House Republicans are pleading with Paul Ryan to become their savior, and according to multiple reports out this morning, he’s seriously considering running for House Speaker, after all. Ryan is widely said to be the only person capable of “unifying” the GOP conference.
But at risk of belaboring the obvious, here’s the question: Why would Ryan’s predicament be any different from that of John Boehner? Wouldn’t that predicament be defined by the same fundamental problem that has reigned for years now?
That problem is this: There is a large bloc of House Republicans — call them Tea Partyers, call them ultra-conservatives, call them radicals, call them the “House Freedom Caucus” or the “Freedom Fraud Caucus” or whatever — that is probably not willing to support anything that President Obama could sign.
I’m hardly the first to make that point, but it still seems to get lost all too easily. Instead, we keep hearing that this elusive quality known as “unity” continues to evade Republicans in the House, and that the right Speaker might be able to conjure up the conditions to make it happen, in vague and unspecified ways.
At the top of Ryan’s list, his associates said, is a desire to lead the House GOP as its spokesman and agenda-setter without the threat of revolt from the right, halting a dynamic that has dominated the tumultuous speakership of John A. Boehner….
Looming over Ryan’s deliberations is a churning frustration among Republicans nationally about the party’s ability to oppose President Obama and a presidential primary field led by anti-establishment outsiders who have made common cause with the House GOP’s right flank….
Ryan’s allies say his conditions for becoming speaker are likely to include an understanding that he would have a free hand to lead without a constant fear of intraparty reprisals.
But what exactly would this look like? Take two of the main battles that loom this fall. Would House conservatives vote to raise the debt limit without unilateral concessions from Democrats? Would they vote to fund the government if funding is at a higher level than under the current sequester caps?
If the answers to those questions are No and No, then we’re back in the same place we always were. Senate Democrats will not support, and Obama will not sign, anything that grants major concessions in exchange for a debt limit hike or anything that funds the government at sequester levels. Before you argue that this proves Democrats are just as intransigent as House conservatives, recall that GOP leaders and many non-Tea Party Republicans in the House agree with Democrats on these matters — they have previously supported raising the debt limit without concessions, and they have already funded the government, temporarily, at higher than sequester levels.
Indeed, the fact that Paul Ryan would probably agree with Democrats and do these things later this fall, rather than stage protracted and destructive confrontations, is one of the very things conservatives are now objecting to about his possible Speakership.
And so, if House conservatives are not going to be willing to do those things, Speaker Ryan would have to do them with the help of Democrats, just as Speaker Boehner has done. He’ll have to stiff-arm the Freedom Fraud Caucus; there’s just no way around it. It’s possible that Ryan might be able to offer some kind of procedural concessions in exchange for assurances from House conservatives that they will not overtly target him for removal if he does that. But there will still be plenty of anger and division, and it’s hard to see how the overall dynamic would be all that different from what it has been for years now.
The good news, as Brian Beutler has written, is that the true nature of this dynamic and what it says about today’s GOP is now so obvious to everyone, thanks to additional factors such as the staying power of Donald Trump and the tarnished credibility of the Benghazi committee, that it’s impossible for even the most determined observers to ignore it any longer.
* HILLARY WIDENS LEAD: A new Washington Post/ABC News poll finds that Hillary Clinton now has the support of 54 percent of Democratic voters nationally; Bernie Sanders is second at 23 percent; and Joe Biden has 16 percent. Also key:
More than seven in 10 Democrats say that Clinton has the best chance of the party’s candidates to win the general election in November 2016. Just one in five cites Sanders as the party’s strongest candidate.
And the electability factor is only likely to exert more influence over Dem voters as the voting gets closer.
* HILLARY WIDENS LEAD, PART II: A new NBC/WSJ poll finds that Hillary Clinton’s lead over Bernie Sanders has grown to 49-29 among Democratic voters nationally. Remove Joe Biden from the equation and Clinton leads Sanders by 58-33, a margin that has grown 10 points since before the debate. And:
The poll offered little encouragement for Vice President Joe Biden as he wrestles with whether to enter the contest. For all the respect the vice president enjoys within his party, just 30% of Democratic primary voters said they would like to see him run for the presidential nomination, with 38% saying he shouldn’t run.
As noted here yesterday, Democratic voters trust Clinton on specific issues far more than they do Joe Biden, suggesting there just may not be a policy lane for Biden to differentiate himself.
* TRUMP-MENTUM CONTINUES TO REFUSE TO SUBSIDE: With pundits confidently predicting Trump must begin dropping soon, the new NBC/WSJ poll also finds that that his support is higher than ever: He has 25 percent of Republican voters nationally; Ben Carson has 22 percent; Marco Rubio has 13 percent; and Jeb Bush has eight percent. And:
Trump has also gained ground when it comes to whether or not potential voters can picture themselves backing him. Fifty-nine percent of GOP voters now say they can see themselves supporting Trump, while 36 percent disagree. Just last month, a slight majority — 52 percent — said they could not see themselves backing the real estate mogul, while 47 could envision it.
Could it be that Republican primary voters are beginning to see Trump as their plausible nominee?
* TRUMP-MENTUM CONTINUES TO REFUSE TO SUBSIDE, PART II: The new CNN poll also finds the same:
Trump’s 27% leads the field, followed by Carson at 22%, both head and shoulders above their nearest competition. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio are tied for third place with 8% support each…The poll finds Republican voters increasingly satisfied with their field of choices, 32% say they are “very satisfied” with the group of candidates running for president, up from 23% in July.
Trump still hasn’t gotten the pundit memo instructing him to peak and decline already.
* TRUMP’S LEAD, EXPLAINED IN TWO SENTENCES: Ron Brownstein boils it down:
The blue-collar wing of the Republican primary electorate has consolidated around one candidate. The party’s white-collar wing remains fragmented.
Read the rest for the details. Meanwhile, one presumes the battle for the white collar wing will shape up as a death struggle between Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio.
* HILLARY TO ROLL OUT ENDORSEMENTS TODAY: NBC News reports:
Clinton will announce on Tuesday that 50 current and former black mayors are backing her, including Michael Nutter of Philadelphia, Kasim Reed of Atlanta and Steve Benjamin, the mayor of Columbia, South Carolina and president of the African American Mayors Association. The endorsements are the latest illustration of Clinton’s strong support among African-Americans.
This will intensify as the Democratic establishment seeks to stave off a possible Clinton loss to Sanders in Iowa and New Hampshire.
* IMPEACH HILLARY NOW! (OR IF SHE WINS THE WHITE HOUSE): GOP Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama floats it:
Brooks pointed to a section in the federal code that prohibits the “unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents or material,” though suggested other areas could also apply to Clinton. “I don’t know, off hand, whether her commission of these offenses is a legal barrier to running for president. But if Congress should so choose, it would be a legal basis for her removal from office,” Brooks said.
If it becomes more apparent that Clinton is going to win the nomination, you’ll be hearing a lot more of this — bank on it.