What if the health-care collapse saves Trump's presidency?

With the failure of the repeal-and-replace effort, Trump—despite his own best efforts—unwittingly rescued himself from the passage of a hugely unpopular bill that would have hurt his own voters most. In a broader sense, Congress’s fractiousness saved Trump from having to follow through on an impossible campaign promise to repeal Obamacare, replace it with a conservative alternative, and expand coverage. Looking forward, post-health-care tension threatens to drive a wedge between Trump and Paul Ryan’s agenda, which is in many ways anathema to the Trump coalition…

Although Ryan doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, a split with the speaker might be the best thing that could happen to Trump in political terms, freeing him up to pursue the deficit-bloating spending agenda he laid out during the campaign, rather than the far more austere and fiscally conservative one that Ryan desires. Say what you will about Trump losing the popular vote; his agenda still has more of a voter mandate than Ryan’s does. The tax reform that Ryan and Trump still say they will pursue is likely to be highly regressive, and if the failure of the AHCA makes it harder to push through a regressive tax plan, that too may be a case of Trump unwittingly dodging a bullet.

Rather than attack Ryan, Trump lashed out at the House Freedom Caucus on Twitter. The staunchly conservative faction has shown that it can withstand pressure from Ryan. Though it withstood Trump’s apparently clumsy last-minute charm offensive, a sustained attack from the White House might be one of the few things that could break it. (One member, Representative Ted Poe, has already left over the health-care failure.) And even if it doesn’t work, this gives Trump an excuse to reach out to Democratic lawmakers on future plans. He attacked them on Friday, but there’s already a growing sense that Republicans will have to reach across the aisle.