AFP/special correspondent

WASHINGTON - A group of Republican lawmakers in the US House of Representatives have urged the Republican National Committee (RNC), the party’s steering body,  to cut ties with Donald Trump, joining a growing list of party members who oppose the Republican presidential nominee.

Congressman Scott Rigell of Virginia and Reid Ribble of Wisconsin were the latest among over 120 current and former Republican  officials who signed an anti-Trump letter to the RNC on Tuesday.

The signatories, including 10 former House or Senate members and 27 former RNC staffers, urged the committee to stop providing the New York billionaire with resources before his “losing” campaign harms “Senate and House races.”

“Given the catastrophic impact that Donald Trump’s losing presidential campaign will have on down-ballot Senate and House races, we urge you to immediately suspend all discretionary RNC support for Trump and focus the entirety of the RNC’s available resources on preserving the (party’s) congressional majorities,” the letter read.

Rigell has publicly endorsed Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson’s bid for the White House. Ribble has also indicated that he is considering voting for the Libertarian nominee.

A series of missteps by Trump over the past few weeks has put him behind his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, stirring doubts among analysts and party leaders about his ability to ever recover and refocus his campaign.

Trump shakes up senior

campaign staff

Donald Trump announced Wednesday he has again shaken up his senior campaign staff, appointing a conservative website executive and a pollster to head his team amid sinking poll numbers.

The Republican presidential nominee also announced that this week his campaign will launch TV ads for the first time. Trump’s reluctance to buy TV spots has raised eyebrows as his unorthodox quest for the White House has run into trouble in recent weeks. Stephen Bannon, executive chairman of the influential Breitbart News site, will serve as the campaign’s chief executive, the Trump campaign said in a statement.

Trump senior advisor Kellyanne Conway, a longtime Republican pollster, will become campaign manager. Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman who in recent days has come under scrutiny for his links to the pro-Russia former president of Ukraine, will remain in his current role.

“I have known Steve and Kellyanne both for many years. They are extremely capable, highly qualified people who love to win and know how to win,” Trump said in the statement.

“I believe we’re adding some of the best talents in politics, with the experience and expertise needed to defeat Hillary Clinton in November and continue to share my message and vision to Make America Great Again.”

Bannon will oversee campaign staff and operations and “strategic oversight of major campaign initiatives,” the statement said. Conway will focus on “messaging”, regularly travelling with Trump while also working closely with Manafort and Bannon, the statement said.

The campaign said the changes come amid what it called significant growth for the Trump candidacy, “with the first major TV ad buy of the general election slated to start later this week and with additional top-flight operatives joining the movement on a near-daily basis”.

Conway denied the staff changes constitute a shake-up. “It’s an expansion at a busy time in the final stretch of the campaign,” she told The New York Times. “We met as the ‘core four’ today,” she was quoted as saying, referring to herself, Bannon, Manafort and Manafort’s deputy, Rick Gates.

With 82 days to go until the election, Trump’s campaign has been listing badly following a recent series of gaffes that had even members of his own party begging him to reel in his brash remarks.

Trump’s denigration of the family of a fallen Muslim-American soldier was seen by many as a monumental campaign misstep and a turning point in the contentious 2016 presidential race.

According to a NBC News/Survey Monkey poll released Tuesday, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton holds a six-point lead over Trump, 43 percent to his 37 percent, with two minor party candidates securing a combined 15 percent.

In June, Trump dumped his then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who had been credited with the real estate magnate’s initial breakthrough in the primaries.

But in the lead-up to the Republican Party convention, Lewandowski found himself sidelined by more experienced political operatives like Manafort.

Lewandowski had also attracted distracting controversy following a run-in with a Breitbart News reporter at a Trump rally who accused him of roughly grabbing her arm.

Earlier this month, more than 70 GOP lawmakers and operatives signed a similar letter, demanding the RNC withdraw its funding from Trump’s campaign and direct its resources to protecting Republican majorities in Congress.

Some disenchanted conservatives have circulated a petition calling for the RNC to hold a special meeting to replace the real estate mogul as the party’s presidential nominee.

The RNC, however, has reiterated its support for Trump, denying several reports of an ultimatum by Chairman Reince Priebus’s to Trump to either refocus his campaign or risk losing the party’s support.

Despite the wave of bad publicity, a joint fundraiser by Trump and the RNC raised more than $80 million in July, marking a significant rise from previous months.