What’s next for Paul Ryan?

by WisPolitics.com

Paul Ryan has been a member of Congress, chair of the House Budget Committee, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, GOP vice presidential nominee, and now – departing speaker.

While speculation has swirled about his future in early 2018, Ryan has been out raising millions and millions of dollars for his Republican colleagues as they faced the prospect of a blue wave hitting in November.

At the same time, many members of the House Republican caucus have decided they won’t run for re-election – a message to political observers that the prospects of holding onto the House majority are fleeting.

Now, Ryan joins that group of lame ducks.

The Janesville Republican, 48, announced April 11 that he won’t be running for re-election to his 1st District House seat, to which he was first elected in 1998. The district stretches from Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha in the east along the southern border to Janesville in the west. While the district has become more Republican through redistricting since 1998, Democrats were making Ryan a target. One of Ryan’s announced Democratic opponents, ironworker Randy Bryce, has been a national fundraising juggernaut.

Political insiders say Ryan would have faced his tough- est re-election fight yet. And some conjured up scenarios that had him losing. Now, insiders say Ryan’s decision leaves his Republican-leaning district in danger of going to Democrats and the Republican House majority in danger of going bye-bye.

One top Dem consultant says, “Ryan quitting will hurt turnout. (The Republican) base is already depressed and divided.’’

But Ryan, in a Washington, D.C. press conference, said he didn’t think his decision would affect other House races.

“If we do our jobs as we are, we’re going to be fine as a majority. …We are going to have a great record to run on,” Ryan said, citing major bills passed by the House on taxes and military readiness. “I’m not done yet. I intend to run to the tape.’’

He said entitlement reform remains undone. In answer to a question about the estimates of soaring deficits to come, Ryan praised the House for passage of a bill reining in entitlements.

But he noted the Senate, also controlled by Republicans, failed to pass it.

“Of course, more work needs to be done, and I’m going to keep fighting for that,” he said.

Ryan said he has no regrets and that being speaker, something he took on reluctantly as a unifier for House Republicans after the departure of John Boehner, was one of the two greatest honors of his life.

The other honor was being a husband and father, he said, referring to his teenaged children and his being a “weekend Dad.’’

What next for Ryan? He still could have a political future. Political observers have often talked his potential as a candidate for president.

But Donald Trump’s takeover of the GOP and the decline of establishment Republican Party principles such as free trade and deficit control have put him out of favor with some conservatives. And his reluctance to denounce Trump directly has hurt his standing with independents.

Time away from the burdens of the speaker’s office and dealing with a chaotic White House could help Ryan regain his footing, recover from his sagging poll numbers and find a new political future.

The Capitol Report is written by editorial staff at WisPolitics.com, a nonpartisan, Madison-based news service that specializes in coverage of government and politics, and is distributed for publication by members of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association.

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