Shocking Statistics Show How Rarely Wisconsin Reps Are Ever Challenged

Paul Ryan Smirk Cliff Owen AP
Cliff Owen/AP

Janesville, WI– House Speaker Paul Ryan is facing the first real primary challenge of his Congressional career against Wisconsin businessman Paul Nehlen.

Statistics documenting just how rarely Wisconsin U.S. representatives are ever challenged in primary races underscore the historical significance of Nehlen’s battle against the House Speaker.

In January of this year—months before Nehlen announced his bid against Ryan—Smart Politics reported that an insurgent primary campaign against Ryan would face unique challenges in light of Wisconsin’s electoral history.

That’s because “most Wisconsin incumbents have skated through the renomination phase without any opposition,” the report explains.

The report, titled “Why a 2016 Tea Party Primary Challenge Against Paul Ryan Will Fail,” notes that few Wisconsin U.S. representatives ever face primary challengers—and only one has ever been unseated in a primary since 1950.

“From 1950 through 2014, less than one in five Wisconsin U.S. Representatives faced a primary challenger,” the report states.

More remarkably, “only one Wisconsin U.S. Representative has lost a primary since 1950 and just four others have won by less than double-digits,” the report notes.

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… Nearly 90 percent of incumbents won by more than 20 points.

“The only Wisconsin U.S. Representative to lose a primary during this 64-year period was Republican Glenn Davis of the 9th Congressional District in 1974,” the report writes.

Indeed, Ryan himself–throughout his near two-decade career in Congress–has never faced a real primary challenger 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.

Segway Boy with Expletive

Other than that, Ryan has run unopposed in every primary election he’s faced as an incumbent–until now.

These statistics suggest that even a moderate showing by Nehlen on Tuesday would be historic.

Indeed, Nehlen’s bid against Ryan has captured the nation’s attention–on Tuesday morning #WakeUpWisconsin was trending on Twitter, and by Tuesday afternoon #WIPrimary was trending.

Reports note that the national spotlight has forced Ryan to rhetorically distance himself from some of Ryan’s greatest legislative achievements. As Breitbart’s Matthew Boyle has reported:

Previously thought to be unbreakable in his strident push for the elites’ globalist agenda—unlimited open borders immigration from the third world into America coupled with amnesty for illegal aliens along with unchecked trade agreements that drain American jobs to China, Canada, Mexico, and elsewhere around the world—Ryan has been proven to be weak throughout his primary…

The fact that Ryan has been forced to campaign at all is astounding in and of itself. Even when he was seriously embattled as Speaker of the House, former Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) never had to respond to a primary challenger never mind campaign at home. And former House Speaker, current Minority Leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has similarly never had to respond to any nuisance back home…

Boyle notes that, most remarkably, Nehlen has forced Ryan to rhetorically back away from his critical role in pushing to fast track the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement–an effort which CNN had previously described as a critical part of Paul Ryan “legacy.” Boyle writes:

Paul Nehlen killed the Trans Pacific Partnership. A small-time vice president for a water filtration company from rural Wisconsin who decided to run for office in the ultimate David vs. Goliath race—first-time candidate against 18-year incumbent and sitting House Speaker—singlehandedly put a dagger through the heart of that Speaker’s and the sitting president’s biggest globalist agenda item.

Paul Nehlen shut down more of President Barack Obama’s agenda from the campaign trail here in Janesville over just a few months than Ryan has been able to do over eight years of supposedly fighting his administration—first as Budget Committee chairman, then as the vice presidential nominee in 2012 to failed GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, then as Ways and Means Committee chairman and now as House Speaker.

Nehlen’s campaign has received national attention despite significant disadvantages–which come in addition to the natural disadvantage Wisconsin challengers face in light of Wisconsin’s general reluctance  to primary or oust Congressional incumbents.

For instance, while Nehlen has received endorsements of conservatives like Phyllis Schlafly and Ann Coulter, unlike Dave Brat, Nehlen received virtually no attention from Washington talk radio hosts like Mark Levin– who has instead spent much of his time focused on articulating his opposition to tariffs.

Moreover, throughout his campaign, Nehlen has been repeatedly attacked by local Wisconsin talk radio pundits, such as #NeverTrump radio host Charlie Sykes.

Nehlen has also faced sabotage by the state party leaders, and opposition from local tea party leaders who have encircled themselves around the powerful House Speaker.

Nehlen has also been up against local media—such as the Janesville Gazette and the Journal Sentinel—which has seemed willing to block out coverage of national news stories and silence opposition to Ryan from resonating throughout the district.

On a national level, Nehlen has also faced the unique challenge of choosing to take on a leader who is regarded in near messianic terms amongst the beltway’s donor and political class. Indeed, amongst Washington’s GOP political class Ryan has been hailed as the “Republican Jesus.”

Indeed, even establishment Washington publications such as Politico, which would normally attack Republicans in a general election contest, seemed to provide political protection for Ryan during his primary campaign.


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