The Real-Time Crack-Up of the GOP Is Happening Right Now on Twitter

Slide: 1 / of 1 . Caption: House Speaker Paul Ryan takes the stage the Republican Party of Wisconsin's annual Fall Fest event in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, Oct. 8, 2016. Anthony Wahl/The Janesville Gazette/AP

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  • Author: Marcus Wohlsen. Marcus Wohlsen Business
  • Date of Publication: 10.10.16. 10.10.16
  • Time of Publication: 5:25 pm. 5:25 pm

The Real-Time Crack-Up of the GOP Is Happening Right Now on Twitter

House Speaker Paul Ryan takes the stage the Republican Party of Wisconsin's annual Fall Fest event in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, Oct. 8, 2016. Anthony Wahl/The Janesville Gazette/AP

After nominating Donald Trump, the Republican party was always going to face a reckoning. But, no matter who won, that reckoning was supposed to happen after Election Day. Well, it’s come early. And it’s unfolding in real-time on Twitter. Less than a month before polls open, the GOP nominee is in open political warfare with his party.

The Trump campaign felt good about its candidate’s debate performance last night, set against the backdrop of some of the most depressing and despicable rhetoric in the history of electoral politics. But instead of morning-after reports of Trump’s supposed political resuscitation, House Speaker Paul Ryan’s de facto dis-endorsement of Trump in a conference call with congressional Republicans dominated the news cycle.

#BREAKING: Ryan to House lawmakers: I "won't defend Trump"

— POLITICO (@politico) October 10, 2016

Surprising no one, Trump responded quickly to Ryan’s abandonment on (where else?) Twitter.

Paul Ryan should spend more time on balancing the budget, jobs and illegal immigration and not waste his time on fighting Republican nominee

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 10, 2016

And so it was on.

The frame of reference here, of course, is the video leaked to the Washington Post on Friday in which Trump brags about sexually assaulting women. For many top Republicans, the tape was the cover they needed to abandon him once and for all. Within hours of the audio coming out, they abandoned Trump, but others waited to see if his debate performance could somehow salvage his tanking campaign. In the worst of all possible outcomes for the GOP, Trump did well enough to rouse the support of his base—a base down-ballot GOP candidates need to stay competitive in House and Senate races—while doing nothing to appeal to the moderate swing voters he needs to actually win the presidency. Here’s the New York Times’ conservative columnist:

The Republicans get what they deserve: He did well enough that they're definitely stuck with him.

— Ross Douthat (@DouthatNYT) October 10, 2016

It would be bad enough for Republicans if they were merely stuck with a candidate who seemed likely to lose badly, as Trump seems poised to do. In the first major national poll since the release of the Trump sex-assault brag video, the Wall Street Journal and NBC News found Clinton ahead by 11 points in a four-way race. A double-digit gap is more than enough to drag down down-ballot candidates, too. But simply failing isn’t apparently enough for the Trump campaign. It’s actively gloating in the GOP’s disarray. Check out Trump campaign spokeswoman Katrina Pierson, exhibiting some strong emoji rebus game:

I can't keep my phone charged due to the mass volume of texts from people all over the country who will #VoteTrump but⬇️ballot not so much.

— Katrina Pierson (@KatrinaPierson) October 10, 2016

And here’s Washington Post national political reporter Robert Costa, one of the key journalists to whom Trump insiders turn to dish:

Meanwhile, Trump circle gloating. Privately mocking elected Rs who are agonizing. One laughed and said, "We don't care."

— Robert Costa (@costareports) October 10, 2016

But the battle between Trump and the GOP wasn’t just unfolding online and in the press. It has literally also spilled into the streets:

HAPPENING NOW: Pro Trump rally in front of the RNC HQ in DC. Unbelievable how ignorant some of the signs are. The GOP must reject this crap!

— Tara Setmayer (@TaraSetmayer) October 10, 2016

Ben Johnson, 51, not worried about Trump defectors. "They're globalist. It's not GOP vs Dem…it's globalist vs nationalist."

— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) October 10, 2016

In the meantime, some of the nation’s most powerful Republicans appear paralyzed. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has spent most of the presidential race trying to have things both ways, condemning Trump’s offenses while making tepid excuses and refusing to disavow his party’s candidate. This morning, four weeks before the election, he had nothing to say:

This is remarkable: Mitch McConnell tells Chamber of Commerce in KY "I don't have any observations to make" about the presidential election.

— Stephen Ohlemacher (@stephenatap) October 10, 2016

Trump’s running mate Mike Pence made the campaign rounds early Monday acting like everything was fine.

Great to be back on the trail in NC! Americans have a choice this election between two candidates and two futures. Let's choose to #MAGA.

— Mike Pence (@mike_pence) October 10, 2016

But leading conservative #NeverTrumper Steve Deace, an Iowa radio host who backed Ted Cruz, had a different assessment of the stakes today for the GOP.

10) you're going go to see people want to have a clean conscience rather than swallow their bile and vote for a loser.

— Steve Deace (@SteveDeaceShow) October 10, 2016

11) when people say I don't want to hear it at the Thanksgiving get together if Trump is just gonna lose anyway.

— Steve Deace (@SteveDeaceShow) October 10, 2016

12) that's how you go from a bad loss to a catastrophic one. Up and down the ballot. Everyone is in danger now.

— Steve Deace (@SteveDeaceShow) October 10, 2016

This election, it’s been especially hard to distinguish hyperbole from a clear-eyed assessment of dramatic change. Maybe come November 9, we’ll start to see a return to the banal in American politics. But right now, one of the country’s two major political parties is presently falling apart. And thanks to Twitter, everyone gets to watch.

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