With a number of prominent Republicans having already announced that they won’t seek reelection in 2018, and Donald Trump’s historic unpopularity ensuring that a whole lot more Republicans will lose their reelection bids, we knew we’d see plenty more of them bailing before the inevitable. But Paul Ryan? Really? With a storyline this fuzzy? What’s even going on here?
Paul Ryan’s friends are now telling major news outlets that he’s considering not seeking reelection in 2018, and he’s even considering resigning before his current term is up. Ryan’s office is vaguely denying the reports. But it’s difficult to imagine Ryan’s friends telling something like this to the media unless he wanted them to. So why is the sitting Speaker of the House trying to spread the word that he’s on the verge of quitting? There are a few potential explanations, and the timing may be key.
Ryan is politically savvy enough to know that Trump’s toxic unpopularity and exploding Russia scandal mean that the rest of the legislative term is essentially over. The political focus for the entirety of 2018 will be about Trump’s downfall and demise, and there will be little room for any organized effort at passing partisan legislation. The Republicans will also likely lose the House majority in the midterms, meaning Ryan will lose his speakership anyway. But why now? Why let something like this leak, just as his own party is desperately trying to fend off distractions as it tries to ram through the tax scam bill as its final meaningful act of evil?
That may be a clue in its own right. We’ve all long wondered if Paul Ryan’s skittish and secretive behavior toward Donald Trump’s Russia scandal was a sign that he was in on it too. Is he suddenly running from Congress before the scandal can take him down? Or does he simply think he and his party are finished in general?
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report