Or he could do this third thing he's doing, which is somewhere in between the two and doesn't impress Trump supporters or Trump foes.
Donald Trump and Paul Ryan on Thursday released a statement meant to signal their unity on Thursday following a two-hour meeting on Capitol Hill....I'm not sure how important it is to Trump if Ryan backs him. I don't agree with Matt Bai very often, but in this case I think he has a point::
“We will be having additional discussions, but remain confident there’s a great opportunity to unify our party and win this fall, and we are totally committed to working together to achieve that goal,” the joint statement said.
It fell short of an endorsement of Trump by Ryan, but the Speaker in a press conference after the meeting said he was "very encouraged" by what he had heard from Trump, who described as a warm and generous person.
... Trump has a problem if he somehow becomes the traditional nominee of a unified Republican Party. He can’t win that way.Bai argues that Trump is the nominee, so he's going to get organizational support and cash from the GOP no matter what. So where's the downside if he has enemies (especially ineffectual ones) in the party?
The demographic math, as you’ve probably heard, is bad and getting worse for Republican candidates to begin with....
If, on the other hand [the fall campaign is] about a renegade reformer against the establishment of both parties in Washington, he might have a chance to change the quadrennial math altogether.
And this is why Trump should welcome and even encourage the resistance of Ryan and the others, no matter what the old-timers tell him. He’s already hijacked the Republican minivan, and he can drive it anywhere he wants. His best shot is to run as close to an independent campaign as he can.
Trump's backers certainly don't want him to capitulate in any way. Becoming the tool of the Establishment is probably what destroyed Ted Cruz's campaign, which was building a bit of momentum for a while there. And that's not Trump's style. He personally enjoys thinking of himself as the alpha dog, and he believes that being the alpha dog is what got him here. So he's going to keep fighting with establishmentarians. (Maybe the recent uptick in Tump's polls is partly Republican voters unifying around him simply because he's the nominee and partly an uptick in approval for him among those voters because he's battling more visibly with Romney, Ryan, and the rest of the resisters in the GOP Establishment.)
There's something almost ... Jeb-like about Ryan's resistance to Trump. He thinks this tweet, posted shortly after his Trump meeting, is a sick burn, but it isn't:
My most important meeting of the day. pic.twitter.com/pnhIRkLPq6— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) May 12, 2016
It's toothless because, as an insult, it rolls off Trump's back. Trump's posture is that he doesn't care. He derives a benefit from seeming to be at loggerheads with the Establishment, and he'd derive benefit if the Establishment seemed to capitulate. (Quite a bit of it already has.) The only way he loses is if he seems to be giving in. I don't think he'll do that. (Yes, I've seen it argued that he said the Muslim ban was "just a suggestion" as an act of capitulation to the party, but I strongly suspect he'll reverse himself on that reversal soon, possibly within hours.)
As The New York Times notes, Ryan thinks he's fighting for conservative principles:
Mr. Ryan’s immediate goals, his advisers say, are to advance his agenda and protect the Republican majority in the House. Many of those goals involve policy that is sharply different from Mr. Trump’s brand of hard-edged nationalism.But as one commenter at Free Republic put it:
Mr. Ryan’s desire to overhaul the immigration system, rein in the nation’s entitlement programs, promote vigorous free trade and push other aspects of traditional conservatism have been as welcome to Republican voters this year as carpenter ants at a home inspection.
Curious what it is Ryan thinks he has done or what positions he has that are conservative. He’s been in DC for 17 years and has nothing to show that would make a case that he is conservative.This has been the election that's made a lot of people ask: What is conservatism anyway? I think the answer is: Conservatism is whatever kicks the asses, or seems capable of kicking the asses, of angry white voters' enemies. Trump seems like the toughest tough guy right now, and he's the one threatening Muslims and Mexicans and Hillary Clinton, so whatever he stands for is conservatism.
If Ryan seemed to have some sort of power to hurt the enemies of conservatism -- who could include Trump, according to a certain number of conservatives -- he might be strengthening his position for the future. But for now he just looks the weak horse to GOP voters. They don't think he's strong enough to hurt Trump. He'll either seem to them like a capitulator (if he mends fences with Trump) or a powerless holdout. And no, assuming Tump loses, Ryan won't be the 2020 front-runner. The front-runner will be someone (Trump-like or not) who seems capable of inflicting pain. That's not going to be Ryan.