US House speaker Paul Ryan has announced he won’t seek reelection in November. And the move spells disaster for Republicans in the House already facing tough midterm elections.
.@SpeakerRyan: "Today I am announcing that this year will be my last one as a member of the House. To be clear, I am not resigning."
— CSPAN (@cspan) April 11, 2018
Ryan leaves open seat for Dems to claim
Ryan’s announced retirement has sent political shockwaves from Washington all the way back to his Wisconsin congressional district.
Ryan’s likely Democratic opponent, union ironworker Randy Bryce, was already within single digits of Ryan in an internal poll. He also raised an impressive $2.1m in the first three months of 2018. And Senator Bernie Sanders endorsed Bryce last fall.
BREAKING: WE JUST REPEALED PAUL RYAN
— Randy Bryce (@IronStache) April 11, 2018
Still, unseating a sitting speaker of the House is nearly unprecedented in US history. So without Ryan in the race, Bryce stands a much greater chance of winning the seat.
So far, the pro-Republican field is unimpressive. Paul Nehlen, who has called himself “pro-white” and frequently targets Jewish media figures and Jews generally, is one of only two announced candidates.
The other, Nick Polce, served in the US Army special forces and is a first-time candidate.
With less than two months left before the 1 June filing deadline, the GOP is likely to put up a more mainstream challenger.
PAUL RYAN’s operation moves against nehlen. pic.twitter.com/Nw7yfcg13N
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) April 11, 2018
Ryan’s retirement means GOP all but gives up the House
Ryan’s seat, however, isn’t the only one in doubt. His retirement suggests that, at the highest levels of Republican leadership, conservatives hold out little hope of keeping the House in GOP hands.
If Ryan thought he could hold all but a slim majority, he would’ve stuck around. But now, donors seem to know he’s given up hope.
The decision by @SpeakerRyan to not seek re-election dramatically complicates the GOP fight to keep control of the House, starting with fundraising. This makes the Senate basically the entire ballgame come November.
— Jeff Zeleny (@jeffzeleny) April 11, 2018
The focus now shifts to the Senate, where majority leader Mitch McConnell holds a slim advantage. McConnell had already focused his fundraising on the idea that Democrats could take the House.
Ryan leaves behind unfinished business
Republicans have long campaigned to repeal Obamacare and decimate what remains of the social safety net — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Ryan managed neither.
And he’ll end his career without getting entitlement reform, which defined so much of his early political persona. https://t.co/4O69DVYZUz
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) April 11, 2018
His last major achievement did tee up both. The massive $1.5tn tax cut Ryan helped ram through Congress will blow a giant hole in the budget. And Republicans will surely demand that Congress balance the books on the backs of working families.
President Trump's immoral budget will cut Social Security benefits for millions of hardworking Americans. And that means he lied to the American people. pic.twitter.com/0vh1xkKhxq
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) February 15, 2018
Ryan’s retirement will set up a months-long fight over the speaker’s gavel. As Politico reported, House majority leader Kevin McCarthy and majority whip Steve Scalise were already angling for the job in case Ryan retired.
Neither man has a clear shot at the title, and the fight itself could prove bruising to the party.
As far as Ryan’s concerned:
fun fact: Paul Ryan will “retire” with an extremely generous pension and excellent health benefits at 48 years of age
— woke hoover (@vs_cointelpro) April 11, 2018
Ryan also ran for vice president with Mitt Romney in 2012. And his close friends say he still has eyes on higher office.
Ryan, 48, has long harbored presidential ambitions. Friends say he could make another run in the future. https://t.co/TVielDxaOx
— Axios (@axios) April 11, 2018
While Ryan could sit out the 2020 election, a damaged Trump could prove an irresistible target for a GOP primary challenger. Ohio Governor John Kasich has already hinted he’s considering a run. And Ryan and Kasich are among the few Republicans with the national stature to take on a sitting president.
Ryan’s main advantage? His deep ties with the Koch brothers. Charles and David Koch, right-wing libertarian billionaires who lead a political donor network, have huge influence in the Republican Party.
In the meantime, Ryan can make lots of money on the lecture circuit, and will likely have his pick of highly-paid jobs in the private sector.
To be fair to Paul Ryan, he will make a lot more money starving kids in the private sector–and he'll probably starve a lot more kids
— REVIVED Transit, Gloria! (@samknight_one) April 11, 2018
– Read more about the two progressive Democratic challengers who have declared their run for Ryan’s seat: Randy Bryce and Cathy Myers. (So far, no independent progressive has thrown their hat in the ring.) You can also find Bryce (@IronStache) and Myers (@CathyMyersWI) on Twitter.
Featured image via Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons