Paul Ryan Helped Someone He Likely Didn't Mean To

In an interview Thursday, Paul Ryan said that he's not quite ready to support his party's presumptive presidential nominee, Donald Trump. At least, not yet. The House Speaker said that he's "just not ready to [back Trump] at this point," but did stress that Republicans must "unify this party." The phrasing suggests that he might reverse course later on down the line — but for the time being, Paul Ryan's refusal to support Donald Trump helps Hillary Clinton.

In a general sense, Republican Party infighting always benefits the Democrats, and vice versa. Intra-party squabbles in the GOP suck up media attention and, over time, depict the party as haphazard and dysfunctional. Ryan's unwillingness to endorse his party's presumptive nominee reinforces the idea that the Republican Party is a broken institution that's eating itself alive, and obviously, that's not a good look to have in an election year.

Moreover, conflicts within the GOP give Democrats space to lay low and stay out of the spotlight for a while, and this is why Clinton specifically benefits from Ryan's stance. The Democratic Party is experiencing its own internal divide now, but so far, it's been largely overshadowed by the much larger division in the GOP. Now that it's clear clear the Democratic primary will last longer than the Republican one, that dynamic could potentially reverse itself, and this would hurt Clinton, who's the presumptive Democratic nominee.

But as long as the GOP keeps fighting with itself, the Democratic Primary can continue to play out under-the-radar. The Speaker of the House saying he can't support even his own party's nominee means that the headlines, at least for some time, will still be focused on the Republican Party's existential crisis, and not the fact that Hillary Clinton — who was supposed to be the strongest presidential front-runner in decades — still hasn't locked up the Democratic Party's nomination.

As the Republican Speaker of the House, Ryan is in an extraordinarily difficult spot. On the one hand, he's already made clear that he wants to use the speakership as a platform to promote conservative policies to the general. Endorsing Trump would make that more or less impossible, though, as the two men disagree wildly on a whole host of policies. On the other hand, Ryan will be chairing the Republican National Convention this summer, and it would be unspeakably awkward if the chair of the convention refused to support the candidate being nominated at that convention.

Ryan has no easy choices here. But the longer it takes him to come around to Trump (and I do think he ultimately will), the more peace of mind Hillary Clinton can enjoy.

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