Nothing happens in politics by accident. Every move has an angle. Some players are better than others. Paul Ryan and Donald Trump are two of the best players alive, but one is better than the other. We’ll see that tomorrow.
House Speaker Paul Ryan has set aside Thursday for meetings with his party’s nominee for President. Every nominee for president meets with the senior members of his party’s Congressional caucus, so there’s nothing odd about the meeting. What makes this nominee-speaker meeting different from all other nominee-speaker meetings is this: Ryan has not endorsed his party’s nominee.
I wrote previously that Ryan used his endorsement as leverage. Donald Trump loves negotiation, so he respects people who know what they’re doing. When Ryan said he’s not yet ready to endorse, he told Trump, “I know how to negotiate, and I’m ready.” Trump responded by saying he’s not ready to endorse the speaker’s agenda. That’s negotiation language for “I received your request to negotiate. My people will get with your people and something will be arranged.”
That “something” is a day of meetings.
Here’s what’s likely to happen:
- Ryan will tell Trump all the things that Trump must do to win Ryan’s endorsement
- Trump will say, “that’s not gonna happen, but here’s what I’ll do if you don’t endorse me”
- Ryan will repeat his demands, leaving off two or three
- Trump will say, “I’m wasting my time here. See you in Cleveland”
- As Trump gets up to leave, Ryan will ask to speak The Donald alone
- The lieutenants will trade concerned glances before leaving the room
- Alone now with Trump, Ryan will reveal his real desire–his actual single “reserve price“
- Trump will promise to think about it
- Ryan will say, “without that, no endorsement”
- Trump will say, “I guess that’s the way it is then”
- The two will call their lieutenants back in to draft a very friendly joint press release saying “Both the Speaker and Mr. Trump are committed to uniting the Republican Party to defeat Hillary Clinton in November”
At that point, Trump will have won. A joint statement promising to work together to defeat Clinton is as good as an endorsement to the voter’s mind. The House leaders who’ve said they’re not ready to endorse Trump will parrot the press release. They’ll also pose for photos with Donald Trump which they’ll email to their constituents, explaining how lucky their constituents are to be represented by someone who holds their own party’s nominee accountable while still looking great in a selfie with him.
Or it could go a completely different way, but it’ll end up with all the GOP leadership working to defeat the Democrats in the fall. Which is all anybody wants.