The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Are Paul Ryan’s Days as Speaker Numbered?

I have great faith in the reporting of our former colleague, Tim Alberta, so if he reports that Paul Ryan doesn’t think he’ll be speaker past 2018, I believe him.

Despite several landmark legislative wins this year, and a better-than-expected relationship with President Donald Trump, Ryan has made it known to some of his closest confidants that this will be his final term as speaker. He consults a small crew of family, friends and staff for career advice, and is always cautious not to telegraph his political maneuvers. But the expectation of his impending departure has escaped the hushed confines of Ryan’s inner circle and permeated the upper-most echelons of the GOP. In recent interviews with three dozen people who know the speaker — fellow lawmakers, congressional and administration aides, conservative intellectuals and Republican lobbyists — not a single person believed Ryan will stay in Congress past 2018.

. . .More recently, over closely held conversations with his kitchen cabinet, Ryan’s preference has become clear: He would like to serve through Election Day 2018 and retire ahead of the next Congress. This would give Ryan a final legislative year to chase his second white whale, entitlement reform, while using his unrivaled fundraising prowess to help protect the House majority — all with the benefit of averting an ugly internecine power struggle during election season. Ryan has never loved the job; he oozes aggravation when discussing intraparty debates over “micro-tactics,” and friends say he feels like he’s running a daycare center.

That last line feels particularly easy to believe!

But yesterday, this was getting reported in less-trustworthy venues as an announcement, and that’s not what this is. For what it’s worth, Ryan says he’s not considering that — “I ain’t going anywhere” — and President Trump said he hopes Ryan sticks around.

I hope Ryan sticks around, too. But nothing lasts forever, and if the 2018 midterms look grim for Republicans, perhaps Ryan wants to go out on a high note with a productive two years and let someone else take over as a House majority slips away. I noted during the frustrations of the John Boehner years that the easiest thing in the world to do in a legislature is complain and insist that if you had been in charge, you would have gotten a better deal. Passing big, consequential pieces of legislation is hard; everyone who benefits from the status quo lines up against you, with institutional advantages and the power of inertia. Oh, and the clock is on their side, too.

If Ryan did depart, which Republican House member should replace him?

Who seems like the most natural leader?

Who can listen, understand, and address the concerns of all the different factions within the caucus?

Who understands legislation, and has an agenda that rank-and-file and grassroots Republicans will support?

Who can get along with President Trump?

Who’s a good communicator? Who’s good on television?

Who has no ambitions to run for governor or Senate anytime soon, or ever?

Who’s from a safe or reasonably safe seat?

Not a lot of members meet all those criteria.

Roy Moore Has One More Embarrassment Up His Sleeve

One of the many, many reasons you do not nominate unhinged narcissists for political office is that their ego won’t let them do some of the most basic tasks in politics . . . like concede a race.

Nothing has changed since late Tuesday night/Wednesday morning; the margin in Alabama’s Senate race is still roughly 20,000 votes, or about 1.5 percent. It remains well outside the half-a-percent threshold that triggers an automatic recount.

Almost the entire political world has moved on.

At the White House Thursday, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president’s actions prove that he believes the race is done.

“I think the President’s position is pretty clear, in his outreach to Doug Jones directly, he called and they spoke yesterday,” Huckabee Sanders said.

When a reporter followed up and asked if the president thought Moore had lost ‘fair and square,’ the press secretary agreed. “I think the numbers reflect that, and I think the President’s outreach shows that,” Huckabee Sanders said.

But Roy Moore isn’t willing to concede, declaring in a video statement that “the battle rages on.” Except . . . it doesn’t. The votes have been counted and cast, and it wasn’t as close as he’s insisting it is. The battle is over, and he lost. Doug Jones doesn’t need Roy Moore’s concession; there is no legal or Constitutional requirement for it. It’s just a longstanding American tradition of grace, respect and honoring the results of our democratic process. Thus, it’s not surprising that Roy Moore can’t understand it. By refusing to concede, he’s not making a statement about Jones or the vote-counting; he’s making a statement about himself.

Moore said in his video statement that the current vote count does not include military and provisional ballots, and that is why he is waiting on the certification of the votes from Alabama’s Secretary of State. But Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill told Fortune it was highly unlikely that counting these ballots would result in a change.

“There are a lot of votes that would need to be thrown out for that to occur,” Merrill said.

Again, just to reach the automatic recount threshold, Moore has to gain about 14,000 votes on Jones.

There are only 8,000 active duty military personnel living in Alabama, with another 20,294 in the reserves. To get the automatic recount, Roy Moore needs roughly half the combined military personnel in Alabama to be deployed overseas right now, for all of them to have voted in this election, and for him to have won all of their votes.

As the Alabama secretary of State noted Wednesday, “I don’t know how many ballots are going to be returned from overseas voters or how many provisional ballots there are, but I’m confident not all of them are going to be for one candidate.”

As for the notion of Moore requesting a recount and paying for himself . . . 

In the small chance it does happen, Moore would then have to deal with the issue of funding, which Merrill estimated could be between $1 million and $1.5 million. The total amount has to be put up when the request is made. As of November 22, the last time a filing was made publicly available, Moore’s campaign only had $636,046 in cash on hand. That means Moore would have to finance the rest of the recount himself, paying as much as $863,000.

Allahpundit wonders if we’re watching a man who had so much faith in his own victory that he cannot mentally comprehend that he lost.

Maybe that’s part of it, that Moore convinced himself that God would speak through the results and simply can’t fathom the reality that he wasn’t chosen. That reminds me of his spokesman, Janet Porter, allegedly telling Nancy French in 2008 that she didn’t love America because she preferred the Mormon Mitt Romney to the evangelical Mike Huckabee in the GOP primary. If Huckabee versus Romney was a litmus test on patriotism and Christian virtue, imagine how much more of a litmus test Moore versus Jones was. Surely the good lord prefers the former to the latter. So how can the vote totals be accurate?

Is sanity too much to ask for these days?

Ed Morrissey makes a key point about character in candidates:

The reports of the death of character in politics was greatly exaggerated. Trump’s win over Clinton last year supposedly demonstrated that a fighting spirit trumps character, so to speak, but that arguably misreads what took place in the 2016 cycle. Both candidates had character issues, which tended to cancel each other out, not lessen their importance overall. When a candidate with serious character issues runs against another without that kind of baggage, it’s going to make a big difference — even bigger, in this case, than Jones’ liberal pro-choice position on abortion. That is a lesson Democrats should take for the 2020 presidential race, and one which Republicans had better consider, too.

ADDENDA: Yes, I saw The Last Jedi last night. My brief, spoiler-free review: It’s really good, and I can’t remember a big blockbuster movie that basically said to the audience, “you think you know what’s going to happen here, right? Well, here’s something completely different” so many times. A lot of twists and turns, closing on a note where the road ahead for our characters — heroes and villains — seems more wide-open than ever. In one of the trailers, Luke warns someone, “this is not going to go the way that you think!” He might as well be speaking to the audience.

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