Although Paul Ryan has officially endorsed Donald Trump, he has made clear his endorsement is not a blank check and has not always been the most enthusiastic Trump supporter. Exhibit 1:
I’d say his support of Trump here is somewhere between strong and quite strong. At last night’s National Security Forum Trump was pretty enthusiastic in his praise of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, claiming he was a stronger leader than President Obama. Ryan was again pretty hesitant on getting on the Trump Train for this one. Exhibit 2:
So why is Paul Ryan endorsing Trump? The real reason is to protect himself and the House, but mostly the House. Some Republican leaders are scared of losing to more conservative primary challengers if they break with the party or side with the Democrats on anything. If Obama said Nickelback sucks Paul Ryan’s likely response would be a petition to name “Photograph” as the national anthem. The real danger here is the down ballot implications of a Trump loss. If Trump loses to Clinton, Republicans lose the White House, keep the House, and may or may not hold on to the Senate. If Lyin’ Hillary decimates Trump by double digits or more, Republicans not only lose the White House but also the Senate and could come in danger of losing what was a safe majority in the House. Leaders like Paul Ryan have already moved on to 2020 in their heads, this election is like a high school girlfriend who won’t go past hand jobs that you just have to wait out until freshman orientation. It’s in Paul’s best interest to marginally support Trump and make sure this election is like USA-Croatia 1992 and not USA-Angola.
Assuming the Republicans have a more moderate 2020 candidate than Trump, Paul Ryan knows his party will be held accountable by Democrats in 2020 for every insane thing Trump did. He can’t outright denounce Trump or risk losing critical house seats, and he can’t give a full-throated endorsement or it will haunt him for years. The closest possible analogy is when your racist Uncle Mark is about to kick the bucket and you want in on the will you don’t correct his assertion that Obama was the 20th hijacker and you forget about that one time he came into your room after dark in 1994, but you also can’t cut holes in your sheets and help be his co-Grand Wizard. It’s in Paul Ryan’s best interest to just smile and nod along at whatever Trump says for the next two months and then move on to 2020 on November 9th, the Suicide Prevention Hotline is already tired of the calls they get on a daily basis from Ryan staffers.