Speaker of the House Paul Ryan isn’t ready to endorse Donald Trump. The GOP’s presumptive nominee says he’s not ready to support Ryan’s agenda. The two are clearly at odds, but a scheduled meeting next week is anticipated as being the end of the feud and the beginning of unity within the party against presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Then again, it might mark the beginning of a true splintering of the party. All will be determined after they meet, so let’s go over the scenarios before discussing why this is a catch-22 for both men.
They Come Out Hand-in-Hand
In this scenario, one of two things happened. The first is that Trump was able to put Ryan’s concerns at ease and demonstrate his malleability to fit in with both the Republican Establishment as well as a Congress that is fearful of losing some of its Republican members due to a backlash against Trump in November. On the surface, this is unlikely, but we should never underestimate what Trump is able to do behind closed doors. Ryan is smart enough to see through a sales pitch, but he’s also ambitious enough to see opportunities behind Trump’s presentation.
The second scenario is that this whole thing is a charade to make a Ryan endorsement both credible and powerful. If they come out hugging and kissing, Ryan will be able to say that he was a skeptic like millions of other Republicans but that he now believes Trump will defeat Clinton and preserve the sanctity of the Republican party. It helps Ryan because he would be doing so with his eyes open rather than the blindness demonstrated by so many others who have accepted Trump as anyone other than Hillary. It helps Trump immensely as he tries to mend the gap he built with voters, particularly conservatives. In fact, this scenario would be more potent than had Ryan come out immediately backing Trump/
They Agree to Disagree
Ryan can come out supporting Trump with the same lukewarm embrace based solely on his opponent that many have adopted. This is the scenario that would almost certainly signal Ryan’s desire to run against President Clinton in 2020.
They Separate Even Further
Of the three scenarios, this is the one that would be most likely if there’s no ulterior motives at work. Trump goes in to convince Ryan. Even at risk of hurting his own standing within the party (especially if Trump wins the general election) he grows more strongly opposed to Trump and even declares that he will back Trump but only as the lesser of two evils.
If this happens, we can know that there is no duplicity involved. Ryan has real concerns. Trump was not able to abate them. Ryan will speak out during the campaign about any policy proposals that Trump declares that go against the Republican platform. In this scenario, I would gain an immense level of respect for Ryan, a moderate that I’ve been critical towards since his rise to prominence in 2011. I still won’t agree with most of his actions, but at least we’ll know he holds values over ambition, America over the party.
When the dust settles from their meeting, we’ll have a much clearer picture of who is on whose side and how this race is going to unfold during and after the Republican National Convention. If I’m picking the most likely scenario, it’s that the come out of the meeting with Ryan endorsing Trump.