It was only a couple of weeks ago that an Arizona lawmaker said that he’d heard, “through the Washington rumor mill,” that House Speaker Paul Ryan would not be running for re-election. And then, to give credit where credit is due, Axios had the scoop on Tuesday with a report that friends of Ryan were saying he’d made the decision to step down and let his Wisconsin House seat go to someone else. These two reports flew against a fairly strong pushback wind – just this week, articles ran in Politico and Roll Call which essentially said that Ryan was in it to win it, and that even though he hadn’t yet filed his campaign paperwork, he had every intention of running in November.
Well, it turns out the rumors were true. On Wednesday, Paul Ryan, who has been in Congress for nearly twenty years and Speaker for three, announced that he was calling it a career.
“You realize something when you take this job,” Ryan told reporters. “It’s a big job with a lot riding on you. But you also know this is not a job that lasts forever – you realize you hold the office for just a small part of our history. So you better make the most of it.”
Ryan noted that he’d never particularly wanted the Speakership in the first place, but argued that he’d done what he could to take the country forward. “I like to think I’ve done my part, my little part in history to set us on a better course.”
There’s no love lost among conservatives for Ryan, who has been viewed as little more than John Boehner, Part II. His reluctance to support Donald Trump in 2016 has not been forgotten and his failure to get control of congressional spending and make a mounted effort to improve border security has not been lost on Trump’s voters. He enjoys a dismal approval rating nationally, even as he maintains his popularity in his home state. Some of that is just the nature of the job – it’s no easy task to wrangle the various ideological factions within the House Republican Conference – but some of it is Ryan’s apathy towards the Trump-focused direction of the conservative movement.
We expect that corners of TrumpWorld like Breitbart will be celebrating Ryan’s retirement as though they won something. We’re not sure we see it that way. Whether you love Ryan or hate him, he has been on the president’s side since Trump arrived in the White House. Can the same be said for his likely successor, Kevin McCarthy? We’re not sure. And the fact is, anyone who takes the Speakership is going to face many of the same difficulties that plagued Ryan and Boehner.
More concerning to us, though, is the trend. Ryan is what – the 40th Republican in Congress to announce his retirement over the last year and a half? This is what opens the door in a big way for a Democrat slaughter in November. And if you think Trump’s agenda isn’t moving quickly enough through Congress now…