This is supposed to be the point at which the dominoes start falling. Republican officials and Capitol Hill leaders have made little effort to hide their discomfort with Donald Trump’s candidacy, but now that he’s the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, the party simply doesn’t have much of a choice. Republican voters have spoken; Trump has no more intra-party rivals.
With this in mind, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) issued a tepid written statement last night, pledging support for Trump, despite having said just a few weeks ago that he was “optimistic” about a second ballot at the Republican National Convention that might derail Trump.
Would McConnell’s House counterpart follow suit? Not yet. NBC News reports that House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said this afternoon that he’s just “not ready” to throw his backing to Trump.
“I’m just not ready to do that at this point,” he said of publicly backing Trump. “I’m not there right now.”Ryan said in an interview with CNN that he “hopes” to eventually feel ready to back Trump. “I think what is required is that we unify this party. And I think the bulk of the burden on unifying the party will have to come from our presumptive nominee.” Ryan added that Trump needs to “do more to unify this party, to bring all wings of the Republican Party together.”
This doesn’t come as too big of a surprise given the fact that the House Speaker has repeatedly felt the need to publicly denounce Trump’s more ridiculous antics.
What is curious about this is that Ryan, for months, has said he intends to back the Republican nominee – even if it’s Trump.
Revisiting our coverage from a couple of months ago, Ryan’s Trump hostility first emerged when the presidential hopeful hedged on denouncing support from white supremacists. “Today I want to be very clear about something, if a person wants to be the nominee of the Republican Party, there can be no evasion and no games, they must reject any group or cause that is built on bigotry,” the Speaker said at the time. “This party does not prey on people’s prejudices.”
And if the party’s presidential nominee does prey on people’s prejudices? Well, so be it – Ryan also said he’d support the Republican candidate no matter what.
Similarly, following unrest at several Trump rallies, the House Speaker told reporters this morning that he’s concerned about liberals disrupting political events, but Ryan added, “All candidates have an obligation to do what they can do to try and provide an atmosphere of harmony, to reduce the violence, to not incite violence and to make sure that we are appealing to people on their best ideals.”
And if the Republican candidate ignores that obligation? No matter – Ryan’s said he’s still going to vote for him.
Over and over again, the Speaker kept admonishing Trump. And over and over again, each condemnation came with the caveat that Ryan would support his party’s nominee anyway.
So, did the Speaker change his mind? Is he having a crisis of conscience? Or is the Wisconsin congressman hoping to secure some concessions from Trump in exchange for an endorsement? Or perhaps this has something to do with 2020 considerations?
Watch this space.