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June 02, 2016

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Dude didn't even get a quid pro quo. *And* didn't tell the Trump camp beforehand.

Good point! Ryan is committing political malpractice, unless I'm missing something.

Was Ryan's decision driven by his primary election concerns?

No. He's going to win the primary easily.

I think Ryan's decision is driven by Ryan's concerns. He agreed to an interview with People Magazine earlier this week for the cover story -- provided they ask him nothing about Trump. They agreed.

And now they have a cover story about Ryan! just after this news breaks. And it carefully avoids any mention of Trump.

The timing is suggestive, no? Was Ryan's Hamlet dithering an act? It's known that Ryan will lie casually -- remember his marathon times, or his first speech at the Villages in 2012 -- and he will fabulate about policy, as a dozen Paul Krugman editorials will tell you.

But if this is more than coincidence, it makes him a very media savvy operator indeed.

But the mystery still is, why chain yourself to an anvil and not get anything out of it?

Let's think it through. Obvious questions:

(1) When would waiting to endorse start to hurt Ryan? Now? A month from now? The convention? The day Trump wins, if he does?

(2) How will Ryan's (remarkably tepid) endorsement hurt him after November if Trump loses?

If the answer to (2) is "not at all," then we have our answer right here.

A thought: French could really screw the GOP in Nevada and Utah if Romney goes all-in campaigning for him. No?

(2) it's not "not at all." Ryan's reputation has relied on favorable media, which portrays him as a principled, sensible wonk of the right.

I don't think, by November, he'll get any credit for being the last holdout.

Even though the electoral outcome has some uncertainty, this has all the hallmarks of being a legendarily shitty campaign, PR-wise, for a reputation based on the perception of sensibility and good ideas.

Let me think this one through.

World #1: Fat Crybaby wins. He will sign anything Ryan puts in front of him (outside trade and social insurance) because he does not care. If (when) the Crybaby Administration goes south, Ryan will be in a position to lead the impeachment effort. Sure, Ryan could screw that up in terms of his own reputation --- but nothing that happened during the campaign will matter.

Probability 20% of a Crybaby presidency. Further probability 25% that it ends in scandal and Ryan mishandles his end, going all Roman Hruska. (I love that name!) So 15% good (+1), 5% bad (−1).

World #2: Fat Crybaby loses. Ryan will, if he's smart, take the occasional high-minded and ineffectual potshot at Crybaby's rhetoric. Historical experience suggests that should be enough to innoculate him: consider not Roman Hruska but Ronald Reagan. The press and public will rapidly try to forget the Crybaby interlude. (I know I will!) Changes in the GOP will make that hard, but Ryan should be able to avoid bandwagoning with energized racist component.

I would like to think that Ryan would be damaged in World #2, but I don't see the mechanism. So call that neutral.

That gives an expected payoff around 75% × 20% × 1) + (25% × 20% × −1) = 0.15 − 0.05 = 0.10.

Not endorsing Fat Crybaby is bad if Fat Crybaby wins, good if Trump goes down in scandal, and slightly bad if Crybaby loses. Pulling numbers out of the air (but hey, what else can we do?) I'll say Donald Crybaby has a 75% of ending in catastrophe that makes Ryan look very good. How Ryan handles it will not matter, for he will not be in a position to mess things up, being on the record as a Fat Crybaby enemy. On the other hand, if Crybaby Donald loses, there will be no payoff from endorsing him. (I actually think there will be slightly negative one, as some elements will blame him for the loss.)

(75% × 20% × 1) + (25% × 20% × −1) = 0.15 − 0.05 = 0.10 expected payoff from not endorsing Fat Crybaby.

They're about the same! But note I've weighted the scales slightly towards opposition to the Fat Crybaby. Both risk aversion and a more realistic weighting would push towards "endorse."

I've dashed this off in (checks) 13 minutes, so it could be all wrong. But it puts some meat on my intuition that Ryan will (sadly) not be harmed by this decision.

Hm, this is what I've been thinking.

If Trump wins, Ryan is in a better position with his caucus because it's not him selling out conservative principles to cut a deal with President Obama or Clinton, but him working to apply pressure to members to pass Trump's agenda. So no watching over his shoulder.

However, it's very likely Democrats do exceptionally well in 2018 and it could put Ryan's own Speakership in danger.

But Ryan's probably viewing Trump's presidency as a low probability event. He's instead focused on the dynamics of Trump being defeated. If he hasn't done a good faith effort at uniting the party behind Trump, Ryan will have another strike against him from conservatives. Ryan can distance himself enough from Trump's rhetoric to pass off himself with the same Beltway media.

I continue to think that Ryan's greatest problem doesn't come from how he manages Trump, but how he manages his own caucus.

The added factor is that in the Trump wins timeline Ryan is very, very unlikely to be a Presidential candidate until 2024, so he would shift from "Become President" to "Enact laws." Getting on Trump's good side matters a lot for the latter.

Ryan would be 54 in 2024! He could have a lifetime's worth of achievements as Speaker under President Trump, see the party go with someone else during the mid to late 2020s, and still come back as the elder statesman to save the party in 2032 at only 62! Or by then he could be playing golf!

It really depends on how much one thinks Trump will stink -- not lose, mind; it's possible that he could win, and still smell like that mysteriously empty subway car native New Yorkers instinctively know not to enter -- and how much that stink will stick to Ryan.

We have reasonably good examples where the stink did stick: Ford's pardon of Nixon; almost everything associated with George W. Bush; and to a lesser degree, McCain's nomination of Palin. My gut sense is that Trump makes Nixon and W and Palin look like a bouquet of roses.

By painting himself as the last incorruptible man, who then just sort of fell over for Trump, Ryan has made himself a much less plausible figure of future interest. There are plenty of Republicans who are criticizing Trump and still proclaim they're going to vote for him anyway. Ryan is now one of them.

Combined with a likely revolt by his own caucus -- we're probably reading the same reports, Logan -- well, saying Ryan will revert to the mean of recent Republican Speakers of the House is a little harsh, considering. But I can't see how this will *favor* him?

Now that Trump is actually starting to feel some heat and reacting like he's about to stroke out, I see some Democrats worrying that he might actually implode before the convention and be replaced by someone more electable.

But now, there's that stink to consider. All those Republicans who have already fallen in line and endorsed Trump--that's not something you can easily walk back. In that scenario the stink enters its acute phase early. What does Ryan do about it if it's him? I think he'd be crushed, especially with the Trump voters knowing their chance got snatched away from them.


I have trouble imagining that the GOP will replace Fat Crybaby anytime soon.

Many of Fat Crybaby's "endorsements" are weasel-worded and can be walked back: Paul Ryan's seems carefully constructed in that regard. The Speaker probably regrets the timing, but I agree with Logan that he had few other options.

I think perception is important. Did Graham endorse Trump at his fundraiser, or the Republican Party and its presidential nominee? That is, the office, not the man?

We don't think there's a distinction with a difference, and neither does the media. And so Graham now has the taint that he studiously tried to avoid, even though he tried walking it back.

My guess (and it is only a guess) is the same thing will happen to Ryan.

"When I said I would support Trump as the party's nominee, I did not realize he would behave in as extreme or bigoted a matter as [whatever outrage finally sunk him]". Would that be plausible to anybody at this point?

Let's not have a victory party just yet, Matt. There has been a lot of see-sawing between FAT CRYBABY IS DOOMED! and OHMIGOD AMERICA IS DOOMED! in the last month or so.

My real point is, I think it's extremely unlikely that the party will drop Trump now; they're stuck with him. The general election race is close nationally and a lot of things could happen to put Trump over the top.

But at this point I'm at least satisfied that Hillary Clinton is not a paper tiger, and she seems to know how to attack Trump and is not letting the remaining opposition from Bernie Sanders rattle her. I think some of the lack of enthusiasm for her among liberals just came from worrying that she might play like candidate Kerry, Gore or Dukakis, the bloodless wonk who can't throw a punch.

And now I am wondering if the late holdouts were suckered by the natural tightening of the race after Trump became the presumptive nominee. Momentum trading, as it were.

Carlos, that's been my thought as well. That bounce scared a lot of people on the Democratic side; it makes sense that it would have done something similar on the Republican one.

Not to imply that the Republican reaciton was the obverse of the Democratic one: most of the late endorsements have seemed grudging.

Governor Sandoval being an odd exception. Oh, the logic is clear: Trump is ahead, Sandoval is a force of nature in NV, Sandoval needs Trump to frogleap over the party because of his pro-choice stance. But it said shocking things about the man's character, simply shocking.

My regard for him has plummeted as my regard for Nikki Haley has grown. This is a weird time.

As far as I can tell, there's little evidence that the bounce is even over. One or two national polls, when there was a lot of spread in these numbers to begin with. It may well be that his latest series of meltdowns don't even hurt him much; most people still aren't paying much attention yet.

PPP's latest has Trump +1 in Florida.

...These Republicans who are currently backpedaling on Trump may end up backpedaling on the backpedaling, then backpedaling on that, and so on ad infinitum as his poll numbers jag up and down.

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