Loss of Ryan hits hard for House Republicans

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanSenate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds Kelly lobbied Republicans to rebuke Trump after Putin press conference: report Lobbying world MORE’s (R-Wis.) decision to retire from Congress has set off more alarm bells for Republicans worried about whether they can hold the House in the midterm elections. 

The ripple effects of Ryan’s announcement will not be clear for months. But in the early hours after the news broke, some Republicans framed the news as both the latest sign that Republicans are headed for the minority as well as a spark that could set off more GOP retirements. 

“It’s just another illustration of the harbinger of things to come. There’s no Republican who’s optimistic about the November elections,” said Terry Sullivan, a GOP strategist who ran Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSenate weighs new Russia response amid Trump backlash Senate adds members to pro-NATO group McConnell reassures Europe on Russia MORE’s (R-Fla.) presidential campaign. “It’s the 300th example that there is a wave coming.” 

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Ryan’s retirement had been rumored for months, but the Speaker’s Wednesday announcement caught most in Washington off guard. In a press conference explaining his decision, the House Speaker attempted to brush aside the idea that his retirement would have any impact on the GOP’s chances of retaining the House. 


Instead, Ryan framed his decision as a personal one, characterizing himself as a reluctant Speaker who just accomplished a major victory on tax reform and now wants to spend more time with his family.

“I really do not believe that whether I stay or go in 2019 is going to affect a person’s individual race for Congress,” Ryan told reporters.

“If we do our jobs, which we are, we are going to be fine as a majority,“ he said.

Rep. Steve StiversSteven (Steve) Ernst StiversGOP campaign arm withdraws support from NJ House candidate who made racist statements Progressives’ wins highlight divide in Democratic Party Trump digs in amid uproar on zero tolerance policy MORE, the Ohio Republican tasked with running the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), echoed Ryan in a statement, saying that the GOP’s “mission to hold the House” continues “unabated.”

Democrats, buoyed by special election upsets and President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he doesn't want to use 'adversary' to describe Russia Comey urges Americans to vote for Democrats in midterms Roby wins Alabama GOP runoff, overcoming blowback from Trump criticism MORE’s low approval rating, were already feeling good about their chances of taking back the 23 seats they need to regain the House.

Now they’re framing Ryan’s retirement as more proof that the GOP is bracing for a brutal midterm cycle.

“Speaker Ryan sees what is coming in November, and is calling it quits rather than standing behind [the] House Republican agenda,” said Tyler Law, a spokesman with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, in a statement. “Stay tuned for more retirements as Republicans increasingly realize that their midterm prospects are doomed.”

Nonpartisan analysts agree that Ryan’s retirement sends a signal that Republicans will struggle to keep the House. 

Kyle Kondik, a political analyst with the University of Virginia’s Sabato’s Crystal Ball, wrote Wednesday that “many will view Ryan’s retirement as a concession that Republicans are resigned to losing the House in the fall.”

“The Ryan exit is another bad sign for GOP House prospects and a sign that Democrats probably have the inside track for taking control of the House, at least right now,” added Kondik, who still sees the race for the House as a toss-up between the two parties. 

The most immediate effect of Ryan’s decision could be felt on other Republicans weighing retirement.

Rep. Dennis RossDennis Alan RossTrump, GOP launch full-court press on compromise immigration measure GOP will vote on immigration next week, sinking discharge petition GOP centrists face decision day on Dreamer petition MORE (R-Fla.) publicly announced his own retirement just hours after Ryan.

Ross told The Hill that he found out about Ryan’s retirement as he was meeting with top aides preparing to deliver his own retirement news to his staff. In an interview with CNN, Ross cited a frustration with the political climate as one reason he chose to step aside.

“As we continue to see the polarization in our society over politics, we fail to understand the fundamentals of the process,” he said.

Ryan’s decision could convince other Republicans to head out the door. So far, more than 40 House Republicans are not seeking reelection to the House next year — the highest figure in more than 25 years, according to Pew Research.

“If the leader of Republicans in Congress doesn’t want to be there, what is the reason they should be?” Sullivan said. “That says more about where Congress is at, and where the Republican Party is at, than anything else.”

Dave Wasserman, an analyst with the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, tweeted Wednesday that there 58 GOP lawmakers in the 19 states where the candidate filing deadlines are still to come. Lawmakers in those states could retire while still giving their party time to find a new option.    

Any additional retirements could expand the House battlefield even more. The retirement announcements from Ryan and Ross prompted analysts to move those races in favor of Democrats.

But former New York GOP Rep. Tom Reynolds, who once ran the NRCC, told The Hill that outside factors have less of an impact on members considering retirement.

“I look at retirement as a personal decision — looking at the individual itself, the family, and then other considerations,” he said.

Ryan’s retirement could also impact the GOP’s fundraising operations, which have boomed under his leadership.

Ryan’s fundraising committee had just announced that it raised $54 million in the past 15 months, sending $40 million of that to the NRCC. The Congressional Leadership Fund, the super PAC allied with Ryan and House leadership, has raised $41 million this cycle through that same period.

“The message to donors, activists and other Republicans is ‘I don’t have confidence in this,’ ” Scott Jennings, a GOP strategist and former aide to President George W. Bush, said on NPR’s “Morning Edition.”

“Now everyone, I think, will probably focus on the Senate,” Jennings said.

Reynolds, the former NRCC chairman, said the House GOP leadership’s fundraising network is strong enough to overcome losing Ryan.

“It has to have an impact when [the Speaker] is no longer intending to seek reelection because some of that money rallies around your vision as a leader of the conference,” he said. “But money has not been the challenge of getting people reelected.”

Zack Roday, Ryan’s former political spokesman, told The Hill that Ryan’s decision to serve out his term would be an important one.

“He has incredible assets that will be so helpful to the Republican Congress, and him not running for reelection does not take those inherent advantages away,” he said.

Art Pope, a major GOP donor in North Carolina, said Republicans’ fate in the midterms has more to do with other factors, such as Trump. 

“What is more impactful on the support of donors and activists and on whether the Republicans have the majority in Congress is whether the threat of tariffs or a trade war has an impact on the economy,” Pope told The Hill.

“There are much more graver concerns than Speaker Ryan making an understandable decision at this point in his life,” Pope added.

Republicans retiring and not running for higher office

Paul Ryan (Wis.)
Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteDems try to end hearing on bias against conservatives in tech Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page gets closed-door grilling from House Republicans 5 takeaways from wild hearing with controversial FBI agent MORE (Va.)
Jeb HensarlingThomas (Jeb) Jeb HensarlingOn The Money: Fed chief lays out risks of trade war | Senate floats new Russia sanctions amid Trump backlash | House passes bill to boost business investment House passes bipartisan bill to boost business investment On The Money: US files complaints at WTO | House leaders get deal to boost biz investment | Mnuchin says US will consider Iran sanctions waivers | FCC deals blow to Sinclair-Tribune merger MORE (Texas)
Rodney FrelinghuysenRodney Procter Frelinghuysen'Minibus' spending conference committee abruptly canceled GOP runs into Trump tax law in New Jersey Fortenberry named chairman of legislative appropriations subcommittee in House MORE (N.J.)
Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyDem lawmaker calls on House to subpoena American translator from Trump-Putin meeting The Hill's Morning Report — Trump isolated and denounced after Putin meeting Ryan: 'The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally' MORE (S.C.)
Darrell IssaDarrell Edward IssaSparks fly at hearing on anti-conservative bias in tech House GOP questions FBI lawyer for second day More than 50 Dem House challengers outraise GOP incumbents MORE (Calif.)
Joe BartonJoe Linus BartonLatina Leaders to Watch 2018 Unending Pruitt controversies leave Republicans frustrated Hillicon Valley: Judge rules Trump can't block Twitter users | ISIS content finds a home on Google Plus | Rubio rips ZTE demands as 'terrible deal' | Bill would protect kids' data MORE (Texas)
Lamar SmithLamar Seeligson SmithGreens sue EPA over ‘super-polluting’ truck rule Lawmakers scold NASA for cost overruns Big Tobacco’s smoke and mirrors revived by Pruitt’s science transparency policy MORE (Texas)
Charlie DentCharles (Charlie) Wieder DentEx-lawmakers see tough job market with trade groups Dem, GOP groups prepare spending blitz for midterms Fortenberry named chairman of legislative appropriations subcommittee in House MORE (Pa.)
Ileana Ros-LehtinenIleana Carmen Ros-Lehtinen'Paws for Celebration' event brings rescue animals to the Capitol An important story that must be told GOP lawmakers relieved with Pruitt’s departure MORE (Fla.)
David Reichert (Wash.)
Pat TiberiPatrick (Pat) Joseph TiberiMore than 50 Dem House challengers outraise GOP incumbents Election Countdown: Latest on the 2018 Senate money race | Red-state Dems feeling the heat over Kavanaugh | Dem doubts about Warren | Ocasio-Cortez to visit Capitol Hill | Why Puerto Ricans in Florida could swing Senate race Ohio Dem aims to win over Kasich wing of GOP MORE (Ohio)*
Frank LoBiondoFrank Alo LoBiondoGOP campaign arm withdraws support from NJ House candidate who made racist statements GOP runs into Trump tax law in New Jersey Overnight Defense: VA pick breezes through confirmation hearing | House votes to move on defense bill negotiations | Senate bill would set 'stringent' oversight on North Korea talks MORE (N.J.)
Lynn JenkinsLynn Haag JenkinsKansas GOP candidate says there is 'only barbarism' outside of Western civilization Lawmakers request meeting with Amtrak CEO over funding for route Lawmakers seek answers from IRS following Tax Day systems glitch MORE (Kan.)
Dennis Ross (Fla.)
John DuncanJohn James DuncanTSA forced to check whether air marshals show up to work sober: report Loss of Ryan hits hard for House Republicans Ethics Committee to expand campaign finance investigation of Tennessee Republican MORE Jr. (Tenn.)
Sam JohnsonSamuel (Sam) Robert JohnsonMay brings key primaries across nation Loss of Ryan hits hard for House Republicans Watchdog: Social Security acting head hasn't been authorized to serve for months MORE (Texas)
Ted PoeLloyd (Ted) Theodore PoeFive races to watch in the Texas runoffs Five Republican run-offs to watch in Texas Hillicon Valley: House Dems release Russia-linked Facebook ads | Bill would block feds from mandating encryption 'back doors' | AT&T hired Cohen for advice on Time Warner merger | FCC hands down record robocall fine | White House launches AI panel MORE (Texas)
Dave TrottDavid Alan TrottGOP doubles female recruits for congressional races GOP split on immigration is a crisis for Ryan’s team Pelosi: GOP discharge-petition holdouts helping Ryan ‘save face’ MORE (Mich.)
Ryan CostelloRyan Anthony CostellloDem, GOP groups prepare spending blitz for midterms Republicans top Dems at charity golf game This week: House barrels toward immigration vote despite Trump tweets MORE (Pa.)
Trent FranksHarold (Trent) Trent FranksAP Analysis: 25 state lawmakers running in 2018 have been accused of sexual misconduct Jordan weathering political storm, but headwinds remain Freedom Caucus bruised but unbowed in GOP primary fights MORE (Ariz.)*
Blake FarentholdRandolph (Blake) Blake FarentholdAP Analysis: 25 state lawmakers running in 2018 have been accused of sexual misconduct Ex-lawmakers see tough job market with trade groups Republican wins right to replace Farenthold in Congress MORE (Texas)*
Bill ShusterWilliam (Bill) Franklin ShusterOvernight Defense: VA pick breezes through confirmation hearing | House votes to move on defense bill negotiations | Senate bill would set 'stringent' oversight on North Korea talks House passes bipartisan water infrastructure bill Stakeholder group urges Senate panel to fund Amtrak, Northeast Corridor MORE (Pa.)
Gregg HarperGregory (Gregg) Livingston HarperLawmakers press Apple, Google on data collection Senate harassment bill runs into opposition from House GOP lawmaker calls on US Olympic Committee chief to resign MORE (Miss.)
Ed RoyceEdward (Ed) Randall RoyceLawmakers target link between wildlife poaching, terror groups GOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki More than 50 Dem House challengers outraise GOP incumbents MORE (Calif)
Patrick Meehan (Pa.)
Tom RooneyThomas (Tom) Joseph RooneyProtecting families of fallen service members from another government shutdown Republicans top Dems at charity golf game Ryan remarks on Trump ‘spygate’ leave conservatives fuming MORE (Fla.) 

* Have already resigned from the House