Should Speaker of the House Paul Ryan be looking over his shoulder in this year’s congressional primary race? That’s the opinion of Sarah Palin, which she made clear on Jake Tapper’s State of the Union show this morning. Unhappy with the Speaker’s failure to immediately endorse Donald Trump as the presumptive Republican nominee, the former Alaska Governor lit into Ryan and declared that his days were numbered not only as Speaker, but as a member of Congress. (CNN)
“I think Paul Ryan is soon to be ‘Cantored,’ as in Eric Cantor,” Palin said, referring to the former Republican House majority leader who was ousted in a shocking upset in 2014 when challenger Dave Brat ran to his right in a Virginia primary.
“His political career is over but for a miracle because he has so disrespected the will of the people, and as the leader of the GOP, the convention, certainly he is to remain neutral, and for him to already come out and say who he will not support is not a wise decision of his,” Palin continued.
Such an occasion is always worth a look at the video rather than a simple transcript, so let’s roll that beautiful bean footage, Harvey. (It’s only a few minutes long.)
Palin is an avid Trump supporter and was one of his earlier, high profile endorsements, so it’s not terribly surprising that she’d be going into Mama Bear mode and defending him now. But the threat she’s dishing up is a rather dire one. The reference to Eric Cantor is pretty obvious, but that election involved many complicated factors which would be hard to replicate in most places. Ryan may not have too much to worry about, as Doug Mataconis already noted at Outside the Beltway.
As for the challenge to Ryan, it’s worth noting that Ted Cruz beat Donald Trump by nearly 30,000 votes in Ryan’s First Congressional District when voters there had the chance to voice their opinion. Given that, one doubts that attacks on Ryan that are centered on his refusal to immediately jump on the “Trump Train” as it is being called are going to have much of an impact on what is likely to be a very easy August 9th primary for Ryan’s seat.
Doesn’t this seem a bit premature, even if the threat were looming large? First of all, Ryan is facing off against Paul Nehlen, and thus far his biggest claim to fame seems to be that he endorsed Trump as soon as the Speaker failed to do so. I don’t even see any credible polling on the race, but on some level I suppose that sort of plays into Palin’s argument. (I realize this is a stretch.) If there’s no polling, I guess we can’t definitively say that he’s safe, but as Doug noted, if either support or opposition to Trump is the driving factor here then the First Congressional District wasn’t exactly Trump territory. Also, Ryan won his last general election race with more than 60% of the vote and nearly unanimous support from Republicans. I’m not sure if becoming Speaker has tarnished his brand at home to the point where he’s about to be “Cantored.”
But just in terms of smart politics, remember that Ryan hasn’t ruled out supporting Trump and is actually very likely to do so once Trump offers him an olive branch or two. Why go after him now? Palin is acting as a campaign surrogate at this point and there’s no profit to be had in starting a needless war with the guy who will be overseeing the proceedings at the convention. Seems like a bad move all the way around if you ask me. It risks Ryan’s future endorsement and winds up looking like empty boasting if he cruises to an easy victory in the primary.
But to Palin’s credit, if nothing else we’ve gotten ourselves a nifty new verb to use for future surprise upsets in primaries.