With three weeks to go to Election Day, one would presume that both major-party candidates would be focusing like a laser on each other. Donald Trump has decided instead to diversify — and is ramping up the rhetoric once more against his own party. Trump tells ABC News that he doesn’t believe that House Speaker Paul Ryan wants him to win, accusing him of using this cycle to prep the ground for his own presidential run.
He also says that the nine-term Congressman from Wisconsin “doesn’t know how to win,” while campaigning in the state where Ryan has a two-decade-long winning streak:
When asked by ABC News’ Tom Llamas before a campaign event tonight in Green Bay, Wisconsin, whether he believed Ryan wanted him to win the race to the White House, Trump responded, “Well, maybe not, because maybe he wants to run in four years or maybe he doesn’t know how to win.”
“Maybe just doesn’t know how to win. I mean, who can really know. But I know I’m in his territory and they are all screaming for Trump,” Trump said, referring to the fact that his campaign event was in Ryan’s home state. “The head of the [state] Republican Party just left me. He shook my hand. He says, ‘You are gonna win Wisconsin.’ And I know one thing, we are gonna do very well here.”
The Republican presidential nominee told ABC News tonight that he’s fighting to the finish line — pushing hard that the election could be “rigged,” and asking his supporters and election workers to be “vigilant and careful with people that are voting” on Nov. 8.
Where to begin? Let’s start with Ryan himself, who actually still endorses Donald Trump, but has decided to focus on House elections rather than campaign with him. After criticizing Trump’s remarks in the Access Hollywood tapes — hardly unique among Republicans — Ryan has kept a low profile in the presidential race, eschewing comment except to note that his endorsement still stands. In fact, Ryan has spent some of his time attacking Hillary Clinton, especially yesterday after the latest revelation from the FBI:
“These documents further demonstrate Secretary Clinton’s complete disregard for properly handling classified information. This is exactly why I called on DNI Clapper to deny her access to classified information. Moreover, a senior State Department official’s attempt to pressure the FBI to hide the extent of this mishandling bears all the signs of a cover-up. This is why our aggressive oversight work in the House is so important, and it will continue.”
One might expect Trump to focus on Hillary rather than Ryan, especially now, but Trump seems obsessed with rebuking anyone who criticizes him or even refuses to praise him. It’s another reminder about the lack of discipline from this inexperienced candidate, a flaw that may prove fatal to his hopes of contending on November 8th.
As far as winning in Wisconsin, so far Trump’s in much worse position than Ryan. Trump has never led in any poll in Wisconsin, and currently only gets to 39% in the RCP average for the two-way race, and 37.8% in the four-way race. In comparison, Ryan is expected to easily win his tenth election in southeastern Wisconsin. A recent poll commissioned by a super-PAC shows smooth sailing and a decent favorability rating despite a relatively balanced district, Politico reported this morning:
The Congressional Leadership Fund, the top House GOP super PAC, polled Ryan’s general election race after he spoke out against Trump. Ryan is up 61 percent to 39 percent over his Democratic opponent. His favorability rating, according to the poll, is 51 percent. Donald Trump’s is 34 percent. WHY WE CARE: A Republican super PAC felt it necessary to test Ryan’s electoral viability in a district he has comfortably won since 1999! To be fair, the district is an R+3, so it could flip to a Democrat in a good year. But Ryan’s never really had a problem.
According to the polling memo, Ryan outpolls both presidential contenders:
Ryan also easily out-distances both presidential candidates, each of whom remain deeply unpopular in the district with Trump’s image at 34% favorable and 62% unfavorable and Clinton’s image at 34% favorable and 59% unfavorable. As a result, the presidential race in the First District remains deadlocked with Trump receiving 43% of the vote, Clinton 42% and the remainder split between the other third party options.
Ryan’s appeal shows his ability to attract support from across the political spectrum: 94% of Republicans will vote for his re-election along with 62% of Independents and a very impressive 24% of Democrats.
The release of the polling memo to the press might be a passive-aggressive thumb in the eye to Trump, but it’s still a good lesson on how to win in tough states and districts. Had Trump listened more, perhaps he’d be doing better in Wisconsin now. Perhaps his campaign advisers might take a lesson from this and get Trump to adjust his entire focus to beating Hillary rather than forming a circular firing squad.