To nobody’s surprise, Paul Ryan easily won re-election to his House seat—with more than 80% of the vote. But it wasn’t an easy fight. His opponent, Paul Nehlen, got pretty rough, calling Ryan names, and trying to get support from Donald Trump, by repeatedly praising the presidential candidate, and condemning the House Speaker.
It’s clear that there’s little love lost between Ryan and Trump. First, it was the fight for influence. Ryan was trying to shape the discussion as permanent Republican Party principles versus its temporary titular head, its presidential candidate. But Trump is not used to any kind of pushback. The Hill points out ten points of contention between the two.
1. Ban on Muslims
2. Raising taxes on the wealthy
3. Trade issues
4. Easing restrictions with Cuba
5. Planned Parenthood
7. Minimum wage
8. Eminent domain
9. Social Security
10. Medicare drug negotiations
The Tea Party turned on Ryan, whom they had promoted in 2010.
As we noted previously, Ryan wanted to “direct” Trump to be a more traditional Republican candidate. That’s why he withheld his endorsement of Trump. Miffed by that, Trump refused to endorse Ryan’s House run, pointedly using Ryan’s words against him, “I’m not quite there, yet.”
Trump went so far as to praise Ryan’s opponent, Paul Nehlen, according to Politico.
Finally, when it was clear that Nehlen wasn’t making a dent, Trump endorsed Ryan, as well as Nevada Senator John McCain, New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte, and anyone else he could think of, according to Fox.
A lot of Trump people were on the ground for Nehlen.
Several conservative “stars” also showed up.
But Nehlen also received the backing of big names in the conservative sphere of influence, such as author and commentator Ann Coulter and former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin. The news site often linked to the “alt-right” movement, Breitbart, provided glowing coverage of Nehlen throughout the primary, often ignoring the polling data that showed his near-certain defeat.
Now there are reports that people came from across the country to campaign against Ryan.
Supporters of Republican congressional candidate Paul Nehlen were improperly electioneering too close to polling places Tuesday, according to multiple complaints in Mount Pleasant and elsewhere throughout the 1st Congressional District. . .
Some Nehlen supporters came in from out of state. About 8 a.m., a man was observed outside the polling place at the Mount Pleasant Village Hall, 8811 Campus Drive, posting large “Vote for Nehlen” signs. The man’s car had a Tennessee license plate.
The sign was removed soon after, but the man returned and walked near Village Hall carrying a “Vote for Nehlen” sign, and after he left, another man returned to take his spot. Poll workers determined he was in compliance with state law.
A 19-year-old Texas man, who was flown in by the Nehlen campaign, walked around with a sign at Mount Pleasant Village Hall Tuesday morning. He said he was paid in food and travel, among other things, to walk around with the sign at the polling place Tuesday. The man went to two other locations in Mount Pleasant Tuesday morning.
“This is better than working at a gas station,” the 19-year-old said. . .
Nehlen campaign spokesman Noel Fritsch. . .confirmed the campaign brought in people from out of state to help, but said dozens of people from Wisconsin also helped Nehlen’s efforts. . .
The state Elections Commission also received Nehlen-related electioneering complaints in Janesville.
The endorsement game between Trump and Ryan became a bit of a soap opera. When it finally came, Ryan was underwhelmed by Trump’s endorsement, noting that he never asked Trump for his endorsement, in the first place, and resented Trump’s claim that Ryan was begging, according to National Review.
The Republican speaker of the House is, for all intents and purposes, calling the Republican presidential nominee a liar. . .
Trump told the Washington Post that the speaker asked for his endorsement, but said he’s withholding it. . . The speaker’s office delivered a swift and forceful response “Neither Speaker Ryan nor anyone on his team has ever asked for Donald Trump’s endorsement,” Zack Roday, Ryan’s campaign spokesman, said in a statement.
In fact, Ryan is now saying that his endorsement of Trump could be rescinded.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said Friday that “of course” there is a point at which he could rescind his endorsement of Donald Trump, but stopped short of saying where that yet-uncrossed line is.
Ryan has thus far stuck by his endorsement of Trump, even as he has repeatedly criticized the nominee, including after Trump’s war of words with Gold Star parents who criticized him at the Democratic National Convention and his refusal to endorse the House speaker in his upcoming primary.
But Ryan also said that his endorsements are never a “blank check,” leaving open the possibility that the Wisconsin Republican could pull his stamp of approval from Trump’s campaign.
But Ryan then tried to cool it.
In a separate interview, Ryan said “heck if I know” when asked if the conflict with Trump was over. The speaker added he was more interested in seeking the support of his constituents in Wisconsin’s Aug. 9 primary than in engaging Trump.
“I’m not going to try and psychoanalyze stuff,” Ryan told WISN-12’s Jay Weber in Milwaukee. “I’m going to rise above the stuff, and I’m not going to get involved in some petty back-and-forth. I don’t see a purpose in that.”
With today’s extreme gerrymandering, the primary is more important than the general election, since districts have been twisted and perverted to make sure that incumbents win. Now that Ryan has his primary battle behind him, he will be free to say what he wants about Trump. And considering the way Trump tried to undermine him, it may not be long before Ryan says he’s going to quote Ted Cruz and “vote his conscience.”