U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is vowing to finish the last weeks of his run for the White House on his own terms.
Trump is undeterred by party leaders' abandonment of his campaign after the widespread airing of a 2005 videotape in which Trump makes crude comments about women and boasts of his sexual exploits.
"I'm so angry at the Republicans," Trump told cheering supporters Wednesday in the southeastern battleground state of Florida. "They're not putting their weight behind the people."
The brash real estate tycoon accused Washington politicians, both Republicans and Democrats, of protecting his opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, from prosecution for her handling of national security material on her private email server while she was secretary of state for four years. Investigators called her actions "extremely careless" but decided no criminal charges were warranted.
"We have to investigate the investigation," Trump declared at the raucous rally. "Did they make a deal where everybody protects each other in Washington? She shouldn't be allowed to run for president."
But Trump did not mention the videotape that has roiled the final stages of the 2016 presidential campaign, in which be bragged about groping women with impunity because he was a celebrity.
Trump told Fox News on Tuesday that he was "tired of nonsupport" from Republican leaders. House Speaker Paul Ryan and the party's 2008 presidential candidate, Arizona Senator John McCain, among others, have abandoned Trump in recent days, with Ryan all but conceding that Trump will lose the November 8 election to Clinton.
"I wouldn't want to be in a foxhole with a lot of these people," Trump said.
Slumping poll numbers
With Trump's poll numbers slumping, his campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, told an interviewer Wednesday, "We want the support of anybody who’s going to publicly endorse us. But enough of the pussyfooting around in terms of, you know, do you support us or do you not support us? The fact is that some of these leaders have been wishy-washy.”
Since the tape controversy broke last Friday, nearly three dozen Republican lawmakers had called for Trump to stand aside. On Wednesday, however, some of those Republicans said they were back supporting their party’s candidate.
Senator John Thune of South Dakota told the Rapid City Journal that while he had “reservations about the way (Trump) has conducted his campaign and himself ... I’m certainly not going to vote for Hillary Clinton.”
Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska, who had said over the weekend that she found Trump’s remarks disgusting, told The New York Times Tuesday that she still planned to vote for him.
A wave of new political surveys show Clinton, looking to become the country's first female president, surging to a bigger edge over Trump, with the RealClearPolitics average of polls giving her a 6.2 percentage-point national advantage.
Several political analysts looking at the Trump-Clinton race across the state-by-state contests that determine the outcome of U.S. presidential campaigns give her about a 9-in-10 chance of becoming the country's 45th chief executive.
At Sunday's second debate with Clinton, Trump described the remarks he made on the videotape as "locker room talk." They were captured on a live microphone while he was on a bus as he headed to make a cameo appearance on a television soap opera.
"If that's what it is going to take to lose an election, that will be pretty sad," the onetime host of a reality TV show said.
Obama derides Trump
President Barack Obama, a staunch Clinton supporter, derided Trump's taped comments at a North Carolina rally.
"You don't have to be a husband or a father to say that's not right," Obama said. "You just have to be a decent human being."
The Trump campaign also accused Clinton of being, in Conway's words, "openly hostile on issues important to Catholics," asking her to apologize for comments about Catholics made by Democratic staffers in a cache of emails made public by WikiLeaks.
"The hostility toward religious liberty and the beliefs we hold as Catholics should not go unnoticed or unpunished," Conway said.
Many of Trump's staunchest supporters have stuck with him, but the new polling shows that women, already favoring Clinton, have moved even more toward her. Clinton's campaign, sensing it is on the cusp of winning, is considering expanding its efforts into states that almost always vote for Republican presidential candidates, including Georgia in the southern part of the country and Arizona in the west.
The quadrennial U.S. presidential elections are not decided by the national popular vote, but rather by the contests in each state, with each state's importance weighted by its population. The winning presidential candidate must reach a majority of 270 electoral votes in the 538-member Electoral College, with the electors casting ballots based on the voting results in each of the 50 states.
Tight race in some states
Most election prediction models show Clinton at or near the 270 majority, but polling numbers show a number of states with Trump and her locked in tight battles, giving him a chance in the last four weeks of the race to regain momentum heading to Election Day.
While Trump was in Florida on Wednesday — where he maintains a mansion along the Atlantic Ocean that he considers his second home — Clinton was speaking at rallies in two western states that are closely contested, Colorado and Nevada, the country's gambling mecca.