speaker Ryan’s tepid support of our nominee,” conservative Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.) told The Hill. 

“The vast majority of members who had an opportunity to speak on the call are not quitters and will fight for our nominee until the last ballot is counted,” he added. “I identify myself with those members.”

Trump quickly pushed back on Ryan.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Ryan’s close friend and Trump’s running mate, announced Monday morning that he was sticking with the GOP ticket, even as he distanced himself from Trump’s comments.

But Ryan’s decision not to completely dump Trump has more to do with ensuring GOP voters turn out on Election Day.

GOP congressional leaders don’t want to alienate moderate Republicans and independents who are repulsed by Trump’s crude sexual remarks.

But leaders also don’t want to drive away die-hard Trump supporters who are enthusiastic about voting in November.

GOP sources still don’t believe Trump will cause enough damage to hand Democrats control of the House; Democrats would need to flip 30 seats to do that. 

But sources caution that more damaging Trump tapes could still emerge in the final weeks of the campaign, and anything is possible.

A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released Monday points to the danger facing Republicans down the ballot.

The poll, taken after the leak of the Trump tape, found that 49 percent of voters want Democrats to control Congress, compared with 42 percent who want Republican control. 

That’s the highest margin for Democrats in the poll since the government shutdown of 2013, according to NBC.

– This story was updated at 2 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Mike Pence Paul Ryan
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