House Republicans press Ryan during meeting: Back Trump

CNN has exactly one Republican, Raul Labrador, quoted in the piece as leaning on Ryan to fall in line and Peter King told reporters after the meeting that Ryan wasn’t put on the defensive. But other members, including two of Ryan’s own whips, have been grumbling to the press lately second-guessing his decision to withhold his endorsement from Trump. It makes sense that much of the caucus would be nervous about this. If you’re facing a primary in your House race, what should you say about Ryan’s hesitation in endorsing Trump? If you agree with him, Trump fans will be angry. If you back Trump, conservative dead-enders will be angry. House Republicans want the national party united ASAP so that their own constituents can get on with the process of uniting too.

Rank-and-file House Republicans are urging Speaker Paul Ryan to get behind presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, warning his resistance could lead to the party fracturing rather than uniting if he withholds his endorsement.

“It makes it harder to unite,” said Rep. Raul Labrador, an Idaho Republican and leader within the conservative House Freedom Caucus…

Many lawmakers also expressed deep concerns about Trump, but said they were backing him because Democrat Hillary Clinton would be worse in the White House.

Interestingly, Labrador’s a member of the House Freedom Caucus, the same group of tea-party conservatives who gave Boehner fits. Other members of the Freedom Caucus want to hear from Trump firsthand before getting onboard, and they’re not the only ones. Can Ryan make that happen? Supposedly he’s going to try:

Meanwhile, rank-and-file House Republicans told their leaders during a conference meeting Wednesday that they too want to meet with the likely nominee. Members got a “resounding reaction” when they asked, Arizona Rep. Matt Salmon said.

The message, Salmon said, was, “‘OK, great that they’re meeting with leadership, but since we’re going to be working with whoever the president is, he should come and address the whole conference and spend not just an hour of conference time, but it should be — maybe we should dedicate half of a day to just having questions and answers.”

McCarthy said the leaders will ask Trump if he would meet with the full Republican conference.

I guess they have to do this, if only for appearances, but c’mon. What would a Q&A, even a half-day of Q&A, with Trump achieve for House members who are wary of him? What could he conceivably say at this point to reassure a conservative Republican who isn’t sold yet after 11 months of daily televised Trump rallies? If he stood up and recited the Paul Ryan policy agenda as his own personal credo, no one would believe him. If he stood up and gave them his protectionist pitch, they’ll take it as proof that he’s not going to accommodate conservative lawmakers’ concerns. So instead he’ll stand up and give them some oatmeal about how the party’s a big tent and there’s room for all views and of course he respects the House and intends to work with the Speaker, yadda yadda yadda. That tells you nothing about how Trump will really behave as president. Meeting with the conference is a gladhanding opportunity, nothing more. And it’s all downside for Trump himself: If he declines the offer to meet, he’s snubbing an important group of Republicans, and if he accepts, he puts himself at risk of giving an answer that’ll end up alienating some fencesitters — or, worse, convincing them that he has no idea what he’s talking about on most policy. Maybe that’s why the Freedom Caucus sounds especially eager to meet with him. This is their opportunity to give him an ideological baptism by fire.

Speaking of which, Dave Brat — a Freedom Caucus member, border hawk, and the man who famously ousted Eric Cantor — told CNN he’s hoping that Ryan and Trump can sit down and draw up some sort of new Contract With America stressing the common ground they have on policy. Um, what common ground? Ryan’s a pro-amnesty entitlement-reforming quasi-libertarian; Trump is a protectionist who wants (or claims to want) to deport the entire illegal population and has vowed to protect the working class’s federal benefits. There’s no meaningful common ground between them on any of the policies that Trump fans love Trump for championing. They can find common ground on mundane boilerplate things like “fewer regulations” and “destroy ISIS,” but those issues won’t be central to the campaign. They’re just a way of papering over the inconvenient fact that the nominee and his populist base are wildly out of sync with the Speaker and the conservative base.

There’s no video of today’s meeting, so here’s something from Jimmy Kimmel paying tribute to a Republican whose doubts about Trump weren’t as durable as Ryan’s.