This is our weekly politics newsletter, Conventional Wisdom, covering the wild and wacky world of Donald Trump’s Republican Party. (Sign up here.)
Spring: the city bodegas and country gardens are filled with blooms, the wedding invites are in the mail, and a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.
Ah, if only things were so simple for House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Washington’s most-watched May-December courtship, between Ryan and Donald Trump, is complicated and progressing slowly.
Trump went to Washington last week to meet with the speaker, sitting down privately with Ryan and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus for 45 minutes to discuss their differences (Ryan has yet to endorse Trump). Ryan was complimentary of Trump after the meeting, publicly calling him “warm and genuine,” though reports of the meeting note that Ryan asked Trump to tone down his immigration rhetoric. No peace was officially brokered, though a joint statement noted with acute literality, “This was our first meeting, but it was a very positive step toward unification.”
In other corners of the Republican universe, a number of party insiders vehemently opposed to Trump are making Hail Mary efforts to draft an independent candidate to challenge the presumptive nominee. According to The Washington Post, Mitt Romney himself has made overtures to John Kasich and Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse. No one has yet bitten — the idea of being persona non grata in the party lacks appeal.
Speaking of party noblemen plotting against their presumptive king, Ted Cruz knows he’s not going to be president, but there seems to be every indication that he’s going to take his fighting energy to the rules committee in July in an effort to reform the party’s nomination process. Among the changes he’s seeking are an end to open primaries (i.e., no more squishy independent voters), a re-ordering of the primary calendar to allow more states from different regions to have an effect on the process, and the introduction of a conscience clause that would allow delegates who are typically bound to a candidate based on their state’s vote outcome to vote for whomever they wish if the winner’s values contradict theirs. Wonder who that one’s aimed at?
Over the weekend Cruz made an appearance at Texas’s party convention, spending his time at a podium thanking campaign volunteers and pointedly not making an argument for Republican unity. “I don’t know what the future will hold,” Cruz said. “We may face some challenging days ahead. We may face growing challenges going ahead, but I am convinced that [the] movement, the men and women gathered here, will be the remnant, will be the core of pulling this country back from the abyss.”
Listen to the latest episode of the FiveThirtyEight politics podcast.
For those of you looking to whet your veepstakes appetite: Ben Carson gave an interview to The Washington Post in which he confirmed that John Kasich, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, Chris Christie and … Ben Carson — maybe? — were VP possibilities.
Anything else kicking in Trump world? Well, the Sunday edition of The New York Times led with a story about Trump’s often inappropriate interactions with women in both his private life and business dealings. “You like your candy,” he reportedly told one high-level executive in his business after she gained weight. The story notes that Trump hired women because he thought they worked harder than men (yours truly would like to note that she’s writing this column on a Sunday).
Could An Independent Candidate Succeed In 2016? — A lot of people have been talking up the idea of an independent presidential run. So the FiveThirtyEight politics team chatted about whether there’s something about the current political climate or modern politics generally that makes a successful independent bid more likely.
When Did Trump Become Unstoppable? by Peter Keating — Just a couple of weeks ago, many political analysts were still chattering about a contested Republican convention. Then the forces opposing Donald Trump seemed to unravel. This terminal phase of the nominating season is a reminder of how much and why public opinion matters. Indeed, one theory correctly suggested that as of March 15, Trump was on his way to victory.
Don’t Worry About The Electoral College Math (Yet) by Harry Enten — We’re still six months from Election Day, and no single poll should receive much attention. It’s also best to avoid getting too bogged down in state polls — even of swing states. The truth is — with some notable exceptions — winning the national popular vote typically means winning the presidency. The Electoral College matters only in very close elections, and most of the time not even then.