A follow-up to Jazz’s post this morning in which I ask for the second time today: What is the strategic value in doing this? What does Trump gain by pushing this to the media if Ryan really isn’t prepared to endorse (yet)?
House Speaker Paul Ryan will be endorsing presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, senior-level Trump campaign sources told ABC News today.
It’s unclear when the endorsement will take place, but Ryan has a briefing on the House GOP agenda scheduled later today in Washington.
A Ryan spokesman, when asked today whether Speaker Ryan is preparing to endorse Trump, said, “There’s no update and we’ve not told the Trump campaign to expect an endorsement.”
“He’s also not told anyone he regrets anything,” the spokesman said of Ryan.
Assume it’s true, that Ryan really did tell them he’s planning to endorse sooner rather than later. Leaking it before he’s ready to announce achieves nothing except needlessly irritating him and his allies. It’s tantamount to Trump getting up at the podium and yelling at Ryan to hurry up and endorse already. And it’s a betrayal of Ryan’s confidence — again, assuming it’s true. This is not the stuff of which lasting rapprochement is made. If it’s not true and Team Trump made it up whole cloth, that’s worse. Now you have Trump’s camp lying outright in the media about things Ryan’s camp has supposedly told them. And that’s especially baffling given that Trump did a smart thing by meeting with Ryan a few weeks ago and trying to win his support with a charm offensive rather than bullying him into compliance like he attempted to do last night with Susana Martinez. Everyone understands that Ryan’s going to back Trump eventually, almost certainly before the convention. Once he does, no one will care how long it took him to come around. Frankly, the longer Ryan holds out, the more it’s worth to Trump once he does finally endorse since it’ll be used as confirmation that Trump has “matured” during the campaign and has finally become “conservative enough” even for a Randian like Ryan. The idea that unification is a process works to Trump’s advantage: Once the process is complete, he’ll be deemed to have passed the Speaker’s ideological litmus test.
There’s no strategic benefit, in other words, in trying to convince people that Ryan’s ready to endorse if he isn’t, especially since other Republican pols haven’t followed his lead in holding out. That’s another reason why Ryan’s support is a fait accompli — if his plan in refusing to back Trump initially was to send up a trial balloon to see if other Republicans would stand with him, it’s failed dismally. He stands more or less alone, which means the pressure on him now to play ball is probably worse than he’d expected. Letting him take his time in endorsing gives him a way to save face now that he’s out on a limb by himself. Instead, by claiming that Ryan’s about to take the plunge, Team Trump is making him look like a chump. If all it took to win Ryan over was a single friendly meeting plus a few weeks of Trump attacking Bill Clinton as a rapist then Ryan’s ideological cred is shot. He’d be the cheapest political date in history, even more so than the evangelicals who decided that Trump was acceptably social conservative because he told them the Bible is the one book greater than “The Art of the Deal.” Having staked himself to the #NotYetTrump position, Ryan needs at least the appearance that he’s coming around to Trump gradually, upon careful deliberation, not as part of some mindless “unity!” duty he owes the party. Team Trump is trying to take that appearance away from him. Why? What do they gain from it?
The best explanation I’ve seen come from Philip Klein:
Is this basically what happened with the Ryan endorsement story? https://t.co/V15ONp6Xq5 pic.twitter.com/p5GoUki3NF
— Philip Klein (@philipaklein) May 25, 2016
Great point, but there’s a difference between that scenario and this one. In the Charles and Di scam, the point is to boost Trump’s prestige by creating a fictional association with prestigious people that doesn’t actually exist. The association with Ryan does exist. They had a meeting a few weeks ago, and as I say, everyone expects that Ryan will endorse no later than mid-July. Trump’s going to have the prestige, to the extent there is any, of the Speaker’s support. So why try to rush it and risk alienating him?
As I’m writing this, news is breaking that Ryan personally reaffirmed for reporters this afternoon that he’s still not ready to endorse Trump. Now he really can’t cave anytime soon or he’ll look like an even bigger chump, so good going, Trumpworld. Lest you doubt that Ryan and his staff are annoyed, here’s a short clip that turned up in his Twitter feed this morning. Which Republican do you suppose he has in mind when he talks about bitterness exhibited by “both sides”?
I've not seen the kind of bitterness in our politics like we have today, & I've got to say, I think it's both sides.https://t.co/FsthtCngiz
— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) May 25, 2016