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Outsiders vs. Insiders: Want to win this year, Republicans? Support the coup against Ryan

You’ve got to love rumors. There’s nothing quite like a juicy bit of political gossip – it’s the stuff the Washington swamp is made of. (This is not to be confused with leaks, which are obviously not okay.)

But whenever we see something in the news that sounds a tad farfetched but could be true it sparks interest. Ryan and McConnellSuch was the case earlier this week when a conservative-leaning publication featured a report that President Trump was contemplating joining an ongoing intra-party effort to supplant Speaker Paul Ryan before this year’s elections.

Steven Nelson of the Washington Examiner reported, “President Trump has been briefed on plans to force House Speaker Paul Ryan out of office this summer and is considering lending his support, according to a new report.

“A source who discussed the idea with Trump told The Weekly Standard that the president ‘believes there is merit to the plan, but has not formed a final position.’

“The plan is to replace Ryan quickly with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., in part to strengthen the power of the speaker’s office after conservative lawmakers blocked a sweeping farm bill last week.”

Everything was peachy with this story until the final sentence, which not only introduced the possibility Trump might side with the establishment on this “coup”, but also threw in a backhanded jibe at House conservatives for principally opposing the subsidy-filled farm bill. If conservative lawmakers “blocked” the bill it wasn’t just because Paul Ryan wanted it – there were likely dozens of rationales and billions of monetary justifications as well.

And maybe there was another reason in addition… According to sources Freedom Caucus members balked on the bill because the wishy-washy GOP leaders (Ryan, McCarthy and Scalise) couldn’t give them assurance that an important immigration reform proposal (Goodlatte bill) would be moved forward for a vote and possible passage next month.

In other words, the establishment leadership is playing games again, which makes it all the more urgent to cast Ryan out now and replace him with someone like Freedom Caucus founder Rep. Jim Jordan. What would be the purpose of having wishy-washy dolt McCarthy take over after Ryan exits? Can anyone – including President Trump – truly say they want more of the same in Congress?

Besides, Ryan himself has endorsed McCarthy; they’re birds of a feather and are always arm-and-arm in photo ops together.

It’s understandable why Trump would potentially favor a “coup” to dethrone Ryan – after all, the Wisconsin establishmentarian has basically ignored the most salient points of the MAGA agenda (such as funding for a border wall) – and to fail to take advantage of this golden opportunity to drain the swamp (by installing new leaders) would be tragic. As the “outsider” agent of change, Trump knows as well as anyone that the same elitist inmates can’t keep running the asylum.

If someone suggests McCarthy deserves to succeed Ryan, ask them “Name one change McCarthy would implement to improve the way things are done today.” Your subject will likely ramble on about process fixes and a return to regular order, but is it credible to believe the answer to the House’s (and Congress’s) inertia is to promote from within?

Aside from the internal reasons for denying McCarthy’s ascension, the party is engaged in a desperate political fight to maintain majorities in both houses of Congress this fall. How will voters respond to the knowledge that re-electing Republicans simply means more of the same stonewalling, typically accompanied by the standard GOP leadership drivel – “Our majority isn’t large enough” or “We need to wait until after an election year” or “We need a Republican president in the White House to sign the bills.”

Oh wait – the last one already happened.

Today’s congressional leaders are ineffective because they don’t keep the promises they make to the voters every two years, such as to repeal Obamacare, enforce the immigration laws, cut federal spending, eliminate waste, return to a sane budgetary process, stand up to the special interests, etc…. Americans need changes they can see – and it won’t be accomplished by reinstalling a collection of spineless ruling class swamp creature pols who are eternally preoccupied with winning elections and pleasing lobbyists instead of listening to constituents.

The farm bill was a perfect example of the swamp disease – how long have conservatives been trying to get rid of ethanol subsidies?

For his part Trump was for passing the farm bill, a continuation of his long-held philosophy that any bill he signs is better than none at all. Trump likes getting things done even if the details of the deal are less than perfect (or even reasonable). It’s perhaps his least attractive trait.

It’s also becoming clear Trump will have a measurable effect on this year’s elections – though oddly enough it might be different for the Senate versus House elections. W. James Antle III of the Washington Examiner wrote, “If you are a Republican in a competitive congressional race this year, whether you invite President Trump to campaign for you may depend on whether you are running for House or Senate.

“Republicans could easily lose the House if Democrats run the table in suburban districts where ‘The Resistance’ is strong and the affinity of college-educated GOP-leaning voters for their party’s new populist branding is weak. Republicans are defending a 23-seat majority in the House; there are as many GOP-held districts that went for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

“Yet the Republicans’ position is much stronger in the Senate, where ten Democrats are running for re-election in states Trump carried and several of these red-state lawmakers are highly vulnerable. That gives Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., some insurance if the Democrats manage to pick off one or two of his 51 senators and possibly an opportunity to expand that narrow majority.”

Antle adds it’s like the elections are happening in two different worlds. That may be true but many of the obstacles GOP House candidates are encountering are self-erected. Since the most vulnerable Republicans are also the caucus’s so-called “moderates,” there’s an intra-party ideological conflict in these places as well as the need to battle their Democrat opponents.

I live in one of these swing districts where the incumbent Republican is garbling her message to pander to the independent vote while largely ignoring the conservatives who make up her base. While it’s true she’s going to need the “middle” segment to win – give or take five points – she also must count on the high number of Republicans who support Trump.

Seeing as this district is a DC suburb it’s moving increasingly blue in orientation -- just last November ours was the first in the nation to elect a transgender to a state legislature – but that doesn’t mean principles and votes don’t matter. This area also made national cable news shows for its illegal alien crime problem; I can think of no better way to ask for local votes than strongly backing President Trump’s recent tough stance on Salvadoran Street Gang MS-13.

To her credit Rep. Barbara Comstock has led on the subject, but the point is she can get close to Trump on an issue that’s salient to voters on both extremes and still appear “independent” to moderate voters. Democrats are on the other side of the voting population’s views here – why isn’t this being exploited by the party establishment?

And yes, while it’s true the senate map seems more favorable to Republicans this year, in these races it will boil down to defending Trump’s agenda and traditional conservative principles and values against the relentless attacks from the left. The more any candidate makes the election about matters of personality the farther away they move from the “stuff” that wins elections.

It’s the issues, stupid! Luckily Republican senate candidates might have another good subject to talk about on the campaign trail this year. Lydia Wheeler reported in The Hill the other day, “Like clockwork, Washington has whipped itself into a frenzy over rumors of a possible retirement on the Supreme Court.

“All eyes are on Justice Anthony Kennedy, 81, who reportedly considered calling it quits last spring. As the court’s current term winds to a close, speculation about his plans has again swept the capital, with court watchers searching for clues…

“Some said the presence of Kennedy’s wife at the final oral arguments of the term could be a sign he’s on the way out the door. When Mary Davis was spotted in the courtroom on April 25, the press corps started buzzing about whether she was there to hear her husband’s last round of questioning from the bench. But SCOTUSblog's Mark Walsh reported that the wives of Breyer, Alito and Gorsuch were seated in the VIP section too.”

The difference being that Breyer, Alito and Gorsuch almost certainly will return next year (for a variety of reasons). Does the presence of a justice’s wife signal anything? Who knows.

And yes, should Kennedy retire at the end of the current term (next month) there’s a good chance President Trump will nominate – and the GOP senate majority will push through – the next justice before November even gets here. But politically speaking, the nominee isn’t nearly as important as the fight over confirmation will be.

Any Supreme Court opening is so high-profile it’s not possible for any senator to hide from registering a position – particularly those Democrats in red states who will be roasting from the media exposure like an ant under a sadistic kid’s magnifying glass on a sunny day.

Every Republican candidate in every state can easily pledge his or her support for the nominee – it’s a no-brainer. But will West Virginia’s Sen. Joe Manchin or Missouri’s Sen. Claire McCaskill or North Dakota’s Sen. Heide Heitkamp – all Democrats in deep red states – feel as uninhibited to weigh-in one way or the other? Not a chance.

Chuck Schumer will be breathing down their necks to reject the nominee no matter who it is because the ideological balance of the Supreme Court could be at stake. Will the Democrat senators bow to Schumer – and almost guarantee they’ll lose their seats – or take a chance at angering the Democrat base by confirming the Trump appointee?

Sounds like a delicious political conundrum, doesn’t it?

Further, a Supreme Court vacancy could be the only issue that would make Mitch McConnell look good, too. Seth McLaughlin of the Washington Times reported, “Whether he is shaping the agenda for incumbents or putting his finger on the scales to help pick nominees for open seats, Mr. McConnell — as well as President Trump — is the biggest factor in control of the Senate.

“Defenders say Mr. McConnell has handled both roles masterfully. Republicans can run on a tax cut, a new Supreme Court justice and a host of erased Obama-era regulations. The majority leader also is working to make sure weak candidates don’t win the party’s nomination in key states.

“But some insurgent Republicans whom Mr. McConnell is working to defeat say he will cost the party seats it otherwise would win in November. They also accuse him of undercutting Mr. Trump and the conservative movement by backing candidates who are less committed to the president’s agenda.”

Most conservatives consider McConnell a liability, but he did appear strong and principled during the battle to confirm now-Justice Neil Gorsuch last year. No doubt another Trump nomination to haggle over would help McConnell – and all Republicans – look good this year.

If rumors circulated there was a “coup” in the works involving Mitch McConnell, conservatives wouldn’t require much prodding to flock to the insurgents’ banner. One way or another Republicans need new congressional leaders – a factor that would play well in this year’s elections.

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The RINOS must go. Ryan,

The RINOS must go. Ryan, McConnell