Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) at the Iowa GOP Lincoln Dinner at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Cedar Rapids, Iowa April 11, 2014.
Stephen Mally/The Gazette-KCRG TV9/Reuters

With the ‘shackles’ off, Trump takes aim at Paul Ryan

Updated
Donald Trump, as a presidential candidate, has made quite an impression on the public – some are more impressed than others – but apparently we’ve been watching a restrained version of Trump’s persona, which he no longer has any use for.

“It is so nice that the shackles have been taken off me,” the Republican presidential nominee declared a couple of hours ago, “and I can now fight for America the way I want to.”

Yes, effective this morning, no more Mr. Nice Demagogue. Donald J. Trump will be “shackled” no more. He has a phone and a Twitter account, and he intends to put them to use like never before.

And what’s on the mind of this unshackled GOP candidate? Evidently, Trump is eager to take a few shots at House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who announced yesterday he won’t defend or campaign with his party’s presidential nominee through Election Day. Trump, initiating a tweetstorm of sorts, responded this morning:
“Despite winning the second debate in a landslide (every poll), it is hard to do well when Paul Ryan and others give zero support!”
Um, a couple of things. Fist, every independent, scientific poll showed Trump losing, not winning, the second debate. Second, Trump spent months insisting he’d rely on the backing of rank-and-file voters and could thrive without the backing of the establishment and GOP leaders. What changed his mind?

Trump added soon after:
“Our very weak and ineffective leader, Paul Ryan, had a bad conference call where his members went wild at his disloyalty.”
Trump complained about Republicans’ failure to be “loyal” to him over and over again.

We talked this morning about the Republican Party’s brewing civil war, and with the GOP’s presidential nominee taking direct aim at the GOP’s highest-ranking elected official – four weeks before Election Day – this conflict is clearly getting worse.

There are plenty of angles to all of this, but as the story continues to play out, let’s not forget that Trump is clearly creating excuses for failure. This morning’s message wasn’t subtle: with “zero support” from party leaders on Capitol Hill, it’s “hard to do well.”

That’s not, strictly speaking, true. Trump thrived in the Republican primaries with almost no institutional backing, and as of a few weeks ago, despite GOP leaders’ skepticism, he’d nearly pulled even with Hillary Clinton in national polling.

In other words, if/when Trump loses, the defeat will be his fault, even as he begins laying the groundwork now to assign blame to Paul Ryan and others. This, in turn, will ensure that the civil war continues, with recriminations extending well beyond November.

On a related note, there’s never been a more important time to appreciate just how little loyalty Trump has towards the Republican Party as an institution. He has no real history with the party, no real future with the GOP, and no dependence on the party for any kind of support after Election Day (assuming he loses). Trump is focused entirely on Trump – which creates a dynamic in which his aides talk openly about undermining down-ballot Republican candidates, and Trump himself throws off his “shackles” and goes after his party’s House Speaker publicly.

Trump is creating an intra-party crisis, and if it does lasting harm to Republicans, he doesn’t care since he has no debts, commitments, or loyalties to the GOP itself.

This will get worse for the party before it gets better.



Donald Trump, Paul Ryan and Republican Party

With the 'shackles' off, Trump takes aim at Paul Ryan

Updated