One can easily surmise that House Speaker Paul Ryan never wanted Donald Trump to be the president of the United States. For the sake of political expediency – and last year’s expulsion of John Boehner fresh in his mind – he decided to make a nominal show of support, but he criticized Trump more often than he praised him. And when he realized this week that the poll numbers were swinging the wrong way, he chose to abandon ship altogether, telling Republicans on Monday that he would no longer defend Trump.
Many in the House did not take the news well, according to a report from CNN. According to reporter Manu Raju, Ryan “has angered other Republicans who have expressed their concerns with Ryan’s position on a private conversation call earlier this week.”
In theory, if that short-term displeasure turns into a long-term grievance, Ryan’s place as Speaker could be in jeopardy.
“If the House majority does stay Republican, Ryan needs 218 votes to stay on the House floor,” Raju reported. “He can only afford a handful of defections.”
As for Trump himself, he has essentially declared open war on the GOP leadership, starting with Ryan. In Ocala, FL on Wednesday, Trump suggested that Ryan’s allegiances should be thrown into question.
“There’s a whole deal going on there, you know,” Trump said. “There’s a whole deal going on, we’ll figure it out. I always figure things out. But there’s a whole sinister deal going on.”
But even among Republican lawmakers who support Trump, there is a consensus that he should be focusing his attacks on his opponent rather than the Speaker of the House.
“This time Ryan got support from these Republicans who actually back Donald Trump,” Raju said. “On that private conference call, Kellyanne Conway was urged by several House Republicans to tell Trump to not focus on Paul Ryan and instead train his fire on Hillary Clinton. These Republican lawmakers, I am told, think this intra-party fight has been a major distraction.”
When you step back and look at this from afar, you have to wonder if it could have ended any other way. The Trump phenomenon was at right angles with the Republican establishment in the primaries, and it seems it will finish the same way. Trump never made for a good little GOP soldier, anyway. That’s not what his campaign was ever about.
Win or lose, he’s going to finish things up his way.
And establishment Republicans standing in the way might wish they’d listened to their voters instead of the media.