Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump return to the campaign trail after an acrimonious second debate.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan will not campaign with Donald Trump and told House GOP lawmakers to make their own decisions on whether to support the presidential nominee.
The speaker has long said his priority was to save the House majority, but his explicit refusal to defend Trump at a crucial time was a stunning acknowledgement of the potential electoral loss.
Trump chastised the speaker for his comments. "Paul Ryan should spend more time on balancing the budget, jobs and illegal immigration and not waste his time on fighting Republican nominee,'' Trump tweeted.
Ryan's approach also elicited protests from rank-and-file Republican lawmakers who said that fighting for Trump was the best way to stop Democrat Hillary Clinton's agenda.
"You all need to do what's best for you in your district," Ryan told Republicans, according to someone on the morning conference call granted anonymity to discuss the private session.
Ryan reiterated his position that he would work to ensure Clinton does not get a "blank check " with a Democrat-controlled Congress.
But Ryan stopped short of yanking his endorsement of Trump, and told members he would not defend the presidential nominee or campaign with him for the remainder of the election.
Congress is on recess but Republican leaders arranged the call to help lawmakers navigate the fallout from the tape of Trump's sexually aggressive comments about women.
About a dozen members spoke up on the call, and most disagreed with Ryan's approach, according to sources on the call.
One Trump supporter, Rep. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, expressed his frustration that the party and its leaders were not unifying around Trump.
"The best way to ensure a Republican majority in the House is to make Donald Trump the most successful candidate we can make him," Cramer said. "The idea that running from him strengthens that, I don’t buy that strategy."
Even though Republicans are not expected to lose control of the House in November barring a major upset, Ryan needs to stem GOP losses to provide a cushion as he leads a majority hampered by infighting.
According to a person on the call, Ryan will spend all his time and energy preserving the House majority, rather than campaigning with Trump.
Ryan has had a difficult time with Trump's candidacy, first refusing to endorsee the nominee him, then reluctantly coming on board despite their many differences in style and substance.