RNC chairman: We're fully behind Trump
© Greg Nash, Getty Images

The Republican National Committee is standing fully behind Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpUPS, FedEx shut down calls to handle mail-in ballots, warn of 'significant' problems: report Controversial GOP Georgia candidate attempts to distance from QAnon Trump orders TikTok parent company to sell US assets within 90 days MORE, chairman Reince Priebus said Monday in a private conference call.

Speaking to the 168 members of the RNC, Priebus sought to squash rumors that the national party would cut the nominee loose to focus on protecting GOP majorities in the House and Senate, according to sources on the call.

ADVERTISEMENT

Trump is running a bare-bones campaign that is overly reliant on staff from the RNC, and a reallocation of resources to down-ballot races would effectively doom his campaign.

Down-ballot Republicans have begun signaling they’ll run parallel campaigns that are untethered from the GOP nominee, leaving the party in a perilous position less than a month before Election Day.

Priebus argued in the closed call that while he does not condone Trump’s vulgar comments about women, the nominee apologized and the party stands with him, according to the source. 

The GOP was thrust into turmoil by the Friday afternoon release of a recording from 2005 in which Trump was caught on a hot microphone talking about how his celebrity allows him to do anything with women, including grabbing their genitalia.

The party spent the weekend stamping out rumors that it’s considering diverting resources away from Trump as his poll numbers plummet. And Trump supporters, led by Virginia GOP gubernatorial hopeful Corey Stewart, rallied at the RNC to call on the party to stand behind its nominee.

Stewart was later fired from his post as the head of Trump’s Virginia campaign operation. 

There's been limited polling since the release of the video, but a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Monday showed Clinton up 14 points in a head-to-head matchup. And it showed that 49 percent of voters wanted Democratic control of Congress, compared to 42 percent who wanted to see Republicans hold on. 

If that margin grows much past 7 points, it could threaten what was once seen as the GOP's certain control of the House, a House leadership source acknowledged to The Hill. 

"The generic ballot trending [is] away from us. If it gets to 10, very hard to win swing seats even with a superior campaign," said the source.

The revelations have forced Republicans into a bind: Staying with Trump could turn of swing voters angered by his comments from the video, but breaking with him would likely dampen turnout by the party's base. 

More than two-dozen lawmakers, including Senate GOP Conference Chair John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneTrump plans to accept Republican nomination from White House lawn Hillicon Valley: 'Fortnite' owner sues Apple after game is removed from App Store | Federal agencies seize, dismantle cryptocurrency campaigns of major terrorist organizations Republican senators call on FTC to investigate TikTok over data collection concerns MORE (S.D), have called on Trump to step aside. Vulnerable senators like Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanGOP senator draws fire from all sides on Biden, Obama-era probes Ron Johnson signals some GOP senators concerned about his Obama-era probes Davis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump MORE (Ohio), John McCainJohn Sidney McCainDemocrats hammer Trump for entertaining false birther theory about Harris Trump rips Bill Maher as 'exhausted, gaunt and weak' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - The choice: Biden-Harris vs. Trump-Pence MORE (Ariz.) and Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteBottom line Bottom line Bottom Line MORE (N.H.) have withdrawn their support, but others in tight races — including Pat Toomey (Pa.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThe Memo: Trump attacks on Harris risk backfiring Pentagon forming task force to investigate military UFO sightings How Congress could diminish the risks with Electoral College count MORE (Fla.) and Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrGOP senator draws fire from all sides on Biden, Obama-era probes Hillicon Valley: Facebook removed over 22 million posts for hate speech in second quarter | Republicans introduce bill to defend universities against hackers targeting COVID-19 research | Facebook's Sandberg backs Harris as VP pick Republicans set sights on FBI chief as Russia probe investigations ramp up MORE (N.C.) — are staying the course. 

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanTrump slams 'rogue' Sasse after criticism of executive actions Wary GOP eyes Meadows shift from brick-thrower to dealmaker Budowsky: Why I back Kennedy, praise Markey MORE (R-Wis.) told his conference on a Monday morning conference call that he would no longer defend Trump and would solely focus on maintaining the House majority to ensure Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMcGrath reshuffles campaign in home stretch to Senate election Appeals court blocks Hillary Clinton deposition on private email server What Biden must do to keep his lead and win MORE does not have a "blank check" if elected. While he told lawmakers he was not rescinding his endorsement of Trump, he gave them the green-light to do so if needed. 

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

But Trump has been resolute, proclaiming he would never quit and attacking Ryan in a tweet soon after that statement.  

Ryan’s remarks have angered some RNC members, who say the Speaker is actively working against them.

“I would prefer that he keep his mouth shut,” said Steven Scheffler, an RNC committeeman from Iowa. “If you don’t want to work with Trump, then don’t. I understand he has a job to do, but I’m tired of him or anyone else making a point of saying this. Do they want to give the election to Clinton?”

Trump has signaled a scorched-earth approach for the remaining weeks of the campaign, typified by his description of his comments as simply "locker room talk" and his decision to bring three women who have accused President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonHas Congress captured Russia policy? What Biden must do to keep his lead and win Ocasio-Cortez's 2nd grade teacher tells her 'you've got this' ahead of DNC speech MORE of sexual harassment or assault to Sunday's debate. 

Priebus and other RNC members say Trump has apologized and put the controversy behind him.

"In the end, I will not condemn or abandon a man that has every right to forgiveness as I do,” Robert Graham, an executive board member of the RNC and the chairman of the Arizona Republican Party, said in a statement.

“It is my responsibility, as a member of the Republican National Committee, to elect our Republican nominees and defend our country against all enemies,” Graham said. “Hillary Clinton is an enemy to our nation’s security, general welfare and blessings of liberty. I will continue to work with passion, integrity and restlessness to stop Hillary Clinton and elect Donald J. Trump.”

This story was updated at 5:58 p.m.