Chris Wallace: Establishment groups are threatening to primary House conservatives who oppose Paul Ryan

Via Breitbart, this is the kind of claim that big-media types would sneer at as right-wing propaganda designed to build grassroots opposition to Ryan becoming Speaker … if it wasn’t a big-media type who was reporting it.

Outside groups spent $23 million last year trying to beat tea-party candidates in Republican primaries, with the Chamber of Commerce accounting for nearly a third of that amount. Ryan is an ideal choice for that wing of the party — anti-tax and pro-amnesty, serious about cutting spending but not above voting for TARP amid a financial crisis. He was Mitt Farking Romney’s running mate, for cripes sake. His pro-business credentials are impeccable. All of which is to say, what Wallace is alleging here isn’t implausible.

WALLACE:  Karl, I want to end on this exit question, which is that I’m told, that, you know, for all the talk of what the Freedom Caucus is demanding, Ryan knows numbers, and secondly, there’s a lot of pressure being put on by the establishment and business groups, saying that some of those Freedom Caucus members, if you’re not going to play ball and you’re not going to get involved, you’re going to get a primary opponent.

There’s a tiny bit of ambiguity there in whether Wallace means the FC members will be primaried for opposing Ryan specifically or for being obstructionist generally. He made the comment within a larger conversation about Ryan’s odds of becoming Speaker, though, so that’s what I understand him to mean. On the other hand, Breitbart’s right that the Chamber of Commerce was already planning a much larger push next year to replace some House conservatives with more business-friendly Republican moderates, so even a vote for Ryan for Speaker might not spare some of these guys from a tough primary. Although that raises a question: If the Chamber was already looking to take out some members of the Freedom Caucus for being too far right, why bring Ryan into this? All it will accomplish is to make Ryan radioactive among grassroots Republicans who are still somewhat well disposed to him. They would have been wiser to leave Ryan out of it and trust that members of the FC are already carefully weighing how far they should go in opposing favorites of the GOP’s business class.

What makes this story a big deal is that Ryan supposedly won’t agree to run for Speaker unless he has the unconditional support of the Freedom Caucus. He’s not going to negotiate with a minority of the GOP conference just to qualify for the job. If House Republicans want him by acclamation, okay, but otherwise, no. Leaking the fact that business interests are leaning on conservatives to back Ryan is the surest way to destroy that acclamation; Ryan is now cast as the crony-in-chief of the Chamber and the Freedom Caucus will face grassroots pressure not to support him lest they be seen as “selling out.” Which makes me think Ryan’s not going to end up as Speaker after all. And it also makes me think that whoever whispered this to Wallace wasn’t a Ryan ally but an adversary, using this leak to marginalize him ahead of the big vote. Or do I have that backwards? If it’s true that Ryan detests the idea of becoming Speaker, then whoever leaked this to Wallace was actually doing him a favor.

If you missed it yesterday, go read Newt Gingrich’s warning to Ryan about the Speakership. Exit quotation: “You get to keeping the government open, to a continuing resolution, then you get to the debt ceiling, if you’re not careful, by Christmas you resemble John Boehner.” Why would Ryan volunteer to be the de facto RINO-in-chief?

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Jazz Shaw 5:31 PM on February 04, 2023