No one imagined three days ago that a month would disappear from the campaign calendar.
The morning of the Indiana primary virtually everyone assumed there would be a fight for the GOP nomination at least to June 7, when California, New Jersey and several other states vote.
Many thought the contest could go on after June 7 because Donald Trump might still be a few delegates short.
Some hoped there would be a contested convention in July.
Suddenly, Tuesday night, Senator Ted Cruz cut either one or two months out of the calendar.
In a very wise, realistic step he suspended his candidacy. This allows him to
avoid a month of negativity. It will serve him well. He leaves the race a much bigger, stronger figure than when he entered. He is plausibly a candidate for the Presidency in 2020 if Trump loses. (Actually, Cruz is so young he is plausibly a candidate for President in 2040). He has the name recognition and financial network to become a future governor of our second biggest state. He would be a superb choice to fill the Scalia role on the Supreme Court. He can now take some time to think long and hard about his future.
The Cruz decision had a big effect on both Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan.
First, the Trump team was focused on winning the nomination. They were consumed by delegate
hunts, future primaries, and winning a convention with a lot of opposition trying to stop them.
Suddenly the Trump team has had to shift direction, focus, and scale.
Trump himself has to move from an enthusiastic gladiator fighting Republican rivals to a national leader seeking to unify both the party and the country. The shift has been huge and sudden. It will take weeks to complete.
Second, Speaker Ryan represents a serious, policy oriented Washington based approach that is somewhere between skeptical and hostile about the Trump candidacy.
On the morning of the Indiana primary the Washington policy Republicans still had hopes of a contested convention. Most thought that, at a minimum, they had six or seven more weeks to negotiate with Trump as he tried to win the last few delegates.
In some ways the Cruz withdrawal was the worst possible world for Washington policy Republicans.
Suddenly, Trump was unchallengeable. He was the nominee. None of the reconciliation and communication process had occurred.
Furthermore, by winning so early and so decisively, the Washington policy Republicans feared there was a very real chance Trump would now wander off into whatever policy inventions and maneuvers he wanted to.
Speaker Ryan was looking for a maneuver to
slow down the Trump consolidation of power and force a negotiated dialogue toward some kind of accommodation between two very different set of policy goals.
Ryan's Thursday statement that he could not yet endorse Trump was dangerous. It was also in some ways a demonstration of fear and weakness.
Faced with an amazing avalanche of personal victories for Trump, Ryan apparently felt he needed a big enough event to get Trump's attention.
This is a very dangerous game.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is correctly trying to develop party unity now that there is a nominee.
Ryan's statement may have been given a bigger
play because of the same day announcement by the two Bush Presidents and Mitt Romney that they would not endorse Trump or attend the convention.
As someone who supported all three for President it was a bit outrageous to have them suddenly wiser and purer than millions of Republican voters. It is fine to have them skip Cleveland which ought to be focused on the future not the past. It is not acceptable to have them desert the party which made them national figures.
Hopefully Ryan and Trump will work through to an
accommodation in the next week or so.
Running for president is hard.
Governing is even harder.
This is just one more bump on a road that Trump has triumphantly been on for a year. There will be a lot more bumps and his ability to solve them will determine if he becomes President.
Ryan also faces the challenge of leading a House GOP which could rapidly split into unmanageable factions.
There is a lot at stake.