Trump spokeswoman says supporters could ignore down-ballot races

Story highlights

  • Donald Trump has made fighting Washington a key feature of his campaign
  • Katrina Pierson's comments broke with conventional partisan strategy

Washington (CNN)A Donald Trump spokeswoman said Monday that the GOP nominee's supporters could ignore down-ballot Republicans, regardless of whether it costs the party its congressional majorities.

Katrina Pierson's comment came hours after House Speaker Paul Ryan said he'll focus on protecting down-ballot Republicans rather than his party's standard-bearer.
    "I can't keep my phone charged due to the mass volume of texts from people all over the country who will vote Trump, but down ballot, not so much," Katrina Pierson tweeted.
    The comments broke with conventional partisan strategy, where the candidate at the top of the ticket typically campaigns in support of candidates down-ballot. Part of a presidential nominee's job has been to ensure his or her party wins seats in Congress so the party can enact its legislative agenda.
    Before he distanced himself from Trump, Ryan explained this calculus was part of why he supported the Republican nominee.
    "I'm tired of divided government. It doesn't work very well," Ryan told CNN in September.
    Pierson said in a follow-up message that people would vote straight Republican, regardless of what the "establishment" did.
    Jason Miller, a Trump campaign spokesman, offered a similar sentiment Monday, writing, "Mr. Trump's campaign has always been powered by a grassroots movement, not Washington."
    The Trump campaign has repeatedly clashed with party leadership, and Hill figures have warned about his campaign's negative effects on their down-ballot efforts.
    During an appearance Tuesday on CNN, Pierson tried to downplay the vulgar remarks Trump made on a 2005 videotape, which has driven Republicans to rescind their endorsement.
    As Pierson put it, Trump wasn't even a Republican when he made the offending comments.
    "We keep hearing from the left and the media how we want to talk about substance," Pierseon said. "For some reason we keep talking about Democrat Donald Trump from 2005."