Unless you spent your morning on Mercury (not advisable!), you know that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan huddled in Washington in an attempt to squash their beef.
It appeared to go well. "It was all positive, it was cooperative, it was great," said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who attended the gathering. In a news conference following the meeting, Ryan said he "heard a lot of good things" from Trump.
The key to the whole day, however, was the joint statement that Ryan and Trump released in the wake of the gathering. Here it is:
JUST IN: Donald Trump and Paul Ryan say they had a "great conversation" this morning. pic.twitter.com/KKcYb0FGXm
— NPR Politics (@nprpolitics) May 12, 2016
Pay particular attention to two ideas: 1) America can't afford to elect Hillary Clinton and 2) Trump and Ryan agree on the big stuff so disagreements on the smaller stuff matters less.
Those are the makings of how Ryan — and the large majority of the rest of the resistant Republican establishment — will justify coming around on Trump. Witness Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who runs the party's campaign arm and who endorsed the real estate billionaire even as Trump and Ryan were meeting on Thursday morning.
Big endorsement here from NRCC Chair Greg Walden: pic.twitter.com/99VkxqHt6t
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) May 12, 2016
Notice the similarity in language between Ryan and Walden. We don't agree with Trump on everything. But we agree with him on the big things. And we all want to beat Hillary Clinton who will be bad for the country if she wins.
Ryan echoed much of that same sentiment in his weekly news conference, which was dominated by questions about the Trump summit. "There are core principles that tie us all together," Ryan insisted — listing support for limited executive authority, a healthy respect for the Constitution, being pro-life and the need to appoint conservatives to the Supreme Court as a few examples of commonality between him and Trump on the big issues.
What Ryan — and Walden — are doing is showing Republican candidates (incumbents and challengers) the best way to deal with Donald Trump as the party's nominee. To summarize, those steps include:
1. Talk about how bad Hillary Clinton would be as president
2. Emphasize that you don't agree with Trump on every issue or his tone in every moment
3. Note that on key issues to the Republican base — abortion, Supreme Court, the Constitution — Trump sees things the way you do
The obvious fourth step of that process is to endorse Trump. Ryan didn't do that on Thursday, but my gosh it certainly sounded like he plans to in the not-too-distant future — assuming that Trump doesn't blow up the gains made from this meeting. (This is Trump we are talking about, so that sort of self-sabotage is absolutely possible.)
What Ryan's reaction to his meeting with Trump today suggests is that the speaker has concluded that withholding support for the party's nominee or aggressively urging down-ballot candidates to run away from Trump carries more political risk than does cautiously and guardedly embracing his candidacy.
It's a risk. But when it comes to Trump and what it means for individual candidates or the broader future of the GOP, everything is a risk. Ryan appears to have made up his mind on what leap of faith he is prepared to make over the next six months.