Donald Trump’s plan to rescue his campaign ahead of the second presidential debate became clear on Sunday morning: apologize, then attack.
The Republican presidential nominee has lost endorsements from key Republicans in the wake of his lewd and sexually explicit comments about women in 2005 that were revealed for the first time on Friday. The remarks essentially legitimized sexual assault, many said, and are likely to doom his campaign barring a major turn-around, as new polls show him trailing in key battleground states.
Trump and his surrogates indicated on Sunday morning that they are gearing up for a fight—both against the Clintons as well as the Republicans who have abandoned him in the fallout from the remarks.
The next battlefield will be in St. Louis on Sunday night for the second presidential debate, when Trump faces off with his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
In the early aftermath from the universally condemned remarks, Trump issued a rare apology in a video statement late Friday night—only to go on the attack 60 seconds later against Hillary Clinton, painting her as a bully who “intimidated” the women with whom Bill Clinton had extramarital affairs.
On Sunday, that strategy was put into full force.
While Rudy Giuliani, one of his top surrogates, was making the Sunday show rounds, Trump retweeted some of his supporters who were clearly angry that top Republicans were pulling their support from the nominee. One supporter called them “traitors.”
In another tweet, Trump called those abandoning him “self-righteous hypocrites” who are sure to lose their respective elections, thereby placing the GOP’s House and Senate majorities in jeopardy.
On Sunday, Trump demonstrated his willingness to rebuff anti-Trump Republicans and bring the rest of the party down with him.
According to The New York Times, Trump surrogates were urged to wage war on the congressional Republicans no longer supporting him.
“They are more concerned with their political future than they are about the future of the country,” is one of the talking points Trump surrogates have reportedly been encouraged to use when describing fleeing Republicans.
“Trump won the primary without the help of the insiders and he’ll win the general without them, too,” reads another.
However, on Sunday morning, top Trump surrogates including campaign manager Kellyanne Conway and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, in addition to Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, were unwilling to stump for Trump in the immediate aftermath.
All three were pulled from the political talk shows in favor of Giuliani, who previewed what to expect from Trump on Sunday night as he looks to rebound from a less-than-stellar performance at the first contest.
In addition to reiterating the apology from team Trump and the assertion that the former reality TV star is a different man than he was in 2005, Giuliani repeated Trump’s lines about Hillary Clinton’s role in the aftermath of her husband’s infidelities.
In other words: this means war.
At the first presidential debate, Trump refrained from mentioning Bill Clinton’s infidelities. But Trump’s video statement as well as his Sunday morning tweet-storm indicate he might be changing course—gearing up to unload on the Clintons on Sunday night.
For his part, Giuliani said on ABC’s “This Week” that he did not know for sure whether that was part of Trump’s debate plan, but added that it “depends on how the debate goes.”