Focus group guru Frank Luntz, during an appearance on CBS This Morning on Monday, noted that he senses a rebellion against House Speaker Paul Ryan brewing among supporters of President Donald Trump nationwide.
“It is the most significant condemnation of the Speaker since what I heard Trump voters saying about John Boehner about two years ago,” Luntz said of his most recent focus group’s thoughts on Ryan specifically and Republicans generally, except for Trump. “They think Congress is holding up the agenda. They think Congress is part of the swamp. And they blame the Republicans as well as the Democrats.”
Luntz even urged Ryan to tune into the broadcast of his full focus group.
Luntz’s focus group of Trump voters, which aired on CBS News and focused on Trump supporters across America, found that Trump backers are still generally impressed with the president despite whatever the media says.
Luntz said of the Trump supporters’ fury with Washington—and support for him:
It’s not different at all [from what was seen during the 2016 presidential campaign]. It’s just more passionate, and the divisions are just so much deeper. What surprised me the most about that segment was when we showed Trump pushing aside the European leaders at that meeting and they applauded him. They loved it, because to them it was the White House—it was the president asserting his rightful role as leader of the free world.
The fact that Luntz would compare Ryan’s predicament inside the Republican Party to disgraced former Speaker John Boehner—who resigned amid a revolt from members in his own party back in 2015—is remarkable. Luntz’s firm was once paid by Ryan’s campaign, and he praised the man who is now Speaker of the House while he was on the Ryan campaign’s payroll, per a 2012 report in leftwing activist group Media Matters for America.
When Boehner refused to enact the agenda of the American electorate, a group of more than 30 Republican members banded together and threatened to depose him from the Speakership. The members, led by now House Freedom Caucus chairman Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), used a little known tool called a “motion to vacate the chair,” by which they could have forced a vote.
That would have set up a situation in the fall of 2015 in which Boehner would have needed to win reelection as Speaker in the middle of a Congress rather than at the regularly scheduled Speakership elections at the beginning of each Congress. Boehner did not have enough support in the Republican Party to win reelection.
Since fellow defeated leadership official former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor—who was embarrassed by Republican voters in his own district in Virginia in 2014 when they elected now-Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA)—was gone, the establishment GOP rallied around now-House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to try to bump him into the Speakership after Boehner’s demise.
But McCarthy could not get there owing to rumors about a potential sex scandal between him and now-former Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC)—with Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) putting a spotlight on that—so the establishment GOP’s last hope was Ryan. Establishment Republicans made a desperate push—which ended up being successful—to strong-arm Ryan into the Speakership as their grip on power weakened and came down to one last person for the current Speaker.
But in the ongoing-at-the-time GOP presidential primaries, the establishment was unsuccessful, as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush—among other GOP establishment donor class candidates—could not win the GOP nomination for president. Donald Trump, a vehemently anti-establishment nationalist populist, stormed his way to the GOP nomination—and then past Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton into the White House—with no help from Ryan. Ryan, as Breitbart News has demonstrated, purposefully abandoned Trump in October.
“I am not going to defend Donald Trump—not now, not in the future,” Ryan said in a secretly-recorded GOP members-only conference call, audio of which was obtained by Breitbart News and published after the election.
Ryan’s press team, in March 2017, argued those October comments from Ryan throwing Trump under the bus were specific to the Access Hollywood tape of Trump making vulgar remarks about women. But Ryan’s comments in the tape did not specify.
As Speaker, Ryan has repeatedly undermined President Trump’s agenda in the beginning six months of the Trump administration—the biggest example being Ryan’s repeated failures on healthcare. The American Health Care Act only passed the House after Ryan took a trip to Hollywood and Europe. In his absence, Republicans across the conference negotiated a fix to pass the American Health Care Act, which Ryan himself had failed to secure.
Ryan’s efforts on Tuesday to insert himself in the way of President Trump’s tax reform agenda further threaten his future, and potentially jeopardize the president’s goal of reforming the tax code.
Ryan also failed to secure funding for President Trump’s promised border wall, and if the money is not in the upcoming government funding bill in September, the revolt Luntz speaks of against Ryan by Republicans party-wide—like the one Boehner faced in 2015—could be not that far behind.