Here’s what I wrote in December, when the first rumors started swirling that Ryan was headed into retirement. Could be — but no way, no how would that announcement come before November!
He’s a cash cow for the party. The donor class loves him and populist incumbents, however much they disdain him, stand to benefit from his largesse. As of the end of September he’d raked in $39 million this year and sent $30 million of it to the NRCC, the committee charged with reelecting House Republicans. That was nearly half of the committee’s total funds in 2017. The party’s facing a blue wave in the midterms and will need every dollar it can get to try to preserve its majority. Aside from Trump, no one’s going to bring in the dough like Ryan will. The party can’t spare him right now.
Ryan solved part of that problem this morning. He’s out as of January but will keep on chugging with his fundraising for the next seven months. Great — but it won’t be the same. There’s no way to read the impending retirement of a young Speaker of the House as anything but a stark concession that the GOP House majority is ending. If the electoral climate favored Republicans, it’d be different. Ryan could declare his intentions and right-wing voters could start getting excited for a new leader with a new agenda next year. But the climate is what it is. For Ryan to throw in the towel with a blue wave on the way is tantamount to admitting that he thinks the House is lost, that his Speakership is over one way or another so it might as well be over on his terms. How jazzed will rich Republicans be to donate to what even a top party leader now seems to believe is a lost cause?
He’s keeping up appearances, at least, however half-heartedly and unconvincingly:
.@SpeakerRyan at press conference: "I have every confidence I will be handing this gavel on to the next Republican Speaker of the House next year."
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) April 11, 2018
Ryan could have run again, won the seat, then announced a “change of heart” during the lame-duck session, triggering a special election in his district. That would have been shady, as it would have amounted to acknowledging after the fact that he ran for a term he had no intention of serving out. It would also have set off chaos in the caucus as the House GOP scrambled to elect a new leader in the weeks before the January term began. But oh well. At least it would have signaled during the midterm campaign that Ryan believed Republicans would remain in control of the House next term, a boost to morale.
Or have we already reached the point, seven months out from voting, where a Democratic takeover seems so assured that it’s not worth even pretending otherwise? One Republican congressman who spoke waaaaay off the record with Erick Erickson seems to think so:
“I read you writing about this, about wanting to say nice things when you can and criticize when you need to. [Trump] may be an idiot, but he’s still the President and leader of my party and he is capable of doing some things right,” he says before conceding it’s usually other people doing the right things in the President’s name. “But dammit he’s taking us all down with him. We are well and truly f**ked in November. Kevin [McCarthy] is already circling like a green fly circling sh*t trying to take Paul’s [Ryan] job because nobody thinks he’s sticking around for Nancy [Pelosi]. She’s going to f**k up the cafeteria again too. [Lord’s name in vain], at least I’ll probably lose too and won’t have to put up with that sh*t.” He won’t lose. His district is very Republican…
“I say a lot of shit on TV defending [Trump], even over this. But honestly, I wish the motherf*cker would just go away. We’re going to lose the House, lose the Senate, and lose a bunch of states because of him. All his supporters will blame us for what we have or have not done, but he hasn’t led. He wakes up in the morning, sh*ts all over Twitter, sh*ts all over us, sh*ts all over his staff, then hits golf balls. F*ck him. Of course, I can’t say that in public or I’d get run out of town.”
Alrighty then. As for Ryan, now that he’s on his way out, maybe he’ll go sell weed with the last guy to hold the job:
I’m joining the board of #AcreageHoldings because my thinking on cannabis has evolved. I’m convinced de-scheduling the drug is needed so we can do research, help our veterans, and reverse the opioid epidemic ravaging our communities. @AcreageCannabis https://t.co/f5i9KcQD0W
— John Boehner (@SpeakerBoehner) April 11, 2018
There’s silliness floating around on social media about what Ryan’s intentions towards Trump might be now that he’s been liberated from having to care what the GOP base thinks of him. Is he about to go full Trey Gowdy and start cheerleading for Robert Mueller or, worse, full Jeff Flake and start ripping on Trump at every turn? Is he thinking of primarying Trump in 2020? Uh, no. Ryan will be remembered for three things: (1) Being an exceptionally likable, well-mannered guy; (2) having his years of fiscal-conservative sermonizing end in utter failure; and (3) never being hard on Donald Trump. Even if Ryan wanted to follow Flake’s path, his duties to the caucus in trying to hold back the blue wave as best he can would override that. A war between the president and the outgoing Speaker would mean only bad things for turnout this fall. He has to keep biting his tongue, at least until November. Ryan being Ryan, he’ll probably decline to badmouth Trump even after that. He’s not a mean guy, even when he has reason to be.
Here he is today reminding everyone that he never sought his terrible, terrible job. Might be the last Republican Speaker for awhile.
Paul Ryan: "You all know that I did not seek this job. I took it reluctantly. But I have given this job everything I have, and I have no regrets whatsoever for having accepted this responsibility." pic.twitter.com/n5FNiCbgRQ
— NBC Politics (@NBCPolitics) April 11, 2018