Republican presidential Donald Trump faced new headwinds Monday, with the party's top elected official all but conceding that Democrat Hillary Clinton will win the race for the White House and new polls showing her surging to a decided edge. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan told his Republican colleagues in a conference call that he would no longer defend Trump's often impolitic comments that have offended many voters, including lewd remarks about women in a 2005 tape in which the brash real estate mogul boasted how he could grope them because he was a celebrity.
Instead, Ryan said he would spend the last weeks before the November 8 election working to preserve the party's House majority by campaigning for other Republicans, to try to stop Clinton from winning a blank check for legislative action with the election of a Democratic-controlled Congress. Republicans now control both the House and Senate. One person on the conference call said Ryan has not withdrawn support for the embattled Trump, but won't campaign with him. Ryan told other Republican House members "to do what's best for you in your district."
Trump rebuked Ryan, saying in a Twitter comment, that he "should spend more time on balancing the budget, jobs and illegal immigration and not waste his time on fighting (the) Republican nominee." Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said Monday Trump spent his time at the debate attacking when he should have been apologizing.
Clinton held a rally in Detroit Monday -- her first campaign appearance since the contentious debate. She told the crowd that Trump "doubled down" on his explanation that it was just locker-room talk between men. She called it "a really weak excuse for behaving badly and mistreating people."
Moments later, Trump appeared in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, saying all Clinton could talk about in the debate was "small petty things." He tore into the media for "beating me up" for 72 hours while ignoring allegations of Clinton threatening women who Trump says were raped and sexually assaulted by her husband, dormer President Bill Clinton.
Trump campaign reeling
The political fallout became apparent in the latest national surveys, on top of older polls showing Clinton, a former U.S. secretary of state, with a five-percentage point advantage. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, conducted entirely over the weekend as American voters considered Trump's remarks, showed Clinton pulling to an even bigger lead, a 46-to-35 percent edge in a four-way race with two other candidates.
Another poll, by Rasmussen Reports, that was partly conducted after disclosure of the 2005 tape showed Clinton ahead 45 to 38 percent, when it said the race was virtually tied just days ago. In Sunday's second presidential debate with Clinton, Trump said his taped comments were just "locker-room talk," even as he allowed that he was "very embarrassed" by his remarks and hated them.
Meanwhile, Republican officials on the party's national committee were talking by phone late Monday about Trump's declining fortunes and the state of congressional races across the country.
Unlikely debate changed minds
Political scientist Stephen Wayne of Georgetown University in Washington told VOA that the debate likely solidified support for both candidates, not necessarily changing the campaign's track that has boosted Clinton to her national polling advantage and commanding leads in key battleground states that will decide the outcome.
Political scientist John Sides at George Washington University said of the debate, "My sense of the narrative is that Trump did better, but it won't be enough to improve his poll numbers. Again, this is an impression of the conventional wisdom that is coming together."
Wayne said he thinks the debate might have unified Clinton's support among "Democratic voters who may have been worried about her. Trump solidified his base, but not beyond the base. I thought it revealed the true character of each candidate. It reinforced our views of both candidates and their weaknesses."
Wayne said Trump "showed no knowledge of the issues," while she was "well prepared to defend herself and support traditional Democratic issues." A CNN snap poll in the hours after the debate said Clinton won it, by a 57-to-34 percent margin.
Trump threatened to jail Clinton if he is elected for her handling of national security emails while she was the country's top diplomat and claimed she had "tremendous hate in her heart" for voters. He positioned three women in front-row seats in the debate hall who alleged that Clinton disparaged them for claiming that her husband, former President Bill Clinton, had made unwanted sexual advances toward them two decades ago.
"Okay, Donald, I know you’re into big diversion tonight,” she retorted at one point. “Anything to avoid talking about your campaign and the way it’s exploding and the way Republicans are leaving you.”
Numerous Republican elected officials abandoned Trump's candidacy in the last few days after hearing the 2005 tape. Some retracted their earlier endorsements of his candidacy, while others called for him to drop out of the race to become the country's 45th president, replacing President Barack Obama when he leaves office in late January.
Trump says there is "zero chance" that he will quit the campaign.