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Conventional Wisdom: Donald Trump’s Messy GOP

This is our weekly politics newsletter, Conventional Wisdom, covering the wild and wacky world of delegate harvesting Donald Trump’s Republican Party. (Sign up here.)

Reader, did you believe that the end of the great delegate hunt would rid you of this column? Oh, ye of little faith.

Given that Donald Trump is almost certainly going to be the Republican nominee, there is going to be plenty to dissect over the next few weeks. This space will now be devoted to tracking dissent and coalescence within the GOP as it slouches towards Bethlehem — uh, I mean Cleveland — and the July convention. What does a Trump-led GOP look like? What does it stand for?

Lots of drama went down this week and we must start at the very beginning, with Trump winning the state of Indiana last Tuesday, Ted Cruz dropping out that same night, and John Kasich following suit on Wednesday.

People hadn’t yet had a full 48 hours to roll the words “nominee Trump” around in their mouth before House Speaker Paul Ryan came out on Thursday with what amounts to a bombshell these days — making a nuanced statement on CNN.

“I’m just not ready to [endorse] at this point,” Ryan said. ““I think conservatives want to know: Does [Trump] share our values and our principles on limited government, the proper role of the executive, adherence to the Constitution?”

Trump responded in a statement, “I am not ready to support Speaker Ryan’s agenda.”

The Ryan-Trump beef has dominated the political news, and over the weekend, stories surfaced that Trump wouldn’t rule out efforts to remove Ryan from his position as chairman of the Republican National Convention. Then, Sarah Palin got her pitbull-in-lipstick on — it’s actually more a high-sheen nude gloss these days — when she gave an interview Sunday and said that she would support Ryan’s primary challenger, promising that the Speaker would be “ ‘Cantored,’ as in Eric Cantor,” a reference to the former House majority leader who lost to a challenger from the right in 2014.

Ryan isn’t the only high-profile Republican dissenter; in a Facebook post on Friday, Jeb Bush wrote: “In November, I will not vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, but I will support principled conservatives at the state and federal levels, just as I have done my entire life.” Two days before, on Wednesday, Bush’s father and brother — two guys who used to be president – announced that they would not be supporting Trump either.

Still, some Republicans are lining up behind Trump. On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released a statement supporting Trump that was notable for its legalistic parsing: “I have committed to supporting the nominee chosen by Republican voters, and Donald Trump, the presumptive nominee, is now on the verge of clinching that nomination.” John McCain, the Republican nominee in 2008, said that he would support Trump but also excoriated the businessman over his previous comments about prisoners of war. Another former nominee fell in line as well — Bob Dole, the party’s candidate in 1996, endorsed Trump on Friday.

And what, you might ask, was Cruz getting up to in his first week of unwanted freedom?

He went to the Kentucky Derby, of course. “I’m just here to have a good time,” he said. No word on whether the odds turned in his favor.

Read more:

The GOP Doesn’t Seem To Be Cracking Up In Down-Ballot Races by Seth Masket — The Republican Party has undergone a hostile takeover at the presidential level, but it looks like business as usual in down-ballot Congressional races.

The Four Things I Learned From The Donald Trump Primary by Harry Enten — Anytime something as unexpected as Donald Trump happens, it’s worth stepping back and thinking about what we should learn.

Sanders Shouldn’t Drop Out For Clinton’s Sake by Julia Azari — We’re getting to the point in the Democratic primary season when people turn their focus to the general election, but Bernie Sanders has intimated that he will keep fighting, even contesting the Democratic convention in July. So, could Sanders damage Hillary Clinton’s chances in the general election?

Clare Malone is a senior political writer for FiveThirtyEight.

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