If it wasn’t already Donald Trump’s GOP, it sure is now that the universally overestimated Paul Ryan is running for the hills. Ryan’s retirement could be motivated by many things, but wanting to spend more time with his kids is least among them. Almost certainly, he senses impending doom—whether that’s restricted to the GOP’s increasingly grim chances of retaining House control this November or an inkling that Trump’s about do something catastrophic in relation to the Russia probe.
But no matter what his motivation, Ryan’s exit has totally upended whatever strategy House Republicans had heading into the midterms. His early waving of the white flag is not only totally demoralizing to the caucus, it also depresses his fundraising prospects over the coming months and touches off a scramble to replace him in the midst of a decisive—and perhaps even defining—election cycle. The New York Times writes:
“This is the nightmare scenario,” said former Representative Thomas M. Davis, a Virginia Republican. “Everybody figured he’d just hang in there till after the election.”
Mr. Ryan’s exit is a destabilizing blow to Republicans’ 2018 plans on nearly every front. He has been the party’s most important fund-raiser in the House, attending fund-raisers nearly every night he is in Washington and raising more than $54 million so far for this election. […]
Even though he vowed to colleagues on Wednesday that he would keep fulfilling those political responsibilities, he will not be nearly as big a draw at fund-raisers now that he is a lame duck.
“It will be a difficult task for Paul to hold his strong, vibrant fund-raising,” [former Rep. Thomas] Reynolds said. “When you’re a lame duck, it changes those dynamics.”
And then there’s the internecine catfight to fill his seat, writes the Washington Post.
House Republicans will also be forced to debate Ryan’s replacement as their leader, even as they run for reelection. “This move by Ryan will set off an intramural food fight and take all eyes off the endgame of maintaining a pro-growth majority,” said Scott Reed, a political strategist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who is planning millions in spending to defend Republican control in the House and Senate.
Add to all these concerns the fact Ryan is leaving his caucus with zero agenda going forward and not a single unifying message heading into the election. Not only has the GOP tax law flopped at the polls in special elections thus far, there’s also no pipeline of bills lined up to debate. Instead, whackadoodles like Rep. Devin Nunes are drawing headlines with their attacks on the supposed “deep state” while slightly more sane Republicans are hunkering down like sitting ducks waiting for the next grenade Trump lobs into their bunker.
One might call it a perfect storm, or so we hope.