ALTOONA, Pa. — The Republican Party could be nearing a breaking point with Donald Trump.

As he skips from one gaffe to the next, party leaders in Washington and in the most competitive states have begun openly contemplating turning their backs on their party’s presidential nominee to prevent what they fear will be wide-scale Republican losses on Election Day.

Back in 1996, the party largely gave up on nominee Bob Dole once it became clear he had little chance of winning, so it’s not without precedent. Nevertheless, it’s a jolting prospect now, with roughly three months still left before the Nov. 8 vote and weeks before the three presidential debates.

Republicans who have devoted their professional lives to electing party candidates say they believe the White House already may be lost. They’re exasperated by Trump’s divisive politics and his insistence on running a general election campaign that mirrors his approach to the primaries.

“Based on his campaign record, there’s no chance he’s going to win,” said Sara Fagen, the political director for former President George W. Bush. “He’s losing groups of people he can’t get back.”

Trump’s campaign says things are moving in the right direction, a position that itself feeds the discontent among his Republican detractors. The billionaire businessman’s loyalists say enough time remains to change the dynamic against Democrat Hillary Clinton who, like Trump, is deeply unpopular with voters.

And his backers are blaming the media for the perception that all is not well.

“Frankly, a lot of stuff over the last week … it’s him being distorted,” said Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. “For the last week or so, he’s been very focused and very much on his game.”

Trump did show some modest improvement as a candidate in the past week. He has stopped criticizing a Muslim family of a fallen U.S. soldier. Gone are the fights with some of his party’s most respected members of Congress.

But also in the past week, Trump has questioned the advice of senior aides, threatened to stop raising money for the party, dismissed the usefulness of get-out-the-vote efforts and defended his decision not to run any TV ads even as his foes fill the airwaves with spots backing Clinton in contested states.

CLINTON ISSUES OUT OF SPOTLIGHT

It all largely overshadowed the content of 44 previously-unreleased email exchanges Clinton had while at the State Department. They became public on Tuesday and showed her interacting with lobbyists, political and Clinton Foundation donors and business interests while serving as secretary of state.

“He can’t simply continue to preach to the choir and think he’s going to put together a coalition that will win the White House,” said Ryan Williams, a former aide to 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney. “He’s essentially guaranteeing that he will lose by refusing to clean up his mistakes and stop committing future ones.”

The mistakes do keep coming.

Trump last week stuck by a patently false claim that President Obama founded the Islamic State group. The candidate made an off-handed remark about Clinton that was widely condemned by critics as an invitation to violence. He even acknowledged that losing might not be so bad.

“I’ll just keep doing the same thing I’m doing right now,” he told CNBC on Thursday. “And at the end it’s either going to work or I’m going to you know, I’m going to have a very, very nice, long vacation.”

All of it, to some Republicans, should lead the party to give up on its nominee.

More than 100 party officials, including at least six former members of Congress and more than 20 former staffers at the Republican National Committee, have signed a letter asking Chairman Reince Priebus to stop helping Trump’s campaign.

They call the New York real estate mogul a threat to the party and to the nation. They want the RNC to take resources now helping Trump and shift them to vulnerable Republican candidates for House and Senate.

The letter follows a steady stream of recent defections from Republican elected officials and longtime strategists who vow never to support Trump. They want party leaders to acknowledge that backing his White House bid is a waste of time and money.

ABANDON SHIP

“They’re going to do it sooner or later. They might as well do it sooner to have more impact,” said former Minnesota Rep. Vin Weber, one of the Republicans to sign the letter to Priebus.

Senior Republicans in Washington and in some of the most contested states have discussed a scenario in which the party scales back its presidential focus in states that don’t feature top races for Senate. They could abandon a state such as Virginia, for example, and focus more on a state such as Indiana, where Democrat Evan Bayh is trying to make a Senate comeback.

That’s according to several Republican officials in Washington and states that would be affected, including Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. They spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.

There is no evidence that a formal plan to break with Trump exists at either the state party or RNC level, but Priebus has informally discussed the possibility with party leaders in battleground states in recent days, three of the officials said.

Should that occur, it’s not likely to happen until after Labor Day. For now, Priebus is vocally supportive of Trump. The party chairman joined the nominee Friday, part of a larger effort to ensure an experienced hand is almost always at the candidate’s side when he travels.

Others keeping Trump company this past week include former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

“We’ve always found it’s wise to have people traveling with him, because it’s an opportunity to have him engaged and not just sitting there,” Manafort said.

Some credit that strategy for Trump’s avoiding devastating unforced errors. Manafort also has privately assured swing state Republicans that Trump no longer will attack party rivals – House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Arizona Sen. John McCain and Ohio Gov. John Kasich among them.