Man, if you’d told me that only one of South Carolina’s two Republican senators would end up walking away from Trump on principle, Lindsey Graham is not the one I would have guessed.
Scott endorsed Rubio before the South Carolina primary but never got around to endorsing Cruz over Trump after Rubio dropped out. (Or did he? If so, I missed it.) Am I right in thinking that he’s the biggest name in the Senate so far, at least among those with a grassroots following on the right, to signal acquiescence to Trump? Rubio and Cruz would both obviously be bigger but neither has showed his cards yet.
Asked if he can support Trump, former Marco Rubio backer Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina answered: “Oh yeah.”
“The country is better off having a Republican in the White House than having a Democrat in the White House,” Scott said. “I’m certain that the center-right construct is better for our country than the far liberal left that we have to contend with. So if you compare the right to left in this campaign it’s very clear that we are in a far better position” supporting Republicans and Trump.
Still, Scott shot speculation from the Capitol Hill press that he could be Trump’s vice president, offering up New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley as “highly qualified” candidates for the VP spot. He said he’s had no indication that he is being vetted for the position.
He may not be VP but Trump will be begging Scott for joint campaign appearances once Democrats get to work on their “Trump is a racist” messaging. Sounds from this like he might be open to it. I hope the alt-righters can stomach that better than #NeverTrumpers will.
Speaking of big-name conservatives keeping their distance from Trump (or not), Josh Barro argues that Paul Ryan has nothing to lose in continuing to hold out on endorsing him. Ryan had two dreams as a politician, entitlement reform and Jack-Kemp-ish outreach to minorities. Both of those dreams have now been utterly crushed by Republican voters in nominating Trump. What does a man who never wanted to be Speaker in the first place stand to gain by playing ball with big-government nationalists? What’s the worst that can happen to him if he goes #NeverTrump? He loses the worst job in Washington and has to go be a millionaire lobbyist while Trump destroys what’s left of conservatism? Boo hoo.
But if (as I think is the case) Ryan’s real priority is policy, not power, he has nothing to gain from backing Trump right now.
Maybe Ryan hopes the “not ready” strategy can get Trump to make an unlikely commitment to the Ryan policy agenda — that Trump would acquiesce to Ryan’s (very unpopular) agenda of entitlement cuts in exchange for party unity.
I think it’s more likely Ryan went with “not ready” because he’s genuinely despondent and sees no good options available to himself. Without any idea of what to do, he’s simply stalling.
If Trump doesn’t find a way to give Ryan a carrot that makes him feel like he gets something out of an endorsement, I don’t expect that unreadiness to change. This is because Trump does not have an effective stick with which to beat Ryan.
Here’s the counterargument, I guess: Trump is a black hole on policy. Not only do voters not know what he’s going to do, but as his comments his past week on the minimum wage and national debt suggest, he probably doesn’t know what he’s going to do either. Trump is also a black hole on staffing. Politico published a long piece yesterday describing in excruciating detail how few Republicans with important government experience want to work for him at high levels. Trump fans will cheer that — out with the old way of thinking! — but any organization forced to staff up with people who aren’t used to such responsibility is bound to have its troubles, especially at the beginning. With a knowledge vacuum that big, Ryan might conclude that Trump could be wooed over time to support some sort of entitlement reform. It’s a longshot but the alternative, forfeiting any influence with the president and leading the opposition in an intraparty civil war, is a no-shot. And an absolute prerequisite for influencing Trump’s thinking is kissing his ass effusively. That means an endorsement. Between that difficult reality and the fact that it’d be all but unimaginable for the sitting Speaker of the House to withhold his support from his party’s nominee for president, an endorsement is a fait accompli. If Ryan makes it to July before caving, it’d be amazing.