Mark your calendars! As if there isn’t enough daily drama swirling around Washington, in early or mid-April there is likely to be an announcement that will titillate the nation’s capital more than a Stormy Daniels interview on “60 Minutes.”
According to a frontline GOP strategist (name asked to be withheld) “after Easter” is when House Speaker Paul Ryan will announce his decision whether or not to run for reelection in Wisconsin’s 1st congressional district. Speaker Ryan, age 48, has represented his home district since winning the seat in 1998 at age 28.
Ryan’s 2018 reelection decision is imminent given Wisconsin’s filing deadline of June 1 with an August 14 primary. Thus, April is the expected time frame when this strategist believes the speaker will drop his bombshell.
Wisconsin’s 1st district is the most southeastern in the state. It is situated along the eastern portion of the northern Illinois border encompassing Kenosha and Racine counties including portions of Milwaukee, Rock, Walworth, and Waukesha counties.
In 2016, Ryan won the district with 65 percent of the vote, a slight increase from 63 percent in 2014. A vast improvement from 2012 when Ryan won 54.9 percent after his name appeared twice on his district’s ballot —first as the GOP’s vice presidential nominee on Mitt Romney’s presidential ticket and as a congressional candidate for reelection.
Upon making the announcement in April, Ryan, in his role as speaker of the House, will immediately become a lame duck speaker with his power significantly diminished — the reason why Ryan is waiting as long as politically feasible.
Regardless of whether you are a Ryan supporter or not, a decision to step down will unleash an unpredictable public relations scenario. There will be wild speculation and lower morale among Republicans adding credence to what virtually every GOP strategist expects will be a massive “blue wave” resulting in Democrats winning control of the House. (And many GOP strategists also believe that Democrats will immediately begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump.)
Therefore, it makes sense that after 20 years in office, Ryan sees 2018 as the year to vacate, especially after the victorious 2017 passage of tax reform — one of Ryan’s long-time legislative dreams.
Moreover, Ryan, under 50 and in the prime of life, will have endless career opportunities and job offers, with philanthropy supposedly near the top of the list.
In mid-December, headlines exploded after a report that Ryan would not run for reelection. Then in January, more headlines predicted the same. Conversely, in late January, Ryan told Fox News that he would run in 2018 but ruled out a future presidential bid. Since then, all has been quiet on the Ryan reelection front.
Meanwhile, Ryan has not officially filed, has made no active reelection campaign rumblings and, coupled with the GOP’s disastrous Pennsylvania special election results as evidence that Republicans will likely lose control of the House, why the heck would Ryan stick around to hand the House gavel to Nancy Pelosi? Practically speaking, what more does Speaker Ryan have to prove after serving 20 years in the House given his other signature issue, entitlement reform, is going nowhere fast?
Back in Ryan’s congressional district, two GOP candidates, Paul Nehlen and Nick Polce have filed to run in the August 14 primary. Nehlen is problematic for Wisconsin Republicans after his suspension from Twitter last month due to a series of posts criticized for being racist or anti-Semitic.
Polce is a former Army Green Beret and appears to be more mainstream. According to his campaign website, “After serving in the military, Nick began his life in the private sector as an entrepreneur, real estate investor, and part owner at a risk mitigation firm.”
The leading Democrat candidate is an ironworker and union organizer named Randy “Ironstache” Bryce who famously attended January’s State of the Union address to “stare down” Paul Ryan and “hold Ryan accountable.”
One GOP strategist familiar with the congressional district’s machinations said, “I suspect Ryan will pick his choice. But that does not mean his pick will win.”
There is a consensus that the district will be “tougher to win” for the GOP if Ryan does not run for reelection. In fact, last week, Larry Sabato's “Crystal Ball” changed Wisconsin’s 1st congressional district from “safe Republican” to “likely Republican,” obviously not an encouraging trend.
The bottom line is Speaker Ryan has no reason to stay in the House, especially if Republicans find themselves in the minority. And now, after Tuesday’s special election in Pennsylvania proved that even GOP seats in “safe districts” are vulnerable, Ryan told his colleagues that the Pennsylvania race was a "wake-up-call."
Thus, “after Easter” expect Ryan to hear his own “wake-up call” with an alarm that says, “Time to start your second career.”