Former House Speaker Paul Ryan leaves Congress with one of the lowest favorability ratings a Speaker has ever had, bottoming out at a negligible 12 percent in a final poll from Civiqs.
— Drew Linzer (@DrewLinzer) January 3, 2019
The survey showed only 12 percent viewed Ryan favorably, while a supermajority of 71 percent viewed him unfavorably and 17 percent were unsure.
Ryan’s plummet from the top of the political world into popular obscurity as he leaves government for what he says will be the last time marks one of the most historic collapses of a major figure in the history Republican Party. First elected to represent Wisconsin’s first congressional district in 1999, Ryan raced to the top of the GOP conference in the House, quickly becoming a star in grassroots GOP circles and known for the perception that he was somehow a budget whiz.
He garnered national attention with rebukes of then-President Barack Obama over healthcare, and in 2012 GOP presidential nominee former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney selected him as his running mate. After losing the presidential race in 2012 when Obama and Vice President Joe Biden won re-election, Romney has since left Massachusetts, relocating to Utah, where he ran for the U.S. Senate and won. Romney was sworn into his Senate seat, once held by former Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), as Ryan vacated the Speakership of the House for the last time on Thursday.
Since the 2012 election, Ryan had a number of other chances at good political fortune. He assumed the chairmanship of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee in the wake of his and Romney’s grand fail of a White House bid. Then, when right wing rebels took out Ryan’s predecessor, former House Speaker John Boehner, on their third and successful coup attempt and then House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy could not assemble the votes necessary to rise up as Boehner’s successor, Boehner and other elements of the GOP establishment anointed Ryan as the next Speaker of the House.
Ryan’s speakership was built on a lie, a broken promise he made to the American people and to the members of the GOP conference: Specifically, he promised he would not run for Speaker without the official endorsement of the Tuesday Group, the Republican Study Committee, and the House Freedom Caucus. He succeeded in securing endorsements from the former two, but failed to earn the Freedom Caucus endorsement even though many of its members did vote for him.
So, in late 2015, as now President Donald Trump was surging past other Republicans toward the GOP nomination he would win the next spring, Ryan swooped in to take the Speaker’s gavel. During his time as Speaker, Ryan frequently opposed President Trump, dating as far back as the early days of the campaign–offering a differing worldview from the president’s on key core issues, including most especially immigration and trade.
When in October 2016 the Washington Post uncovered the infamous Access Hollywood tape of Trump using vulgar language to describe interactions with women, Ryan held a conference call with members of the House GOP conference urging them to do whatever they wanted with regards to pulling endorsements of Trump.
“I am not going to defend Donald Trump—not now, not in the future,” Ryan said during the October 2016 call, audio of which was obtained by Breitbart News and published in early 2017.
Ryan repeatedly, over the course of the Trump administration, has taken shots at the president on stylistic and political matters–on everything from the Charlottesville incident to Trump’s push to end birthright citizenship.But Ryan did not just oppose Trump stylistically and politically: On major policy fronts, from healthcare to trade policy to immigration, Ryan was a thorn in Trump’s side for the whole first two years of his administration–not to mention the rising deficit, increased federal spending across the board, and massive heaps onto the national debt that happened on Ryan’s watch under both Presidents Obama and Trump–all from a supposedly conservative Republican who had for years preached fiscal responsibility but failed to deliver.
In a farewell address and tour on his way out of office at the end of last year, Ryan again spun all these big picture policy and political failures that have marked his tenure in federal office–and his entire time on the national stage–by listing a number of pieces of legislation that saw their way to passage during his time as Speaker. Ryan said in the speech:
To date, we have passed 1,175 bills, more than half of them with bipartisan support. And—it is my duty as speaker to say this—nearly 750 bills that the House has passed remain stuck in the United States Senate. But the rest made it into law. We have taken on some of the biggest challenges of our time, and made a great and lasting difference in the trajectory of this country. We began a historic rebuilding of our military and national defense. We enacted new and tough sanctions on some of our biggest foes. We ushered in a new career and technical education system. Record regulatory reform to help small businesses. A long-sought expansion of domestic energy production, to be followed by America’s new energy dominance. To stem the tide of opioid addiction, the most significant effort against a single drug crisis in congressional history. Criminal justice reform to give more people a chance at redemption. A landmark crackdown on human trafficking that is already yielding results and saving lives. A VA with real accountability, and finally, better care for veterans. And, after years of doubt, years of the cynics saying it could not be done, we achieved the first major overhaul of our tax code in 31 years. Think about it. We went from having the worst tax code in the industrialized world to one of the most competitive. This is something I worked on my entire adult life, and it is something that will help to improve people’s lives for a long time to come. It is one of those elusive generational reforms. It is why we do this.
But what he leaves out of this glowing self-praise is perhaps most important: He failed to repeal Obamacare, he failed to secure the border or do any big picture immigration deal, in large part because his open borders views were out of line with the rest of the conference, he failed to cut spending, he failed to shrink the deficit, he failed to bring the national debt under control, and he failed to do major welfare or entitlement reforms–things he also spent years pitching.
And as such, the American people see right through–at least all but 12 percent of them per this latest poll from Civiqs. And it’s not just that poll that shows Ryan leaves office as damaged goods: Gallup, out with a new survey on Thursday, finds Ryan down at 34 percent–a massive drop-off and the lowest he has ever been in Gallup.
“Ryan’s favorability has been measured 12 times by Gallup, including seven times since he reluctantly became House speaker in 2015. Ryan’s highest favorability, 48%, was in the wake of the 2016 election when his Republican Party swept both houses of Congress and the presidency. Ryan announced last April that he would not seek re-election to the House,” Gallup wrote of its findings. “His latest 34% favorable rating is the lowest of his speakership and below his overall historical average of 39%. It has fallen six percentage points since June 2018, including a 12-point drop among Republicans.”