Media Chatter: House Speaker Paul Ryan Is The Establishment’s Next Challenger to Face Trump

GettyImages-501563056 ryan
Getty Images

House Speaker Paul Ryan may become the GOP establishment’s 2016 candidate who can snatch the nomination or the leadership of the GOP away from pro-American populist Donald Trump, according to D.C. media chatter.

But the move — if it happens — may be too late.

Any fight between the increasingly popular Trump and the decreasingly popular Ryan would mark a last-ditch effort by the GOP’s establishment-business-wing to deny any political power to its conservative voters, likely splitting the party just before the elections that will decide which party gets to control the White House and the U.S. Senate. It might also damage Ryan’s long-term career plans, which are already being undermined by his unpopular policies and his complete failure in the 2016 budget negotiations, despite his support in the establishment media.

The media suggestions for Ryan suddenly appeared Sunday, Jan 10.

In a Daily Beast article about the media’s desire for a political fight at the GOP convention, veteran reporter Jeff Greenfield casually suggested the GOP’s establishment might sabotage Trump at the last moment by using the convention to give the nomination to Ryan, who was defeated in 2012 when he ran as the vice-president candidate with Gov. Mitt Romney.

“If party elders were to meet behind closed doors and deliver the nomination to, say, House Speaker Paul Ryan, that would qualify as a ‘brokered’ outcome,” Greenfield wrote Jan. 10.

Tai Kopan, a writer for CNN, floated Ryan as the media-backed silver bullet against Trump during a Jan. 10 article about a weekend event that showcased Ryan’s much-touted efforts to win more votes from lower-income Americans.

In rare joint appearances, six Republican presidential candidates gathered here on Saturday to talk about ways to address poverty in America, speaking to voters in the crucial early primary state and beyond about why the GOP has the best answers.

House Speaker Paul Ryan and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott were moderators, and they questioned former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in small groups about how to address systemic problems at the Kemp Forum on Expanding Opportunity….

‘We’re the only nation founded on an idea: The condition of your birth does not determine the outcome of your life,’ Ryan said at the outset… The candidates heaped him with plenty of praise along the way.

“The country’s better off that you’re the speaker,” Bush said to Ryan as his panel began…

It wasn’t just the candidates that took notice. After the day wrapped, Gerry Gudgel, a school administrator from Columbia who says he’s looking for a “compassionate conservative” and likes the governors in the race along with Marco Rubio said he wouldn’t question Ryan in the field.

“If the Republican Convention went into gridlock, I think Paul Ryan, somehow, put him on the ballot right away,” Gudgel said.

On CBS’s “Face The Nation,” panelist Susan Page, the bureau chief for USA Today, also suggested Jan. 10 that Ryan could save the day for the establishment by becoming the fall-back GOP leader, operating out of Congress.

I wonder if what you might see happening is the establishment Republican say, yes, Trump’s our nominee, let’s talk about Paul Ryan. Let’s make him the face of the GOP. Let’s talk about what Congress is going to do.

You remember what happened in 1996 when establishment Republicans decided that Bob Dole was going to lose and Newt Gingrich started making deals with a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, and it was harmful for Dole, but they had decided he was going to lose that election. They tried to find — go in a different direction to save the party and I just wonder if we might see that happen this time.

A Ryan challenge against Trump would be very risky for Ryan and his establishment backers.

Trump is already winning enthusiastic support from many of the blue-collar, mid-western voters that are key to any GOP win in 2016. Moreover, he’s winning those crucial votes by opposing large-scale migration.

But Ryan has strongly backed open-borders and amnesty since his first entry into politics in the 1990s.  In 2014, Ryan even tried to pass an amnesty bill, but was blocked by Republican base voters. In 2015, Ryan sneaked a plan into the must-pass 2016 budget that allows U.S. employers to quickly hire at least 100,000 low-wage foreign-workers in 2016 instead of Americans, likely helping to crash his brief popularity among the GOP’s base, despite media support.

Still, a Ryan challenge is possible, wrote Mickey Kaus, an anti-amnesty progressive and an influential blogger. “Ryan Scenario Not Insane (Unfortunately),” he wrote Jan. 10, saying:

1) Ryan’s running a self-promotional Speakership not unlike a national campaign; 2) Given his perceived betrayals of the Party’s base, he might not be looking at such long tenure as Speaker anyway; 3) Politics moves fast these days; 4) Ryan has plenty of seemingly infatuated cheerleaders in the press; 5) What if none of the establishment non-Trumps catches on… 6) Maybe there are no more party elders around to manipulate Republicans in back rooms in order to achieve their preferred outcome. But that sure seemed to be how Ryan became Speaker two months ago. … 7) It might be the only way for the GOP/K Street Establishment to get its precious immigration amnesty.

Ryan’s self-promotion was showcased by an friendly Jan. 10 interview with CBS’s John Dickerson, who nudged Ryan to contrast himself to Trump and his populist, pro-American, low-immigration policy.

Ryan took the bait, and tried to distance himself from Trump with a series of buzz-words, including “inclusive” and “inspirational.”

“Inclusive” is typically used by GOP establishment candidates to call for pro-amnesty policies that are supposed to attract votes from the low-income Hispanic-Americans who would be hit hardest by another wave of low-wage job competitors. The term “inspirational,” is often used by establishment GOP leaders — especially Jeb Bush — to call for a campaign that doesn’t challenge any core priorities for Democrats, such as greater immigration. Also, noticeably, Ryan did not say he would remain as House Speaker throughout 2016.

DICKERSON: Last night, I was at a Donald Trump rally in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and there were about 6,000 or 7,000 people. And the crowd reaction was very loud on the following things: Donald Trump’s opposition to the Asian trade deal, which you support, his opposition to last year’s budget at the end of the year, budget which you support, his opposition to undocumented workers having any kind of pathway to anything, legal status or citizenship, and also to any tinkering with entitlements.

The crowd didn’t just clap politely. They went crazy. How does a Republican Party get together when you have a set of ideas that are totally antithetical to all of those people who were cheering so loudly?

RYAN: We’re a big tent party. I think what we do as leaders is, we say who we are, what we believe, and where we want to lead, and let the people decide.

Look, that’s just the way I see this thing. I really think the country is on a bad path, a dangerous path. I think we could lose what is so unique about our country, this American idea, the condition of your birth doesn’t determine the outcome of your life. We believe in growth and prosperity and security.

All those things are in real deep jeopardy. And so, yes, do I agree or disagree with various candidates on various issues? Of course I do. We’re individuals. But can we offer the country a really clear and compelling choice that’s not divisive, but inclusive, that’s inspirational, that’s pro-growth? That’s what I’m trying to do. And that’s what I think we can do. And so…

DICKERSON: Does the campaign make it harder to do that, though?

RYAN: I don’t think the campaign makes it harder, because this is a primary season.

What’s happening right now are, these candidates are trying to distinguish themselves from among the same party, from — over the same voters. I think primaries inevitably have this kind of friction. But once you get through the primary, I think we unify as a conservative movement. We unify as a cause. And we go out and we try and win converts to conservatism. We go out and we try to give the country a really clear choice.

But that clear choice seems to have been made — and its name is Donald Trump.

Frontrunner Trump and runner-up challengers Sen. Ted Cruz and Dr. ben Carson — are getting 65 percent of the votes in the GOP’s primaries. There’s no sign that Ryan can swoop in late, presumably after the defeat of establishment champions — including Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio, Gov Chris Christie and Sen. Lindsey Graham — to snatch the nomination from Trump for the establishment.

But, as Kaus noted, Ryan did snatch the House Speakership from nascent conservative challengers after the run by Rep. Kevin McCarthy failed.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.