WASHINGTON (AFP) - Embattled White House hopeful Donald Trump lashed out at "disloyal" Republicans in a ranting tweetstorm on Tuesday (Oct 11), saying they are to blame if his faltering campaign comes up short.
Declaring himself unchained from party strictures, the bombastic real estate mogul publicly berated party big-wig Paul Ryan - the speaker of the House of Representatives - as a "weak and ineffective leader".
"It is so nice that the shackles have been taken off me and I can now fight for America the way I want to" Trump tweeted.
Relations between the Trump campaign and party leaders have always been difficult, but they have soured considerably since Democrat Hillary Clinton began to pull away in the polls two weeks ago.
The final straw for many elected Republicans was the emergence of a video in which Trump bragged about groping women. That prompted a string of disavowals and endorsement withdrawals.
The White House on Tuesday condemned as “repugnant” his on-mic boast, saying those actions would constitute sexual assault. Trump has since apologised for the remarks.
“The President found the tape as repugnant as most Americans did,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest, adding that most people would consider the actions described by Trump as “sexual assault.”
Trump further alienated allies by bringing up unproven abuse allegations against former president Bill Clinton in a Sunday debate watched by tens of millions of Americans.
Trump's angry response seems to have been prompted by Ryan effectively telling fellow Republicans to stop defending the nominee and focus on limiting electoral losses in Congress.
In a conference call on Monday, Ryan told congressional Republicans "you all need to do what's best for you in your district," according to one person who listened in.
Trump began the two-hour cyber outburst by claiming "polls" had shown him to be the winner of the debate.
In fact, most scientific polls showed voters believed Hillary Clinton to be the clear winner.
"Despite winning the second debate in a landslide (every poll), it is hard to do well when Paul Ryan and others give zero support!" Trump tweeted.
He followed up by saying: "Our very weak and ineffective leader, Paul Ryan, had a bad conference call where his members went wild at his disloyalty."
Democrats "have always proven to be far more loyal to each other than the Republicans."
In an ominous sign for Republicans who are worried about losing control of the House of Representatives and the Senate, Trump sounded a belligerent note.
"Disloyal R's are far more difficult than Crooked Hillary. They come at you from all sides. They don't know how to win - I will teach them!"