LATEST: Paul Ryan’s retirement deals another blow to GOP in tough midterm year

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Democrats have a shot at winning Paul Ryan’s seat

11 APR 18 16:15 ET

(CNN) — House Speaker Paul Ryan’s decision to not seek re-election makes his district more competitive for Democrats in the fall.

One would have already expected it to be more competitive than usual given Republicans’ poor performance on the generic ballot and in special elections throughout the year. And with Ryan’s exit, Republicans are losing a high-profile incumbent who has won re-elections rather easily in Wisconsin’s first congressional district.

When you take into the partisan lean of the district, the national environment and the potential quality of the candidates, it’s pretty clear that this is going to be a race that both sides fight for.

Based upon the last two presidential elections and how Wisconsin 1 has voted versus the nation, the partisan baseline of Ryan’s district is +11 Republican.

The generic ballot has bounced around a little bit, though has generally shown Democrats with a high single digit to low double digit advantage. If that same shift were applied to Wisconsin 1, Democrats would be quite competitive. It’s also been noted by the New York Times’ Nate Cohn that in open seats where no incumbent is running, shifts in the vote can be even greater than one would suspect just looking at the generic ballot.

The special elections this cycle tell the same story. In the eight federal special elections so far, Democrats have been running an average of over 15 points ahead of their partisan baseline in each district. That’s more than enough to overcome the partisan lean in Wisconsin 1.

Now, special elections aren’t completely the same as the elections that will take place this fall because there will be a lot of other races on the ballot in most states for those, so turnout may be different. Still, special elections have been correlated with the midterm outcome since 1994, and the fall election in Wisconsin 1 will be an open seat like the special elections so far this year.

But perhaps most important is the quality of the candidates running. The Democrats most prominent candidate is iron worker Randy Bryce, whose campaign announced that he raised over $2 million in the first three months of this year. That’s in addition to the over 2.5 million he had taken in by the end of last year. All told, he’s raised a little over $4 million dollars.

Right now, the Republican running who has raised the most money by far is Paul Nehlen, who only took in a little over $160,000 by the end of last year. Nehlen lost by nearly 70 points to Ryan in a 2016 primary. Since that time, Nehlen has posted anti-semitic rants on Twitter.

The Republicans are going to need to scramble to find someone acceptable before the filing deadline on June 1st. There is a deep bench of potential candidates in the district.

CNN has shifted the race from solid Republican to lean Republican.

That’s the same rating as the Cook Political Report. In wave elections (as this one is potentially shaping up to be), the party that benefits from the wave wins about 40% of the seats that the Cook Political Report categorized as leaning towards the other party at this point in the cycle.

(CNN) — House Speaker Paul Ryan’s retirement has dealt a morale-bruising blow to Republicans’ hopes of holding onto their majority in the chamber in this year’s midterm elections.

Ryan’s surprise Wednesday morning announcement that he won’t seek re-election could rattle GOP incumbents and donors just seven months before November’s contests, GOP lawmakers and operatives said.

The two most pressing concerns for Republicans: They are losing their leading fundraiser, potentially creating a major financial void, and more lawmakers could follow Ryan’s lead and head for the exits.

“It may encourage other Republicans to not run again, I think more so than affecting the money,” said Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Kentucky. “We’ve already got twice as many retirements in our party as the Democrats. This may be a signal that it’s OK to retire.”

The party is defending its 23-seat House majority against an energized Democratic base that sees the House as its best chance to put a check on President Donald Trump.

Ryan wasn’t the only retirement Wednesday. Florida Rep. Dennis Ross, first elected in the tea party wave of 2010, also announced he won’t seek re-election this fall. That brings the total number of Republicans leaving or having left the House this cycle to 41.

Ryan isn’t likely to disappear from the political landscape immediately.

He was speaking to major donors on a conference call Wednesday, and according to an invite, he planned to say he would continue raising money and campaigning for House Republicans through the remainder of 2018.

Rep. Ryan Costello, R-Pennsylvania, told reporters on Wednesday that Ryan said in a morning meeting of House Republicans that he was going to “run through the tape through the end of the year to help elect Republicans.”

Asked whether this was a bad sign for GOP control of the House, he said: “Others may try and spin it that way, but I don’t see it that way.” He called retirements a “a decision-by-decision basis.”

Ryan has personally raised more than $40 million for the House GOP’s campaign arm in the 2018 election cycle. Though Ryan’s effectiveness as a lame-duck fundraiser isn’t yet clear, Republicans hope the leadership race that’s likely to develop between California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, an adept fundraiser himself who has raised money with Vice President Mike Pence for the party, and Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise will allow the two to fill the gap.

The National Republican Congressional Committee has already raised $115 million for the cycle. The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC that backs House GOP candidates and is closely aligned with Ryan, could be more important to watch.

The Wednesday retirements were the latest in a series of damaging developments for the GOP this year.

In February, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down the state’s gerrymandered congressional map and ordered new district lines in place for November. The redrawn map makes several seats more difficult for the GOP to hold.

In March, Democrat Conor Lamb won a special election for a House seat in western Pennsylvania that Trump had carried by 20 percentage points in 2016.

And earlier this month, the Democratic-backed candidate easily won a state Supreme Court seat in Wisconsin, a statewide victory that offered further evidence of a big swing from 2016 to 2018.

Republicans face more tests before November. They’ll try to hold onto former Rep. Trent Franks’ House seat in Arizona in an April 24 special election, and then will attempt to keep former Ohio Rep. Pat Tiberi’s seat in an August special election.


(CNN) — Speaker Paul Ryan’s announcement that he is not seeking re-election shocked a Republican Party already facing severe midterm headwinds. His decision will drive down morale in the GOP conference — and perhaps convince other fence-sitting members who have yet to decide to call it quits themselves. These additional open seats would increase the likelihood that Democrats will take over the House.

Despite some media fawning over his goofy opponent Randy Bryce, Ryan was not going to lose re-election in his Wisconsin district, although it now becomes a slightly less viable hold for the GOP than it would have been with Ryan in the race.

Ryan’s move accelerates a GOP leadership battle between California’s Kevin McCarthy and Louisiana’s Steve Scalise, both able men who are well-liked by their colleagues (it feels like McCarthy’s race to lose at this point). No matter who becomes the next Republican leader, they will sit atop a smaller conference that is likely to be in the minority.

Despite the chaos his departure will cause for the party, there are obviously larger issues at play for Ryan that convinced him now is the time to go.

1. Being Speaker of the House is a miserable job. Ryan was reluctantly thrust into the Speaker’s office because the last guy was tired of being miserable with it. While the Republicans hold the majority, a sizable chunk of them are reliably recalcitrant and make governing difficult (there are members of the Democratic minority that have voted the Trump position at a higher rate than some of Ryan’s Republicans). It shouldn’t be this hard when one party controls everything, but it is.

2. Democrats are likely to win the House. Although the Democrats are making it harder than it should be for the Republicans to stay in power, the enthusiasm and gender gaps, combined with historical trends, make it likely that Democrats will win the House in November. Speaker Ryan, had he sought re-election, would have been asking for his constituents’ votes and then perhaps resigning shortly after winning if the Republicans lost their majority status (as Newt Gingrich did in 1998 after losing a number of seats but keeping the majority, and Dennis Hastert did after losing the House in 2007).

Sometimes we forget — congressional leaders have districts and constituents to think about, too. Ryan’s deference to the people of Wisconsin, by not asking them to vote for him when it was very likely he wouldn’t serve out his term, is an honorable move.

3. He achieved his dream of tax reform. Ryan is a policy wonk at heart, with a lifelong belief that lower taxes are better for America’s working families. He has been a member of Congress for two decades, and his crowning achievement was holding the House together in December for the sweeping tax cuts.

4. Paul Ryan is a good dad. Ryan has dedicated his adult life to public service, and along the way built a wonderful family. “Ryan has said his father, grandfather and great-grandfather all died of heart attacks in their 50s,” according to news reports, which is why he “has never smoked, ‘works out five times a week, eats healthy, gets regular checkups, avoids sweets and limits alcohol consumption.'” There’s no doubt Speaker Ryan has spent less time with his three children than he would want, and surely his family’s medical history weighed on his mind. I witnessed firsthand his devotion to his wife and kids riding a bus with him through Ohio during his time running for Vice-President with Mitt Romney. During his press conference, Ryan said he was concerned that, if he did not retire, his kids would only know him “as a weekend father.” That’s role model material for the rest of America’s dads.

Ryan’s announcement will signal to Republican donors and activists that the House is most likely lost, which should refocus everyone’s attention on holding the US Senate. Losing one chamber will introduce a high level of policy and investigatory paralysis to the Trump administration; losing both would feel like getting sucked into the tenth level of hell for the President.

We haven’t seen the last of Paul Ryan. He’s 48 and I’d bet dollars to donuts he’s a future presidential candidate. Leaving now helps his family and will give him some space to prep a run for The White House sometime down the road.

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