House Speaker Paul Ryan is in a perilous situation with Donald Trump. The Republican presidential candidate has praised Ryan’s primary challenger and refused to endorse his re-election. Trump has also failed to support Senator John McCain’s re-election bid despite McCain’s baffling loyalty to the candidate.
Ryan and McCain have both endorsed Trump. Nothing less than total support for the candidate is expected from the most senior Republican in the House and a former presidential candidate still serving in the Senate. But cracks are appearing in the facade of ‘unity’ the GOP is trying to sell.
Trump’s attacks on Khizr and Ghazala Khan crossed a line that forced Ryan and McCain to openly disagree with their party’s national standard bearer. Ryan has been more cautious than McCain but both stopped short of withdrawing their endorsement. Senior Republicans are deeply worried about Trump’s disastrous campaign and his weird, outrageous statements.
Republicans in vulnerable seats will suffer from supporting Trump, especially moderates in states trending blue. As House Speaker, Ryan is under pressure to retain the Republican majority, an outcome looking more remote with every Trump headline.
Trump has praised Ryan’s long-shot primary challenger, criticized John McCain’s war service and shown no interest in supporting Republicans in down ballot races. In fact, his presence on the presidential ticket and near total takeover of the party is putting otherwise safe GOP races at risk.
Why are Ryan and McCain, and many other like-minded Republicans, such as Lindsey Graham and Nikki Haley, either actively or tacitly supporting Trump? GOP criticism of Trump could seen transform into open dissent. Paul Ryan may soon be forced to withdraw his support.