JANESVILLE, Wisconsin — House Speaker Paul Ryan’s policy record is collapsing among voters here under scrutiny from Republican challenger Paul Nehlen, so badly that Ryan is refusing to appear even on the Fox News Channel.
“We know Speaker Ryan, he’s been on this program many, many times,” Fox and Friends host Steve Doocy opened an interview with Nehlen on Thursday morning by saying. “We invited him to be on today.”
Later in the interview with Nehlen, Doocy divulged even more: “We did invite Speaker Ryan to appear today, and he declined.”
The fact that Ryan is shunning former media allies and generally refusing interviews except with his closest friends on local radio shows how terrified he and his team are ahead of next week’s primary showdown with Nehlen. No recent polling has been done on the race, so it’s unclear whether Nehlen is within striking distance here on Tuesday. But Ryan’s team is certainly taking nothing for granted, especially after last cycle’s embarrassing loss by then House Majority Leader Eric Cantor to now Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA).
Republicans party-wide are aware that Nehlen may win, and are prepared to support him if he does beat Ryan.
“Of course, we always support the Republican nominee in every race,” Republican National Committee (RNC) communications director Sean Spicer told Breitbart News on Wednesday when asked if Reince Priebus and the RNC would back Nehlen in November if he topples Ryan next week.
Spicer did say that Priebus supports Ryan, however, and sources external to the RNC have confirmed to Breitbart News that Priebus has been putting his thumb on the scales in this primary pushing people to either not endorse Nehlen or to back Ryan.
Earlier this week, Donald Trump, the 2016 GOP presidential nominee, refused to endorse Ryan for Congress.
“I like Paul, but these are horrible times for our country. We need very strong leadership. We need very, very strong leadership. And I’m just not quite there yet. I’m not quite there yet,” Trump said in an interview with the Washington Post.
His running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, did endorse Ryan later in the week.
“I strongly support Paul Ryan, strongly endorse his re-election,” Pence told Fox News. “He is a longtime friend. He’s a strong conservative leader. I believe we need Paul Ryan in leadership in the Congress of the United States.”
Ryan campaign spokesman Zack Roday in a statement after Trump’s refusal to endorse brushed it off.
“Neither Speaker Ryan nor anyone on his team has ever asked for Donald Trump’s endorsement,” Roday said. “And we are confident in a victory next week regardless.”
Now that Ryan is declining most media appearances, Roday said he is focusing on local radio—and refusing to let press into any events he is doing.
“He did a WI radio show this morning and has 5 more radio hits over the next two days,” Roday said in an email to Breitbart News. “I’d hardly say that is ignoring the media. That’s a bit off, even for you. There will be guidance coming on upcoming open press opportunities. I might add that he’s prioritizing local media, not out of state media.”
Between now and the election, Ryan currently has no publicly announced open press events—though Roday says there is guidance coming regarding planned logistics for something open to press between now and Tuesday.
“Ryan has community events in the 1st District today and tomorrow, including business tours and other constituent events,” Roday said. “These are closed press, but he will be doing a series of WI radio interviews.”
Technically speaking, since he has nothing open on Thursday or Friday, that means there are only three days open to such events before the election: Saturday, Sunday, or Monday.
Roday wouldn’t answer if Ryan plans to do anything open to the press and the public between now and the election, however.
“There will be guidance coming on upcoming open press opportunities,” Roday said.
“You’ll get guidance when everyone else does,” he added, without confirming whether or not Ryan would ever actually interact with voters in a forum that isn’t controlled by his campaign between now and Tuesday.
Roday hasn’t answered whether Ryan would support Nehlen in the general election if Nehlen wins, like the RNC has confirmed it will. He hasn’t answered why Ryan won’t debate Nehlen, which Ryan continues to refuse to do. And he hasn’t answered whether Ryan will do any town halls with actual voters—without pre-scripted questions—here in his hometown of Janesville or anywhere in the district before the election.
In other words: Ryan is reeling right now. In reality, despite the Ryan campaign’s claims to the contrary, Trump’s refusal thus far to endorse Ryan has created a major headache for the Speaker’s campaign, as it has launched Nehlen into the stratosphere in terms of national—and local—attention. National reporters from the Washington Post, Politico and New York Times are crawling around Wisconsin’s first congressional district, while Nehlen takes the GOP mantle onto local and national television with his Fox News appearance on Thursday morning, MSNBC hit later in the day, and CNN yesterday.
“I’m supporting Donald Trump because Donald Trump is against this trade deal, this Trans Pacific Partnership, this job killing trade deal that is going to bring cheap labor into this country,” Nehlen said in an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell on Thursday. “That’s going to disproportionately hurt blacks and immigrants who are already here. Mr. Trump is also for securing the border, which Mr. Ryan is against.”
Nehlen continued by calling Ryan “the mercenary champion” of the Trans Pacific Partnership, “this absolutely job-killing, district-leveling trade deal that gives up U.S. sovereignty.”
A moment later, when Mitchell tried to catch him up on Trump, Nehlen fired back: “Why are you asking me questions about this? Why aren’t you asking me questions about the trade deal?”
After some crosstalk, Nehlen talked over Mitchell: “You should ask me about the trade deal.”
A flustered and indignant Mitchell replied: “I’ll decide what I want to ask you.”
After more back and forth with Mitchell about how Pence endorsed but Trump didn’t solely on the basis that Pence is friends with Ryan—and wasn’t supporting Ryan’s open borders policies—Nehlen trucked right on through with his populist message again.
“My message hasn’t changed from day one,” Nehlen said. “I would run on Trans Pacific Partnership alone. Paul Ryan whipped the votes to get fast track Trade Promotion Authority to sell our jobs to foreign countries. He absolutely worked on that. Paul Ryan owns it. He can’t say he doesn’t agree with it, because when he did that that contract was already written. It was already set up—that treaty was already set up.”
Nehlen was referring to how Ryan’s campaign website now inaccurately claims that “Paul is withholding his support for TPP because he believes President Obama did a poor job negotiating the agreement.”
Ryan has not withheld his support, either as Speaker of the House or beforehand when he was now-former Speaker John Boehner’s right hand man as the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, for the Trans Pacific Partnership. He was the critical linchpin to driving the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) fast track authority bill that would grease the skids for congressional approval of the TPP through the House of Representatives.
In a joint op-ed with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in the Wall Street Journal back in 2015, Ryan wrote that he supported the Trans Pacific Partnership—and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP).
“The United States is making headway on two historic trade agreements, one with 11 countries on the Pacific Rim and another with America’s friends in Europe,” Ryan and Cruz wrote. “These two agreements alone would mean greater access to a billion customers for American manufacturers, farmers and ranchers.”
The op-ed continued by noting that to pass those trade deals, Congress would need to approve TPA—which both Cruz and Ryan championed through the House and Senate. Cruz would later, on the second go-around, back out of supporting TPA but Ryan was the rock who carried it through troubled waters in Congress and got that portion of what’s become collectively known as Obamatrade passed.
In addition, Ryan’s campaign website incredibly claims that he is interested in securing the border.
“Paul Ryan has always said that securing the border is the first step to any immigration reform proposal,” Ryan’s website says. “More importantly, we need a President who will commit to work with Congress to effectively secure the border. Most recently, Paul led the House in successfully suing the President to overturn his executive order on amnesty.”
It adds that Ryan has pushed a variety of measures in the House on immigration security.
“Paul Ryan voted to provide $694 million for border security and enforcement of immigration and customs laws,” Ryan’s website says. “It includes $405 million for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to boost border security and law enforcement activities.”
“Paul Ryan has also voted for funding to build a border fence, hire 1,080 more border patrol agents, and require the DHS to control our borders and mandate that security fencing along the U.S. – Mexico border be constructed,” the website adds.
But that’s hardly a complete picture of Ryan’s positions on immigration. Paul Ryan is a champion of open borders. In fact, he supports comprehensive immigration reform packages like the U.S. Senate’s “Gang of Eight” amnesty bill from 2013. NumbersUSA director of government relations Rosemary Jenks told Breitbart News back when Ryan was running for Speaker that a vote for Paul Ryan for Speaker of the House is a vote for amnesty.
“A vote for Paul Ryan is a vote for Gang of Eight style amnesty that includes massive increases in legal immigration and replacing American workers with foreign-born workers,” Jenks said. “A vote for Paul Ryan is a vote to continue Obama’s transformation of America.”
Ryan supports increasing immigration levels into the United States from foreign countries, and is even in league with the radical progressive Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) on the matter. In fact, Gutierrez, as much an open borders zealot as Ryan, endorsed Ryan for Speaker.
“He would be good for the country,” Gutierrez said back then when Ryan was launching his speakership bid. “He would be good for the Republican Party. Paul Ryan is the kind of individual that would work with people on the other side of the aisle and that’s what we need.”