As Ryan becomes the latest punching bag for his party’s presidential nominee, the Wisconsin Republican has made the calculation that he faces little political upside in engaging in a back-and-forth with Trump.
So he has gone underground, avoiding questions at all costs about Trump and trying to focus instead on preserving congressional majorities. His strategy is an implicit recognition that the Wisconsin Republican finds himself in a lose-lose situation over his party’s nominee.
If he attacks Trump, he’s only bound to provoke even more conservative furor, something that could come back to haunt him if he finds himself searching for votes in the new Congress to preserve his speakership. Yet if he stands by Trump, he’ll be accused of backing off his decision to avoid defending the GOP nominee.
So the best strategy, according to several of his allies, boils down to this: Pretend Trump doesn’t exist.