Clearly, some members of the Republican Party are having difficulty wrapping their minds around what now appears to be an inevitability: that Donald Trump, barring any dirty tricks or other nonsense, will be the party’s nominee heading into the fall presidential election, and most likely against Democrat front-runner Hillary Clinton.
The divisions and rivalries continued last week, despite receiving the endorsements of other GOP stalwarts including the party’s 2008 nominee, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. – whom Trump hit at early in his campaign for being captured during the Vietnam War and held for nearly six years.
But they did not go unnoticed by one of the party’s most inspiring idea men, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, whose 1994 “Contract With America” led to the first Republican House majority in four decades. In an interview with Fox News Channel’s “Hannity,” Gingrich had some words for the current speaker of the House, Paul Ryan of Wisconsin: Do your duty.
Gingrich criticized Paul for his statement last week that he was “just not ready” yet to support Trump, saying his refusal to do so was a “big mistake” that set the wrong tone for the GOP going forward.
“[I]n the case of Paul Ryan he made a big mistake today and he needs to understand this,” Gingrich said. “He is the Speaker of the House. He has an obligation to unify the party. He has an obligation to reach out. Obviously he and Donald Trump are going to have disagreements. Some of them will work out and some of them [just] won’t. That’s fine. Our Constitution provides that speakers and presidents can fight, but I think he sends the wrong signal and a signal which I think endangers the House Republicans and endangers the Senate Republicans.”
Continuing, Gingrich said, “I much prefer what [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell did, what John McCain did –they both said, ‘OK game’s over, we have a nominee. I’m for him.’ And I think Paul Ryan has some obligation institutionally to be responsive to the fact that the people of the party he belongs to have chosen a nominee. And frankly in the long history of American politics, Donald Trump is not outrageously outside the norm. This kind of vitriol you get does not reflect accurately people who have been nominated for president over the last 200 years.”
Ryan, thus far the highest-ranking elected Republican official who has yet to voice support for Trump, would indeed become the figure who would divide the party, not Trump. The party in the past has always rallied around its eventual nominee, once it became apparent who it would be, so Ryan’s refusal to do so thus far is a reversal. Also, as CNN noted, his lack of support now gives other elected Republicans cover to withhold support from Trump, which of course would only further the divide in the party.
Ryan said he hopes to eventually back Trump and “to be a part of this unifying process,” but he insisted that the first moves must come from Trump.
Ryan said he wants Trump to unify “all wings of the Republican Party and the conservative movement” and then run a campaign that will allow Americans to “have something that they’re proud to support and proud to be a part of.”
“And we’ve got a ways to go from here to there,” Ryan said.
Later, Ryan’s office announced that he, Trump and top Republicans would meet this week, but that didn’t stop former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin from announcing that she would work to support a primary opponent in Ryan’s home district because of his refusal to initially support Trump, as she has already done.
“I think Paul Ryan is soon to be ‘Cantored,’ as in Eric Cantor,” Palin told CNN, referring to the former GOP House majority leader who was ousted in a shocking upset in 2014 when challenger Dave Brat ran to his right in a Virginia primary.