Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is refusing to back House Speaker Paul D. Ryan in his upcoming primary election, saying in an interview Tuesday that he is “not quite there yet” in endorsing his party’s top-ranking elected official.
Trump also said he was not supporting Sen. John McCain in his primary in Arizona, and he singled out Sen. Kelly Ayotte as a weak and disloyal leader in New Hampshire, a state whose presidential primary Trump won handily.
For those keeping track, this is 5th consecutive day post-DNC that GOP presidential nominee has fought everyone but the Democratic nominee.— Robert A George (@RobGeorge) August 2, 2016
It's a terrible way to run a general election campaign -- but it's a nasty attack on Trump's Republican enemies. As a number of commentators have pointed out, Trump has these folks over a barrel. Jonathan Chait writes:
From where the nominee sits, he commands the loyalty of most Republican voters, if not their political or intellectual elite, and thus any Republican who crosses Trump also crosses most of his own base. In the wake of his showdown with the nominee in Cleveland, Ted Cruz saw his polling collapse and even donors desert him. Trump clearly believes that Ryan, Ayotte, and McCain are endorsing Trump because they need to do so for their own viability.Meanwhile, as Jim Newell writes, President Obama is making it next to impossible for Trump-loathing Republicans to repudiate him:
“The question they have to ask themselves,” President Obama said at a press conference, “is: If you are repeatedly having to say in very strong terms that what he has said is unacceptable, why are you still endorsing him?”And even if they get up the courage to dump Trump, it looks self-serving, as Dylan Matthews notes:
... What he has done ... will even further discourage those already-squeezed GOP leaders or politicians up for re-election from reneging on their backing of Trump. If they do so now, it will look like they’re taking instructions from the malicious Obama.
Un-endorsing would be a tad awkward -- "I could support Trump when he was attacking the families of fallen heroes, but not after he personally slighted me" ...This is delicious. I'm enjoying it. I'm optimistic again about the presidential race (yes, me!), and it's delightful to watch Ryan, McCain, and Ayotte sweat.
But I'm sticking with the belief that the slate will be wiped clean for the GOP after Trump leaves electoral politics and goes back to his gold-plated life. I keep reading that this is a moment in history that's testing the honor of Republicans -- that they'll be asked where they stood on Trump, and be judged on their answers -- but I don't buy it.
The political mainstream doesn't want the GOP to die. The political mainstream still likes Ryan and McCain and Ayotte (and Pence and even Christie, along with all the rest of the Republicans who can't say no to Trump). The friction with Trump will make it easy for journalists and pundits to say that these folks were never really Trumpers and thus shouldn't have his sins hung around their necks. It should be the other way around -- you cynically endorse a monster, you share the blame when he does monstrous things. But the insiders won't look at the morality of it -- they'll look at the power relationships and say that Trump put them in a terrible position, poor dears, so they had no choice.
It's being argued that GOP voters will blame reluctant Republican establishmentarians for a Trump defeat.
@nomoremister Afraid not Steve. All those Trump voters in primaries are not going to blame Hillary will blame "back stabbing" GOP Leaders.— ernest lamonica (@ErnestLamonica) August 2, 2016
I think they'll get some of the blame -- but Trump and his surrogates, as I've been telling you, are leading base voters to believe that everyone is trying to steal the election from Trump: the media, the evil Clintons, big-city Democratic machines. Hell, the Trumpers are even saying the tech industry is in on the steal:
I'm getting MANY complaints tech companies like Google & Apple are stopping emails for Trump...or changing news 2 anti-Trump only stories.— Wayne Allyn Root (@WayneRoot) August 2, 2016
This is massive story of corporate fraud, corruption, censorship & brainwashing 2 stop Trump from tech cos. I have PROOF massive scandal.— Wayne Allyn Root (@WayneRoot) August 2, 2016
If Apple & Google committing fraud, censorship, brainwashing on their own customers 2 stop @realDonaldTrump then all tech companies doing it— Wayne Allyn Root (@WayneRoot) August 2, 2016
So blame will be spread around. By 2018, all you'll have to be is a Hillary-hater to get GOP votes.
Trump is running an incompetent, id-driven campaign. It looks as if it might end in a spectacular faceplant. If so, I'm going to savor that. The death of the GOP? I don't think we're going to get that lucky.