As reported by CNN, the political spat involving Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan finally seemed to be resolved yesterday when Trump endorsed Ryan. For several days, Trump had strongly resisted calls to endorse Paul Ryan in his current reelection campaign in Wisconsin. When Trump tacitly endorsed Ryan’s opponent, this made things even more tense. Along with other controversial statements and actions by Trump, this decision by Trump caused a good deal of anger in the party. The question now is whether the Republican Party can still work with Trump to win back the White House. Recent polls suggest this will be an extremely difficult – if not impossible – uphill battle.
The primary reason Trump has not endorsed Ryan long before now was his reaction to Ryan’s own reluctance to support Trump. Trump’s history in politics and business suggests he takes such slights personally and has great difficulty letting go of grudges. In fact – since Trump refused to endorse the Speaker –Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence endorsed Ryan days ago in an attempt to smooth over troubled political waters.
After Trump’s victory in the Republican primaries, higher-ups in the Republican Party made a number of attempts to get Trump and Ryan on the same page and working together for the good of the party. But when it came down to Ryan actually endorsing Trump, the Speaker at one point suggested he was, “not there yet.”
Many of Trump’s ideas and proposals – such as is suggested halt to Muslim immigration into the United States – were more than Ryan could stomach. Trump’s attacks on Muslims and Mexican immigrants – including legal ones – were described by Ryan is contrary to American principles.
But unlike Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Kelly Ayotte and a number of others, Ryan ultimately decided to endorse Trump at the Republican National Convention. Maybe he felt this was necessary to ensure party unity and to protect the party’s majorities in both the Senate and the House. But if greater unity was what he was hoping for, he was soon disappointed.
Only days after Ryan endorsed Trump, he found himself being once again forced to repudiate a number of statements Trump had made. This included Trump’s startling suggestion that Russia’s intelligence services should hack Hillary Clinton’s email, as well as Trump’s general admiration for Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
After Ryan’s endorsement, the most serious and damaging of Trump’s deluge of controversial comments was his attack on American Muslim Khizr Khan and his wife. Khan’s speech on the floor of the Democratic National Convention in which he evoked the memory of his deceased son who died serving in the U.S. military – while reprimanding Trump – was very moving for most people, but seemed to infuriate Donald Trump.
All of this controversy led to a huge drop in the polls for Trump. Several polls have him down anywhere from 10 percent to 15 percent, which is virtually unprecedented at this point in the campaign. As NBC news points out, collapsing poll numbers drove down ballot Republican candidates into an absolute panic, with many suggesting Trump should immediately drop out of the race. But even though Ryan and others may have regretted the fact that they endorsed Trump, most of them failed to backup their denunciation of his statements by rescinding their endorsement.
Under enormous pressure from the Republican Party elite and members of his own campaign staff, “The Donald” finally relented. At a highly scripted, choreographed and somewhat awkward Friday news conference, Trump endorsed Ryan, McCain and Sen. Ayotte. According to the Washington Post, this can be viewed as a victory for Ryan, even if it is a costly one.
But is it too little too late? Certainly, a number of presidential candidates in the past have found themselves down by a sizable margin at this point in the campaign and still managed to turn things around. But Trump’s numbers are so low that it calls into question whether it is possible to climb out of such a deep hole regardless of what he now does or says.
More importantly, the real question isn’t whether Trump can get out of the hole he’s dug for himself and the Republicans. The question is whether he’s going to keep digging. Just because Trump endorsed Ryan doesn’t mean that he will now toe the line.
For months now, there has been talk in Republican circles of the inevitable Trump “pivot” in which Donald Trump would begin behaving like a traditional candidate. But many prominent figures in the party are finally beginning to consider the possibility that Donald Trump either cannot or will not pivot. And if this is true, it may be impossible for the Trump campaign to right itself.
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