I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t Paul Ryan more prominent than Scott Walker? Yes, but Ryan’s not really onboard with the idea of unbinding the delegates to vote their conscience. At least not to the extent Walker seems to be.
[Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker] left open the possibility that the rules could change between now and the convention next month, and gave credence to House Speaker Paul Ryan’s comments from last week that delegates should vote their conscience.
“I think his comments are legitimate,” Walker said. “I think historically, not just this year, delegates are and should be able to vote the way they see fit. … We’ll see how things go between now and the convention as to what the next steps are. I’m not going to speculate now only because you all know the situation may change by this afternoon, let alone between now and the convention.”…
Walker backed Cruz in the primary, then endorsed Trump when he became the presumptive nominee. But he wavered in his backing since Trump questioned the ability of a judge to be fair in a lawsuit involving Trump University because of the judge’s Mexican heritage. Walker said he wanted Trump to rescind those comments and “I still haven’t heard those clarified.”
He’s actually giving you the strongest form of the “unbind the delegates” argument. Most Republicans who want to dump Trump argue that the Rules Committee should pass an explicit conscience clause freeing them to vote how they like when they set the rules for the convention next month. Walker seems to be adopting the Curly Haugland argument that you don’t need to do anything to unbind the delegates. Even under a fair reading of the current rules, they’re entitled to defy the voters in their home states and choose whatever nominee they like. If you take the Haugland/Walker view, you don’t need to worry about a death struggle within the Rules Committee. Just keep the rules as-is and then have the delegates revolt on the floor, insisting that they’re free to vote for whomever they want.
But back to Ryan. Is Walker right that his friend Paul encouraged the delegates to vote their conscience? He’s referring, I think, to Ryan’s interview with Chuck Todd a few days ago, in which Todd asked him about conscience and Ryan replied, “The last thing I would do is tell anybody to do something that’s contrary to their conscience.” Sounds like a green light for the delegates, right? Go back and watch the interview, though, and you’ll see that Todd was asking him specifically about what House Republicans should do. Should they follow Ryan’s lead in backing Trump or go their own way? Go your own way, says the Speaker. That’s fine, but individual members of Congress aren’t bound by party rules (sorry, Scott and Curly) the way delegates are to support the candidate who won their state’s primary. I don’t think you can extrapolate from Ryan’s rule for his caucus that he’s part of the “unbind the delegates” crowd. In fact, when Todd asked him in the same interview what the delegates should do, Ryan passed on the question so as not to seem partial:
That’s not my place to decide. My place is because of again this role I have, which I feel has very important responsibilities, is to call balls and strikes, and just play it by the rules. So it is not my job to tell delegates what to do, what not to do, or to weigh in on things like that. They write the rules. They make their decisions.
He’s not urging them to unbind themselves. He’s acknowledging that they have the power to do so, which is a simple fact. Walker’s urging them to unbind themselves. That’s a pretty big name for “Dump Trump” delegates to point to when trying to convince some of their skeptical colleagues that they’ll have cover from the party to pull the trapdoor on Trump. A few more big names plus another bad week or two for Trump and they might actually have some momentum in Cleveland.
Exit question: Does Walker have an ulterior motive here?