JANESVILLE, WI– As Wisconsin voters head to the polls on Tuesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan is facing the first real primary challenge of his career, in a state that historically has seen very few primary challenges against its elected Congressional representatives.
Ryan is being challenged by Wisconsin businessman Paul Nehlen, who is running on a pro-America platform and who, in contrast to Ryan, has emphasized that the needs of American citizens ought to be a Congressman’s first priority.
In recent weeks, Nehlen’s campaign has garnered significant media attention and has forced Ryan — for the first time as an incumbent — to campaign in order to win the Republican primary in Wisconsin’s first Congressional district.
In recent days, Ryan has had to answer to Nehlen’s campaign and his supporters. In particular, Ryan has been forced to rhetorically distance himself from key aspects of Ryan’s longstanding agenda — including some of his most significant legislative achievements, such as his critical role in pushing to fast track the Trans Pacific Partnership, or his two-decade-long history of pushing for open borders. Ryan has also had to scrambled to explain away the significant impact his policies have on Wisconsin workers.
While anything can happen in Tuesday’s open primary, even a moderate showing by Nehlen would be historic since Speaker Ryan has never before faced a primary challenge as an incumbent.
In 2014, a seemingly unstable eccentric on a Segway, best known as “Segway boy” (pictured below) ran against Ryan without a campaign of any kind.
Ryan defeated him with more than 94 percent of the vote. Ryan’s 2014 primary win “marked the strongest primary showing by any Wisconsin U.S. House member across the 51 contested primaries since 1950,” Smart Politics reported. “Ryan’s 88.6-point win in his 2014 renomination bid is also the largest victory margin in a contested primary since 1950.”
Other than that, Congressman Ryan has run unopposed in every other primary election he has faced.
Indeed, primary challenges historically are rare for Wisconsin. As Smart Politics has reported, “From 1950 through 2014, less than one in five Wisconsin U.S. Representatives faced a primary challenger.”
“Just one Wisconsin U.S. Representative has lost a primary since 1950 and just four others have won by less than double-digits… Since 1950, U.S. House members from the Badger State have been renominated 289 times out of 290 attempts, for a 99.7 percent success rate, including each of the last 161 tries since 1976,” says the Smart Politics report.