Paul Ryan Won’t Campaign For Donald Trump
Paul Ryan is abandoning the Trump campaign.
Paul Ryan has told his fellow House Republicans that he will not spend the remainder of the time between now and Election Day campaigning for, or otherwise promoting the candidacy of, Donald Trump and will instead focus on holding on to the GOP majority in the House:
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan dealt a hammer blow to Donald J. Trump’s presidential candidacy Monday, dashing any remaining semblance of party unity and inviting fierce backlash from his own caucus by announcing that he would no longer defend Mr. Trump’s candidacy.
Mr. Ryan’s stance drew an immediate rebuke from Mr. Trump, who tweeted that Mr. Ryan should focus on governing instead of feuding with him.
But Mr. Ryan informed Republican lawmakers on a morning conference call that he would never again campaign alongside Mr. Trump, and would dedicate himself instead to defending the party’s majority in Congress, according to five lawmakers who participated in the call and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Effectively conceding defeat for his party in the presidential race, Mr. Ryan said his most urgent task was ensuring that Hillary Clinton did not enter the White House with Democratic control of the House and Senate, two lawmakers said.
The reaction from hard-liners was swift and angry: Over the course of an hour, a stream of conservative lawmakers spoke up to urge their colleagues not to give up on Mr. Trump, and chided Mr. Ryan for surrendering prematurely in the presidential race.
One member, Representative Dana Rohrabacher of California, attacked Republicans stepping away from Mr. Trump as “cowards,” three lawmakers said. Another, Representative Trent Franks of Arizona, used graphic language to describe abortion and said allowing Mrs. Clinton into the White House would end with fetuses being destroyed “limb from limb.”
In an effort to quiet the uproar, Mr. Ryan chimed back in after about 45 minutes to assure members that he was not withdrawing his endorsement of Mr. Trump, but rather doing what he considered to be in the best interests of the House.
Mr. Trump appeared indifferent to the distinction, lashing back at Mr. Ryan with a belittling message on Twitter.
“Paul Ryan should spend more time on balancing the budget, jobs and illegal immigration and not waste his time on fighting Republican nominee,” Mr. Trump tweeted.
AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Mr. Ryan, confirmed that his sole priority for the remainder of the election would be defending congressional Republicans.
“The speaker is going to spend the next month focused entirely on protecting our congressional majorities,” Ms. Strong said.
Ms. Strong said there was “no update” regarding Mr. Ryan’s endorsement of Mr. Trump.
The open breach between Mr. Ryan and Mr. Trump concluded five months in which the two men have alternated between friction and courtship, eventually forging an uneasy working relationship – only to see it collapse in the final weeks of the race.
The consequences for both men are enormous: Mr. Ryan and other Republican leaders fear that Mr. Trump’s flagging campaign could unwind their majorities in the House and Senate, while Mr. Trump can ill afford rejection from more prominent Republicans.
Mr. Trump’s candidacy was already in a dire condition before Mr. Ryan’s announcement: A poll published Monday by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal found him trailing Mrs. Clinton by a wide margin and drawing less than 40 percent of the vote. The survey was taken before Sunday night’s debate.
Mr. Ryan’s huddle with House Republicans was the first of multiple war councils in Washington on Monday, as Republicans weighed how to handle a nominee whose campaign has appeared to unravel in recent days.
The Republican National Committee, which has been fiercely loyal to Mr. Trump, was to hold a conference call with its members later in the afternoon. In contrast to the mounting defections from Mr. Trump’s campaign among Republican elected officials, the party chairman, Reince Priebus, has remained close to Mr. Trump and flew with him to the debate in St. Louis over the weekend.
Ryan’s decision is notable for several reasons, and has the potential to have a severe impact on Trump’s campaign going forward. First of all, his decision is essentially a license for other members of the House Republican Caucus to do the same thing if they believe it to be in their own self-interest. At this point, it’s unclear exactly how many Members of Congress might follow in Ryan’s footsteps, though. Ultimately, it will depend largely on whether abandoning their party’s nominee is something that would play well in their own Districts or otherwise help in their re-election efforts and whether that benefit outweighs any blow back they may receive from Trump supporters at this late point in the General Election cycle. Additionally, Ryan’s move could influence other top level Republicans as they continue to decide how to react to the revelations about Trump’s comments to Billy Bush and other revelations about the candidate that are likely to come out over the next twenty-nine days. The Republican National Committee, for example, is scheduled to hold a conference call later today and while there’s been no comment about the subject of the call it’s likely that the future of Trump’s campaign, and the parallel campaigns to maintain control of the House, Senate, and state governments will be a prominent subject of discussion. Finally, the fact that Ryan made this announcement after last night’s debate, which some Republicans have attempted to spin in a positive light for Trump, is unlikely to stem the tide of Republican defections from a campaign that seems to be dying on the vine. The latest group of national polls released this afternoon, for example, show Clinton increased her lead in a national two-way match-up to 5.8 points and 5.1 points in a four-way race that includes Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, effectively putting her back where she was seven weeks ago in the wake of the party conventions.
No doubt, Ryan’s move increases the likelihood that the Republican Party will find itself in the midst of a civil war no matter what happens on November 8th, If Trump loses the Presidential race, ,which seems to be the likely result at this point, his supporters and the conservatives who have lined up behind him will blame Ryan and other Republican leaders as well as the “Never Trump” crowd inside the party that has largely stayed true to the promise not to support Trump even if it means a victory by Hillary Clinton. This is likely to only reinforce the anti-establishment views of those groups and make them more likely to use whatever remaining political power they have to block any chance of Congress actually accomplishing anything in the new term. Party insiders, meanwhile, will blame Trump and his supporters for forcing the nomination of someone like Trump when it was clear from the start that his appeal outside the base of the GOP would be limited at best. That war will only intensify if Republicans ending up losing significantly in down ballot races for the Senate, House, Governorships, and state legislatures. It’s a conflict that will likely make it hard to unify the party for the 2018 midterms and, possibly, even the 2020 Presidential race and beyond. Even if Trump somehow manages to win this race against all the odds, these defections and the infighting will likely evolve into constant fights between the White House and a Republican Congress that will make accomplishing anything next to impossible, and make it more likely that Trump will chose to follow in Obama’s footsteps and govern by executive action with very little oversight by Congress.
It’s far too late at this point, of course, but I’m sure many Republicans are wishing they’d nominated someone else at this point.