Donald Trump’s presumptive nomination is the very definition of a political rock and hard place for Republicans who preferred a more traditional and principled candidate. This dilemma looms largest for Paul Ryan, the highest ranking Republican in office, who has an election year fight of his own coming up.
Paul Ryan has finally come around, but it’s very clear that his support for Trump is contingent.
Ryan’s tepid non-endorsement yesterday in the Janesville Gazette (he only said he’d “vote” for Trump over Clinton…) was more manifesto than note of support. Importantly, it was full of conditions, the breaking of which sets Ryan free of any commitment to Trump. Simply put, Ryan is laying out the House’s road map for a Republican presidency, and his support of Trump is based squarely on Trump’s acquiescence to Ryan’s plan.
Ryan devoted much of his column to the House policy agenda, to be released in the coming weeks. It’s focused on the tax code, healthcare, separation of powers, national security, foreign policy, regulatory policy and welfare. He then said “to enact these ideas, we need a Republican president to sign them into law.” Ryan was clear that the house policy agenda “has been the main focus of [the] dialog” with Trump, and that after talking with Trump, Ryan feels “confident he would help us turn the ideas in this agenda into laws to help improve people’s lives.”
In short, if Trump doesn’t play ball, Ryan can publicly walk away saying Trump broke his commitment to the ideas, the policy, and Ryan himself.
Ryan is still between a rock and a hard place. But by imposing his plans on Trump and conditioning his support on Trump’s follow-through, Ryan has created both leverage and an exit strategy in one fell swoop.