In the most beleaguered moment of his campaign, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is done trying to make friends in his own party.
With his past comments about sexually assaulting women drawing widespread condemnation from Republicans, and a multitude of defections, Trump is rejecting pleas from Republican leaders to demonstrate contrition, as he turns his fire on those who are no longer comfortable being associated with him.
In a series of tweets Sunday before he boarded a flight with RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and other advisors to the second presidential debate in St. Louis, Trump took aim at the growing list of GOP leaders who have unendorsed his candidacy.
Retweeting one supporter, Trump spread the message that the already more than a dozen GOP members of Congress and one governor have revoked their support of Trump, are “traitors.” Meanwhile, while former primary rivals Carly Fiorina and Ohio Gov. John Kasich have called on Trump to step aside.
Trump’s campaign encouraged surrogates to drive the message that “They are more concerned with their political future than they are about the future of the country,” according to talking points forwarded to TIME by one surrogate. “Mr. Trump won the Primary without the help of the insiders and he’ll win the General without them, too.”
The tweets and talking points came just 36 hours after Speaker of the House Paul Ryan disinvited Trump from a planned unity rally in Wisconsin. Trump was supposed to send his running-mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, in his stead, but was informed by Pence that his comments couldn’t be defended.
But Trump is seeking to exploit the same divide between the party establishment and its grassroots that enabled his candidacy from the start, as he tries to rally his base by using the GOP leadership’s criticism to his advantage.