, Washington, United States, Aug 5 – Donald Trump grappled Thursday with fallout from multiple recent missteps, amid a new round of unfavorable polls and as House Speaker Paul Ryan reiterates that his support for the Republican presidential nominee is not guaranteed.
The brash billionaire’s ability to stay on message during an intensifying general election campaign has been called into question by members of his own party, with Ryan delivering a pointed critique of Trump’s performance 96 days before Americans choose between Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.
The Republican flagbearer steered his campaign into the rough in recent days by provoking a clash with the family of a Muslim American soldier killed in action, and then declining to endorse Ryan and Senator John McCain, the party’s 2008 nominee, in their congressional re-election campaigns.
Ryan said that he would continue to back Trump despite the swirling controversy over the family of soldier Humayun Khan. But “none of these things are ever blank checks,” he told Wisconsin’s WTAQ radio.
“You would think that we want to be focusing on Hillary Clinton, on all of her deficiencies,” Ryan added.
“She is such a weak candidate that one would think that we would be on offense against Hillary Clinton, and it is distressing that that’s not what we’re talking about these days.”
– Familiar footing –
As Trump sought to move beyond the distractions and focus on the issues, he hit the campaign trail and retreated to familiar footing — bashing immigrants from countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia and Syria.
“We are letting people come in from terrorist nations that shouldn’t be allowed because you can’t vet them,” Trump, who has built his campaign around an anti-immigration platform, said at a rally in Portland, Maine.
“You have no idea who they are. This could be the great Trojan horse of all time,” he said, reprising a warning that terrorists including members of the Islamic State extremist group will sneak into the United States as refugees.
“This is a practice that has to stop.”
Trump caused an uproar last December when he called for a temporary ban on all Muslims entering the United States, and he has harangued Clinton for seeking to allow many times more refugees into the country than President Barack Obama has.
“Hillary Clinton wants to have them come in by the hundreds of thousands,” Trump warned Thursday, to a chorus of boos.
Clinton “can never be trusted with national security.”
– ‘That is ridiculous’ –
Meanwhile in Washington, Obama launched his own critique of the struggling Republican candidate days after Trump warned that the November election will be “rigged.”
“If Mr Trump is suggesting there is a conspiracy theory that is being propagated across the country, including in places like Texas, where it is typically not Democrats in charge of voting booths, that is ridiculous,” Obama told a press conference at the Pentagon.
Trump’s campaign has drawn millions of voters precisely because he has attacked the current political system and the Washington establishment as corrupt.
But while Obama noted how competitors in the schoolyard or sports field complain of being cheated when they lose, “I have never heard of someone complaining of cheating… before the score is tallied,” the president said.
Trump has been battered by a series of recent polls that show Clinton enjoying a strong bounce in support after last week’s Democratic National Convention.
The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll has Clinton leading Trump by nine points nationally, 47 percent to 38 percent, while a trio of other surveys show her widening her lead in battleground states.
A Fox News poll has Clinton leading by 10 points in Colorado, while a Franklin & Marshall College survey puts her ahead of Trump by 11 points in Pennsylvania, a crucial contest because of its substantial number of white, male, working-class voters.
And in New Hampshire, Clinton shot ahead to a comfortable 17-point lead, 51 percent to 34 percent, according to a WBUR poll.