Paul Ryan Wasn’t Helping Trump Anyway

Paul RyanThe New York Times reported what is supposed to be big news, Paul Ryan Won’t Defend Donald Trump, Upsetting Trump and GOP Hard-Liners. It starts with the absurd claim, “House Speaker Paul D Ryan dealt a hammer blow to Donald J Trump’s presidential candidacy Monday, dashing any remaining semblance of party unity and inviting fierce backlash from his own caucus by announcing that he would no longer defend Mr Trump’s candidacy.” How is this a hammer blow?

Is Ryan a big Trump surrogate? No. Their relationship has been, at best, strained. It took him until June to endorse Trump’s candidacy. And then Trump paid him back by waiting until August to finally endorsed Paul Ryan’s re-election. And when he did so, Paul Ryan didn’t even show up.

Paul Ryan Hasn’t Been Good for Trump

Ryan has been more well known for things like calling on Trump to release his taxes. And calling a Trump statement “the textbook definition of a racist comment.” And most recently releasing a statement saying, “I am sickened by what I heard today.”

So again: where is the hammer blow? All that has happened is that Paul Ryan isn’t going to campaign for Trump for the next four weeks. Instead, he’s going to campaign for down-ballot candidates. But you know: that’s the same thing. Trump supporters don’t want to see Ryan at Trump’s rallies anyway. I suppose that more reasonable Republicans (ones that don’t show up to Trump rallies) might see Ryan with Trump and feel more comfortable voting for him. But after last Friday’s video? And what seems likely to be more embarrassments to come? I just don’t see Trump being harmed by this. It could even help him.

Now Paul Ryan Could Help Trump

So this is not going to change things for Trump. Even with a clear commitment to Trump, I don’t think Ryan really helps.

One way it could help Trump is by stopping Paul Ryan from having to respond to every new Trump outrage. This is where the “defend” comes from in the headline. So let’s suppose that the police arrest Trump when they find the skeletons of dozens of adolescent boys buried at Mar-a-Lago. Paul Ryan won’t need to demand an investigation. He won’t need to say that it’s a textbook case of pedophilic serial killing. He won’t be required to release a statement about how sickened he is. Instead, Paul Ryan can say, “I told you: I’m not defending Donald J Trump anymore!”

This whole article in The New York Times is typical of the press thinking things are important because the press thinks they are important. Paul Ryan certainly has maintained a high approval rating among Republicans. But we certainly haven’t seen any polls recently. The last one I could find was from back in July when he had an approval rating of 71 percent. But note: Donald Trump had an approval rating of 65 percent. And here’s the key: what do Republicans really know about Paul Ryan?

Ryan’s Soft Support

I think this is key. Paul Ryan knows that his support among Republicans is soft. That’s why he won’t come out and rescind his endorsement. He also knows that his grip on the House speakership is loose. According to Vox, after leaving the conference call yesterday morning where he laid out his decision, “He had to get back on the call to address accusations that he was abandoning the nominee.”

So this is not going to change things for Trump. Even with a clear commitment to Trump, I don’t think Ryan really helps. So this is really nothing to Trump.

What Paul Ryan Cares About

But it is a big deal to Ryan. In the call yesterday morning, Ryan reportedly said, “You [Republican House members] all need to do what’s best for you in your district.” That’s all that Ryan is doing. As Fortune noted, “Ryan’s message appeared to signal his disbelief in Trump’s ability to turn the campaign around with four weeks until election day.” This is all tax cuts and deregulation. If Ryan thought Trump would win, he wouldn’t have changed a thing.

Is Donald Trump’s Stock Falling?

Nate Silver - Trump's Falling StockThe second presidential debate on Sunday night was a strange one, with Donald Trump appearing to be on the brink of a meltdown in the first 20 to 30 minutes and then steadying himself the rest of the way. But here’s the bottom line: Based on post-debate polls, Hillary Clinton probably ended the night in a better place than she started it. And almost without question, she ended the weekend — counting the debate, the revelation on Friday of a 2005 tape in which Trump was recorded appearing to condone unwanted sexual contact against women, and the Republican reaction to the tape — in an improved position.

At times during the past two weeks, but particularly on Saturday afternoon as prominent Republicans were denouncing or unendorsing Trump one after another, it has seemed like Trump’s campaign is experiencing the political equivalent of a stock market crash. By that I mean: there’s some bad news that triggers the crash, and there’s also an element of panic and herd behavior, and it becomes hard to tell exactly which is which. At some point, the market usually finds its footing, as the stock has some fundamental value higher than zero. But it can be a long way down before it does…

In the end, your assessment of Trump’s chances comes down to the same consideration as with a falling stock: How sound are the fundamentals? Is Trump the equivalent of a beleaguered blue-chip that still has lots of hard assets? In Trump’s case, the most valuable asset is probably possession of the Republican Party ballot line, which theoretically ought to be worth something given the circumstances of the race. Or was the whole business a sort of confidence trick, which was bound to implode once people began to lose faith in it?

—Nate Silver
The Second Debate Probably Didn’t Help Trump, And He Needed Help