Why Paul Ryan is becoming the counter-Trump

Ry­an has avoided dir­ect con­flict with Trump, apart from con­demning the bil­lion­aire’s pro­pos­al to tem­por­ar­ily bar Muslims from en­ter­ing the U.S. But with Jeb Bush fal­ter­ing in the pres­id­en­tial race, and Marco Ru­bio mov­ing to­ward a dark­er mes­sage, Ry­an emerged from Sat­urday’s for­um as the na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­an lead­er of­fer­ing the sun­ni­est con­trast to Trump’s bel­li­ger­ent vis­ion of the party’s fu­ture.

While Trump presents a brist­ling and in­su­lar na­tion­al­ism tar­geted squarely at the anxi­et­ies of whites who feel most eco­nom­ic­ally mar­gin­al­ized and cul­tur­ally ec­lipsed, Ry­an on Sat­urday ar­gued for an in­clus­ive con­ser­vat­ism that widens the GOP co­ali­tion with re­sponses to the chal­lenges fa­cing all com­munit­ies.

“This is a struggle for the soul of … the party,” says Ar­thur Brooks, the poly­math pres­id­ent of the con­ser­vat­ive Amer­ic­an En­ter­prise In­sti­tute and a Ry­an ally. (That con­flict be­came even more vivid after South Car­o­lina Gov. Nikki Haley, who was in­vited partly by Ry­an, used her re­sponse to Pres­id­ent Obama’s State of the Uni­on this week to poin­tedly re­buke Trump.)…

Trump’s suc­cess un­der­scores the ex­tent to which the top pri­or­ity for many Re­pub­lic­an voters is now fun­da­ment­ally neg­at­ive: stop­ping a Demo­crat­ic agenda that they be­lieve is com­bin­ing with demo­graph­ic change to ir­re­vers­ibly change the coun­try. (“Demo­crats are just buy­ing votes and we are headed to­ward so­cial­ism,” one man back­ing Trump told me.) As GOP con­sult­ant Alex Cas­tel­lanos notes, Trump has soared partly be­cause he is “ant­ag­on­iz­ing every ad­versary of the Re­pub­lic­an base. And in do­ing that, he’s ce­men­ted him­self as the lead­er of our quest.”