Donald Trump unleashed the fury of his Twitter account on his GOP critics Tuesday, accusing them of being fair-weather backers and insisting that he’s better off without their “shackles,” and he can now run the kind of campaign he wants.
At first glance, though, the new Mr. Trump looked a lot like the old Mr. Trump — with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Sen. John McCain targeted after the two high-profile Republicans distanced themselves from him.
“Disloyal R’s are far more difficult than Crooked Hillary,” he said in another tweet. “They come at you from all sides. They don’t know how to win — I will teach them!”
Even as Mr. Trump was blasting fellow Republicans, his campaign was trying to shift the focus to Mrs. Clinton. It seized on revelations in emails from Hillary Clinton’s time at the State Department that appear to show her aides giving Clinton Foundation friends special access, particularly during clean-up efforts in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.
Mr. Trump did tweet about that, but saved most of his attention for his party’s elected leaders.
Before the sun rose Tuesday, Mr. Trump went on the attack against Mr. Ryan. He went on to describe Mr. John McCain as a “very foul mouthed” turncoat and capped the day blasting the entire lot of Republicans that have deserted him less than 30 days out from the election.
On Twitter and then during an appearance on “The O’Reily Factor,” he ripped Mr. Ryan, calling the Wisconsin Republican a “very weak and ineffective leader” and accusing him of supporting “amnesty” for illegal immigrants and “bad budgets.”
Mr. Trump said he no longer wanted Mr. Ryan’s support and suggested Mr. Ryan might not be speaker of the House if he wins The White House.
“I would think that Ryan wouldn’t be there — maybe he would be in a different position,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to be in a foxhole with a lot of these people that I can tell you — including Ryan … especially Ryan,” he said.
A spokesman for Mr. Ryan said his boss “is focusing the next month on defeating Democrats and all Republicans running for office should probably do the same.”
Others drove home a similar message.
Warning that Mr. Trump already faces an uphill battle in the race, Ohio GOP Chairman Matt Borges said Mr. Trump is missing a chance to capitalize on his debate performance and digging himself a deeper hole by picking fights with fellow Republicans.
“His fight is not with them,” Mr. Borges said. “His fight is with Hillary Clinton and that is the message he has to continue to embrace.”
The ties between Mr. Trump and GOP lawmakers have been strained for months, with Republicans long worried that Mr. Trump could torpedo party’s revamped outreach efforts to women, minorities and young voters — three groups that many believe the GOP needs to stay relevant in national elections.
Those concerns boiled over last week after recordings surfaced of Mr. Trump making boorish comments about women.
Dozens of Republicans started heading for the exits, including several locked in tight re-election races that could decide whether the GOP retains control of the Senate.
Mr. Trump hoped that his second debate performance could stop the exodus, but those hopes were dashed on Monday after Mr. Ryan told House Republicans he was done defending Mr. Trump and said his colleagues needed to make their own calculations on how best to handle Mr. Trump.
Mr. McCain and Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Rob Portman of Ohio were among the lawmakers seeking re-election that walked back their support of Mr. Trump.
Mr. Trump’s supporters have been working to try to patch over things, urging the news media to shift its focus toward away from his locker-room talk and toward the policy differences between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump.
“If we’re going to move a conservative Republican platform agenda, the best way to do that is with a President Trump,” said Rep. Steve King of Iowa. “So I’m sticking with him, and I think that’s the best place for conservatives to be.”
Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who endorsed Mr. Trump after ending his own presidential bid earlier this year, reiterated that the Republican’s 2005 caught-on-tape remarks were “abominable” and indefensible, and tried to explain to an indignant media that Mr. Trump is far from the first person to engage in that sort of sexual banter.
“What I am saying is that kind of banter goes around all the time. Is it the right thing to do? Absolutely not. Is it something that I have ever done? Absolutely not,” Mr. Carson sad. “As I was growing up, people were always talking about their sexual conquests and trying to make themselves appear you know like Don Casanova. I am surprised you have not heard that — I really am.”