What's driving conservative opposition to Paul Ryan

But it was Ryan’s defection on immigration, it seems, that first signaled to some conservatives that he may not be one of them. Ryan holds a D-minus rating with NumbersUSA, a non-partisan organization that seeks to reduce immigration back to what it calls “traditional levels.” Ryan is “unacceptable,” says the organization’s president, Roy Beck. “He combines a sentimentalist view of immigration that’s not practical, and he represents the immigration policies of crony capitalists. To put somebody as speaker who is so tied to this image is detrimental to the GOP. They need to try to be a party that wage-earning Americans believe in.”

Beck adds that he finds it “weird” that conservatives are only just now taking notice of Ryan’s immigration record. “We did not extol him as a vice-presidential nominee.”

There are those who see the opposition to Ryan as a bad sign for the GOP. Steve Schmidt, who ran John McCain’s 2008 campaign, says it’s indicative of the “acute dysfunction of the Republican party.”

“When you look at a decaying institution, the first sign of demise is the imposition of purity tests,” he says. Immigration, he adds, is the test of the moment.