The price of making a “deal” with Donald Trump is high.
In just the past 48 hours the Republican presidential nominee has publicly praised the faux-Republican challenging House Speaker Paul Ryan in a primary, has attacked New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) and since the RNC in Cleveland he has continued to bash his former presidential primary foes, whom he vanquished and who have all recognized Trump’s victory.
Then on Wednesday morning comes this bombshell:
“ABC News has learned that senior party officials are so frustrated — and confused — by Donald Trump‘s erratic behavior that they are exploring how to replace him on the ballot if he drops out.”
Trump’s attacks on Paul Ryan have been particularly vicious because he praised Ryan’s opponent, Paul Nehlen, for “running a very good campaign.” Part of that campaign has included holding protests outside of Ryan’s home and attacking Ryan’s kids for attending a private school, and openly urging Democrats to vote in the Republican primary to oust a conservative Republican.
Asked about endorsing Ryan, who went out of his way to speak well of Trump at the RNC, Trump replied, “I’m just not quite there yet.” Trump claimed that Ryan’s campaign had asked him for an endorsement, but Zach Roday of the Ryan campaign clarified that Ryan had not asked Trump for an endorsement:
“Neither Speaker Ryan nor anyone on his team has ever asked for Donald Trump’s endorsement. And we are confident in a victory next week regardless.”
Why Trump had to lie about being asked for an endorsement is not clear, other than the move being part of a broader pattern of Trump lying about non-existent conversations.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, who is from Kenosha, WI in Ryan’s district, has been publicly silent about Trump’s absurd toying with backing Ryan’s challenger. Reportedly, however, Priebus is privately “apoplectic” with Trump.
That Nehlen’s campaign tactics would include a healthy dose of sleaze should be no surprise considering just who is staffing and consulting for his campaign. Dan Backer, a DC-area operative who runs a pro-Trump SuperPAC is treasurer of Nehlen’s campaign and of an independent expenditure group that is allegedly spending money supporting Nehlen’s efforts. Other key staff and supporters, from Ann Coulter to less well-known operatives running Nehlen’s get-out-the-vote effort, are long-time Trump apologists or have worked for the Trump campaign in other states.
Trump’s reluctance to return the common courtesy of Ryan’s endorsement at the RNC may come because he’s holding a grudge. Ryan’s opponent announced unequivocally in May that he would back Trump, but Ryan held off until after talking with Trump and even offered to leave his job as convention chairman at the RNC if Trump wanted that. Trump declined to replace Ryan.
This isn’t Trump’s first foray into bashing Wisconsin conservatives during, or ahead of, a visit to Wisconsin. Trump is expected to campaign in Green Bay on Friday, and during a visit to Wisconsin during the primary – after Gov. Scott Walker dropped out of the presidential campaign – Trump bashed Walker during a stop in Janesville, Ryan’s hometown.
At the time Ryan and U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R) stayed out of the GOP presidential primary, but Walker went on to endorse Sen. Ted Cruz, who ended up winning both Ryan’s district and the statewide primary.
How this entire episode with Trump will end is anyone’s guess, but he certainly isn’t bringing the GOP together, or even wooing conservatives to his cause at a time when most national polls show him losing to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.