Trump v. Ryan: A possible truce in the offing
The war of words between Donald Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan has slackened in recent days as the two prepare to meet on Thursday to discuss GOP unity.
All week long, Ryan has been edging away from his non-endorsement of Trump. He acknowledged that he would serve as convention chairman only at the pleasure of Trump, signaling he accepts Trump as the leader of the party. For his part, Trump now says that he'd love to have Ryan chair the convention.
Donald Trump said he would "love" for House Speaker Paul Ryan to remain as chairman of the Republican National Convention this summer in Cleveland.
"I'd love frankly for him to stay and be chairman," Trump said during an interview with Fox's Bill O'Reilly on Tuesday night.
Trump and Ryan are scheduled to meet Thursday to try and squash tensions that broke into public view last week when the House speaker said he was not ready to endorse the presumptive GOP nominee. In response, Trump then said he was "not ready to support Speaker Ryan's agenda."
Ryan's dilemma could best be summed up as damned if he does and damned if he doesn't endorse the nominee:
So here’s the House speaker’s play, according to multiple people in Ryan’s inner circle: he wants Trump to understand where he is coming from. Ryan wants to try to steer the party’s national political dialogue — as embodied by Trump's barbed rhetoric — in a better direction. He wants an open line of communication between his operation and Trump’s. He isn’t going to try to extract policy concessions from Trump — he understands they are unlikely to ever agree on trade or immigration — but he wants some recognition that Ryan has 247 members of the House that need to be re-elected, and they can’t do so while wincing through the general election in November.
It might work, it might not. Ryan could endorse Trump at some point — but there are no guarantees. His posture: at least I tried to make things work.
One thing is for certain: Ryan is almost certainly not going to endorse Trump after their big meeting on Thursday — he’s likely to say that the 9 a.m. confab at the Republican National Committee’s offices was just the beginning of the conversation. Might he endorse Trump at some point? Sure, according to sources in his inner circle, but it’s unlikely to ever be a full embrace. They simply disagree on too much with too much at stake. Ryan will focus on keeping his House majority intact, while Trump focuses on defeating Hillary Clinton.
Ryan will endorse Trump or step down as speaker. He may try to finesse it by appearing to be reluctant to offer his support. But even that probably won't be enough. There is a reckoning coming for establishment politicians, and they either get on board the Trump train with both feet or are kicked off the platform.