That’s right. The former speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, is endorsing the current speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, in lieu of a declared candidate winning the first ballot at the convention. Welcome to 2016.
Boehner made the “endorsement” in Boca Raton, Fla., on Wednesday. “If we don’t have a nominee who can win on the first ballot, I’m for none of the above,” the former House speaker said at the Futures Industry Association conference. “They all had a chance to win. None of them won. So I’m for none of the above. I’m for Paul Ryan to be our nominee.”
The former speaker’s endorsement only matters in the case of a contested convention, if neither frontrunner Donald Trump nor strong second place candidate Ted Cruz racks up the required 1,237 delegates to win the nomination on the first ballot. Boehner had whispered to friends that he believes Ryan could be the party’s political savior, but he never said it publicly until now.
During his remarks on Wednesday, Boehner called Cruz “lucifer,” adding to his previous attacks calling the Texas senator a “jacka**.”
Ryan and his staff responded, saying that the current speaker does not want the presidential nomination.
“The speaker is grateful for the support, but he is not interested,” AshLee Strong, a Ryan spokeswoman, told Politico. “He will not accept a nomination and believes our nominee should be someone who ran this year.”
“I’m not running for president,” Ryan told CNBC on Tuesday. “I made the decision, consciously, not to. I don’t see that happening. I’m not thinking about it. I’m happy where I am, so no.” The speaker added that he hadn’t given “any thought” to a contested convention, and noted that “a lot of people” are running for president.
Boehner, who represented Ohio in Congress until he resigned last fall, said he voted for Governor John Kasich in the primary. Boehner and Kasich served together in the House of Representatives for a decade.
The former speaker’s support for Ryan over Kasich proves fascinating, since Kasich himself acknowledges that he cannot win without a contested convention — the only situation where Ryan could win. Perhaps Boehner wishes primarily to stop Trump and cannot stomach a Cruz nomination.
Boehner is friendly with Trump, and has spent hours golfing with the real estate tycoon, but he may not wish to support the blustering populist who is highly unpopular even in the Republican Party. In exit polls from the primaries, between 43 percent and 60 percent of GOP voters say they would be satisfied with him as the nominee, well below the 62 percent to 85 percent of Democrats who would be content with Hillary, despite her lack of trustworthiness.
There is much debate in the party on whether or not a contested convention would be healthy or devastating. Some commentators have noted that conventions like the upcoming July event in Cleveland, Ohio, historically were the very ground on which the party collectively made its decisions. Trump himself warned that if the convention is contested, and The Donald does not win the nomination, there will be riots. Did you hear that, Boehner? Shots fired.