(CBS NEWS) – There was a brief period back in the spring when the word “pivot” was a prevailing part of Donald Trump’s narrative. At the time, Trump was on his second campaign manager, Paul Manafort, who that Trump would change. He would become the general election candidate that conservatives needed him to be to beat Hillary Clinton. He would pivot.
Months later, it turns out, Manafort was right about one thing: Trump did pivot. It was just in the opposite direction than many in the GOP would have hoped, and Republican leaders made it clear Monday that they were getting exhausted. Yet, in multiple rallies that day in Pennsylvania, Trump’s rhetoric turned even more caustic. His fierce barbs directed towards Clinton grew even more pronounced.
Trump’s first rally of the day was in Ambridge, where he went on a long diatribe, relitigating allegations of sexual assault against former president Bill Clinton. On Sunday, Trump held an extraordinary event before the second general election debate, appearing alongside decades worth of women who have accused the former president of inappropriate sexual advances
Trump brought the allegations up again during the debate and on Monday, showed no sign of scaling back.
“Bill Clinton sexually assaulted innocent women and Hillary Clinton attacked those women viciously,” Trump said, to the delight of the Pennsylvania crowd. “One of them said more viciously than he attacked them.”
But buried in Trump’s speech was an implicit admission that there were more tapes out there, similar to the 2005 comments caught on a live microphone of Trump describing the act of sexually assaulting women while shooting a segment for “Access Hollywood.”
“If they want to release more tapes saying inappropriate things, we’ll continue to talk about Bill and Hillary Clinton doing inappropriate things,” Trump said.
Rumors have swirled for days thatcontain more damning material. Pressure has ratcheted up on Mark Burnett, who was the co-executive producer of the show, to allow for the tapes to be released. Burnett has resisted, claiming that he doesn’t have the ownership of the tapes.
Trump still has the support of the vast majority of his party’s elected officials, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and the Republican National Committee. In a Monday conference call with Republican members of Congress, Ryan said, but he did not withdraw his endorsement. At this point, the only member of Republican leadership to have unendorsed Trump .
On Twitter, Trump accused Ryan of trying to “fight” with him, even though Ryan remains a supporter.
In a conference call held after Trump’s first rally, RNC chairman Reince Priebus told committee members that “nothing has changed in our support for our nominee,” according to audio obtained by CBS News’ Jacqueline Alemany.
Trump’s running mate, Indiana governor Mike Pence, has been similarly loyal, insisting during numerous television interviews in the morning that he was still thrilled to be on the ticket. This is in spite of the 2005 comments and the fact that Trump said at Sunday night’s debate that the two didn’t discuss a signature policy issue – – and that he disagreed with Pence on the need to be prepared for military action.
“It’s absolutely false to suggest that at any point in time we considered dropping off this ticket,” Pence said on CNN, despite rumors and speculation to the contrary.
For Trump’s part, at his second rally of the day, he called Pence “loyal” but added a twist: He said that Pence asked him permission to put out a statement condemning his vulgar comments on the tape.
“Mike Pence. Great guy. A great guy and by the way, a totally loyal person,” Trump said in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. “This guy – he called me up. ‘You mind if I put out a statement?’ ‘No, what would you like to put out?’ ‘This.’ Absolutely, put it out, Mike.’ This guy is so loyal. So good.”
“CNN sucks!” chants rang out at least four times during Trump’s rally in Wilkes-Barre. Trump grinned, and seemed to derive great pleasure from training his ire at the media.
With typical Trump showmanship, he brought a baby on stage that was dressed like him. Trump asked him if he wanted to go back to his parents or stay with Trump.
“Trump,” the baby said into the microphone. Trump’s fans reacted like they had just won the Powerball.
However, Trump’s messaging continued to be grim. His pitch to African-Americans, for example, continued to include the comparison of inner cities to war zones.
Trump also warned multiple times throughout the day that the election might be “stolen” from him due to voter fraud.
“We have to make sure we’re protected,” Trump said. “We have to make sure the people of Philadelphia are protected that the vote counts are 100 percent. Everybody wants that, but I hear these horror shows. I hear these horror shows and we have to make sure that this election is not stolen from us and is not taken away from us.”
Earlier in the day, Trump encouraged his supporters to “watch other communities because we don’t want this election stolen from us.”
Trump’s polling may be facing its most significant deficit yet. An NBC/Wall Street Journal national poll released showed Trump facing a double-digit deficit to Clinton. But Monday was the clearest indication yet that, win or lose, Trump will play out the rest of the campaign on his own terms.
The Republican Party continues to insist it’s fine with that. Then again, at this point, it doesn’t have much choice.