Will Trump’s Endorsement of Ryan Spur a Circling of the GOP Wagons?
In any other election year, the mutual endorsement of “down ballot” candidates and the nominee at the top of the ticket would be a given, with joint appearances, and frequent references working their way into speeches.
But this is no ordinary election year, and beginning with 17 candidates, including senators, governors, the heir to a presidential dynasty, as well as a black neurosurgeon, a businesswoman, and billionaire with no previous political experience, the Republicans have had no shortage of drama.
Even when Donald Trump began knocking out the competition with unconventional and sometimes outrageous tactics that didn’t shy away from the type of name calling better suited to a school playground, establishment Republicans, so-called “Republicans in name only” or “RINOs” refused to believe that he would emerge as the party’s choice.
Mitt Romney, the 2012 candidate, and other powerful Republicans mounted an effort to derail the “Trump Train,” but even when the momentum carried the brash outsider to presumptive nominee status, Romney’s running mate and current Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (WI) withheld endorsement, saying he “just wasn’t there, yet.”
Early this week, Trump returned the insult, repeating the quote verbatim when asked if he was endorsing the Speaker in his re-election race in Wisconsin.
Trump even defiantly said he was willing to “go it alone” without the endorsement of any of the party powers alarming many traditional Republicans, but cementing his status as the ultimate outsider to others.
But after a week when Trump seemed unable to avoid throwing gasoline on grassfires – some set by Democrats and others the result of his inexperience in running a political campaign, sagging poll numbers fueled rumors of a party “intervention”
Instead, Trump scheduled an appearance in Ryan’s home district where, invoking the words and philosophy of Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment, “Thou shalt not speak badly of a fellow Republican,” he endorsed the Speaker.
Quoting Reagan, Trump said, “My 80 percent friend is not my 20 percent enemy” and in a surprise move, also endorsed Sen. John McCain (AZ), who had been on the receiving end of Trump’s barbed tongue, and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (NH) in their re-election races.
Whether Trump’s move will help unify the party as the race enters the final 90 days remains to be seen, but it should tamp down some of the drama that has diverted attention from the Republican’s shared goal of defeating Democrat Hillary Clinton on November 8th.