Loss of Ryan hits hard for House Republicans

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDebate with Donald Trump? Just say no Ex-Trump adviser says GOP needs a better health-care message for 2020 Liz Cheney faces a big decision on her future 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 RubioHillicon Valley: Trump takes flak for not joining anti-extremism pact | Phone carriers largely end sharing of location data | Huawei pushes back on ban | Florida lawmakers demand to learn counties hacked by Russians | Feds bust 0M cybercrime group Huawei says inclusion on US trade blacklist is in 'no one's interest' Frustrated GOP senators want answers from Trump on Iran 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 StiversThirty-four GOP members buck Trump on disaster bill House bill seeks to bolster security for synagogues, mosques in wake of attacks Congress can open financial institutions to legal cannabis industry with SAFE Banking Act 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 calls for Republicans to be 'united' on abortion Tlaib calls on Amash to join impeachment resolution Facebook temporarily suspended conservative commentator Candace Owens 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 RossEx-GOP lawmaker joins family firm  Ex-GOP lawmaker joins Florida lobbying firm Incoming GOP lawmaker says he may have violated campaign finance law 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 GoodlatteTop Republican releases full transcript of Bruce Ohr interview It’s time for Congress to pass an anti-cruelty statute DOJ opinion will help protect kids from dangers of online gambling MORE (Va.)
Jeb HensarlingThomas (Jeb) Jeb HensarlingMaxine Waters is the Wall Street sheriff the people deserve Ex-GOP congressman heads to investment bank The next two years of federal housing policy could be positive under Mark Calabria MORE (Texas)
Rodney FrelinghuysenRodney Procter FrelinghuysenThe 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority Top House GOP appropriations staffer moves to lobbying shop Individuals with significant disabilities need hope and action MORE (N.J.)
Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyHouse Dem calls on lawmakers to 'insulate' election process following Mueller report Democrats put harassment allegations against Trump on back burner Democrats seize on Mueller-Barr friction MORE (S.C.)
Darrell IssaDarrell Edward IssaFive times presidents sparked controversy using executive privilege GOP plots comeback in Orange County The Hill's Morning Report — Shutdown fallout — economic distress MORE (Calif.)
Joe BartonJoe Linus BartonGOP trading fancy offices, nice views for life in minority Privacy legislation could provide common ground for the newly divided Congress Texas New Members 2019 MORE (Texas)
Lamar SmithLamar Seeligson SmithEx-GOP Rep. Denham heads to lobbying firm K Street boom extends under Trump, House Dems Ex-GOP congressman heads to investment bank MORE (Texas)
Charlie DentCharles (Charlie) Wieder DentCNN celebrates correspondents' weekend with New Orleans-themed brunch The Hill's Morning Report - Government is funded, but for how long? Ex-GOP lawmaker says his party is having a 'Monty Python' moment on shutdown MORE (Pa.)
Ileana Ros-LehtinenIleana Carmen Ros-LehtinenEx-GOP Rep. Denham heads to lobbying firm K Street boom extends under Trump, House Dems Bottom Line MORE (Fla.)
David Reichert (Wash.)
Pat TiberiPatrick (Pat) Joseph TiberiOhio New Members 2019 Many authors of GOP tax law will not be returning to Congress GOP Rep. Balderson holds onto seat in Ohio MORE (Ohio)*
Frank LoBiondoFrank Alo LoBiondoThe 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority LoBiondo launches consulting firm Live coverage: House elects new Speaker as Dems take charge MORE (N.J.)
Lynn JenkinsLynn Haag JenkinsPompeo seen as top recruit for Kansas Senate seat Exiting lawmakers jockey for K Street perch GOP seeks to ram through Trump’s B wall demand MORE (Kan.)
Dennis Ross (Fla.)
John DuncanJohn James DuncanLamar Alexander's exit marks end of an era in evolving Tennessee Tennessee New Members 2019 Live coverage: Social media execs face grilling on Capitol Hill MORE Jr. (Tenn.)
Sam JohnsonSamuel (Sam) Robert JohnsonSocial Security is approaching crisis territory Texas New Members 2019 Many authors of GOP tax law will not be returning to Congress MORE (Texas)
Ted PoeLloyd (Ted) Theodore PoeTexas New Members 2019 Cook shifts two House GOP seats closer to Dem column Five races to watch in the Texas runoffs MORE (Texas)
Dave TrottDavid Alan TrottMeet the lawmakers putting politics aside to save our climate Michigan New Members 2019 Democrats flip Michigan seat in race between two political newcomers MORE (Mich.)
Ryan CostelloRyan Anthony CostellloOvernight Energy: Park Service closing Joshua Tree after shutdown damage | Dems deliver trash from parks to White House | Dems offer bills to block offshore drilling | Oil lobby worries about Trump trade fight Ex-GOP Rep. Ryan Costello joins group pushing carbon tax Exiting lawmakers jockey for K Street perch MORE (Pa.)
Trent FranksHarold (Trent) Trent FranksArizona New Members 2019 Cook shifts 8 House races toward Dems Freedom Caucus members see openings in leadership MORE (Ariz.)*
Blake FarentholdRandolph (Blake) Blake FarentholdMembers spar over sexual harassment training deadline Female Dems see double standard in Klobuchar accusations Lawmaker seeks to ban ex-members from lobbying until sexual harassment settlements repaid MORE (Texas)*
Bill ShusterWilliam (Bill) Franklin ShusterEx-GOP Rep. Denham heads to lobbying firm K Street boom extends under Trump, House Dems Ex-GOP congressman heads to investment bank MORE (Pa.)
Gregg HarperGregory (Gregg) Livingston HarperCongress sends bill overhauling sexual harassment policy to Trump's desk Dems cry foul in undecided N.C. race Mississippi New Members 2019 MORE (Miss.)
Ed RoyceEdward (Ed) Randall RoyceFormer GOP chairman Royce joins lobbying shop Lawmakers propose banning shark fin trade Bottom Line MORE (Calif)
Patrick Meehan (Pa.)
Tom RooneyThomas (Tom) Joseph RooneyHouse Dem calls on lawmakers to 'insulate' election process following Mueller report Hill-HarrisX poll: 76 percent oppose Trump pardoning former campaign aides Dems fear Trump is looking at presidential pardons MORE (Fla.) 

* Have already resigned from the House