During an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan dropped a bombshell on the remaining fragments of Republican party unite. A Republican who has represented the party in the general election himself (as the 2012 vice presidential candidate), Ryan said he would not yet endorse Donald Trump, even though he is the GOP's presumptive nominee. "I'm just not ready to do that at this point. I'm not there right now," Ryan told Tapper.
The Wisconsin congressman made it clear he certainly wasn't opposed to endorsing Trump down the road. In fact, he said he hoped and wanted to — eventually. "I desperately want to see us unify on principles and ideas and policies and agenda, and I’m hoping where that’s gonna go,” Ryan said as he explained why he was withholding his endorsement for now. He was waiting to see Trump "have something that they're [Republicans] proud to support and proud to be a part of." Oh, Ryan, don't hold your breath on that one.
Ryan also took some passive swipes at Trump's less-than-presidential credentials and behavior. "This is the party of Lincoln and Reagan and Jack Kemp. And we don't always nominate a Lincoln or a Reagan every four years, but we hope that our nominee aspires to be Lincoln- or Reagan-esque — that that person advances the principles of our party and appeals to a wide, vast majority of Americans." As I noted, the clear implication was that Trump is no Reagan nor Lincoln (not that we needed the House Speaker to clarify that for anyone following this election with even half an ear). To make his lack of faith in Trump abundantly apparent, Ryan added, "We want a standard-bearer that bears our standards."
In declining to endorse Trump, Ryan set off an explosion in the Republican party — and many are wondering why he bombed the barely-there vestige of unity. When the Speaker of the House publicly declines to support his party's nominee it does not bode well for November (to say the very least).
Already, Hillary Clinton's team has pounced on Ryan's refusal to endorse Trump. Within minutes of Ryan's announcement, Hillary for America sent an email cheering the news, with the subject line: "Speaker Paul Ryan Joins Growing List of Conservatives Rebuking Trump as He Captures GOP Nomination." Her campaign has every right to be thrilled. When the highest ranking Republican in the House of Representatives says he's not ready to support the presumptive GOP nominee, it's pretty much a kiss of death for the general election.
Certainly, political plates could shift in the next few month — and Ryan will almost certainly endorse Trump sooner rather than later. But why would he hinder the Republicans' odds for 2016? Simple: Ryan wants to stake his claim for the next presidential election. Ryan may have just thrown the Republicans under the bus for 2016, but he is looking pretty darn good to some people for 2020.
That Ryan might be jockeying for a presidential spot in 2020 was a thought shared by a number of people over Twitter. CNN reporter Many Raju tweeted:
Scott Wong of The Hill simply tweeted "Ryan 2020."
I bet it will only be a matter of time, perhaps a few hours, before Trump and his supporters start ripping Ryan apart. There are already reports that Trump surrogate/hostage Chris Christie is reaching out to Ryan (oh, to be a fly on the wall for that exchange). But for the many Republicans who feel less than enthusiastic about — or petrified of — a party led by Trump, Ryan may have solidified his golden boy status. The bigger question is whether there will be a party there to back Ryan come 2020.