This isn’t the same question that was asked in last week’s Bloomberg poll, but it’s close. Bloomberg asked Republicans which pol, Trump or Ryan, better matched their own view of what the GOP should stand for. Result: Trump 51, Ryan 33. NBC/SurveyMonkey asked which pol, Trump or Ryan, do people trust more to lead the GOP. Result:
Republicans say Trump by a nearly two-to-one margin. One of the mysteries of the Bloomberg poll was how much those numbers were being driven by a considered opinion of the differences between Trump and Ryan substantively and stylistically and how much they were being driven by pure tribalist loyalty to the top of the ticket two weeks out from a national election. Same here. Do these numbers prove that there are many more reactionaries and nationalists in the GOP base than “conservatarians,” or do they prove that a lot of Republicans are pissed off at Ryan for refusing to support the one guy standing between them and a Clinton presidency after the “Access Hollywood” tape came out? The result is bad news for Ryan either way, but the difference matters a lot for the future of the party.
The same mystery applies to the independent and Democratic numbers too, though. Are Dems and indies really that much more confident in Paul “Entitlement Reform” Ryan on the merits, or is this a simple byproduct of Trump being Republican public enemy number one to more left-leaning voters right now? The independent numbers are especially surprising given that Trump, because of his unorthodox “radical centrist” agenda, was supposed to be unusually strong with that group this year. He’s anti-establishment, anti-interventionist (sometimes), protectionist — all things that should appeal to blue-collar Perot-style independents. Instead, they favor Ryan overwhelmingly. I wonder if that’s an insight into the election writ large, with Trump well positioned on the issues but poisonous to swing voters due to his personal foibles. Ryan is a likable, soft-spoken, middle American guy, whatever his political faults. Indies might prefer him as a national leader for that reason alone — temperament. If so, that’s a bad omen for the GOP on Election Day.
When you look at the answers to this question in terms of different candidates’ voters rather than different parties’ voters, the results are even more lopsided:
Note the numbers among Trump supporters, as this question is sure to be re-polled in the next six months and we’ll need it for comparison to see how sentiment has evolved if in fact Trump does go on to lose. As for the rest, it stands to reason that anyone voting for Johnson or Stein would dislike Trump to some degree, having considered him for their vote and then ruled him out. Johnson’s coalition is an amalgam of anti-Trump conservatives, anti-Hillary liberals, and libertarians/conservatarians, which would explain the strong preference for Ryan, but I’m not sure what’s driving the strong dislike among Stein’s far-left supporters. Probably it’s a function of name recognition: Everyone knows who Trump is but Ryan, despite his 2012 VP run, is probably still mostly an unknown quantity politically among the population. He’s likely earning most of this support across the board purely as an “anybody but Trump” choice. Which, again, is a bad omen: If some of Johnson’s and Stein’s fans end up deciding to restrict themselves to choosing between the two major-party candidates, the lopsided preference for the guy who isn’t Trump in this question may suggest a tilt towards Clinton.
But maybe all of this is moot. If Trump is no longer in contention to be head of the party come December, Ryan might not be either. Read this (somewhat fanciful) piece at Fortune imagining what might happen if Republicans hold their majority in the House next month but lose a bunch of seats in the process. Rep. Mark Meadows is threatening to bring a motion to vacate the Speakership, which would require 218 votes; alternatively, Ryan could simply fail to draw 218 votes of support at January’s Speaker election. Given the likelihood of a narrower Republican majority, the conservative House Freedom Caucus could punish Ryan for his ambivalence towards Trump by refusing to vote for him en masse. That would deny him the 218 he needs (unless Democrats decide to support Ryan instead of Pelosi). The odds of that happening are low, though, when you realize that the party would be in disarray after an election loss and Trump, not Ryan, will get the lion’s share of the blame. House Republicans aren’t going to want to guillotine one of the few leaders they have left when the GOP’s desperate for some direction. Your best bet at getting Ryan out would be if he resigned in a “to hell with this” gesture of frustration. I don’t think he’d abandon the party like that, especially when he has a chance to become the consensus leader of it and the prime counterweight to Clinton and Schumer in Congress, but I wouldn’t blame him either.