Ryan backs Vukmir in Wisconsin Senate GOP primary
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is backing Wisconsin state Sen. Leah Vukmir in the GOP primary for the state’s Senate seat.
The move puts one of the party’s most popular faces on Vukmir’s side.
Ryan announced his endorsement in a Monday op-ed, where he and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) lauded their “longtime friend” and “conservative partner among grassroots Republicans.”
“She has experience fighting for the conservative policies that we know will improve people’s lives, and she’s well-versed in both challenging the status quo and disrupting business as usual. That’s exactly the kind of voice we need in the U.S. Senate,” Ryan and Sensenbrenner wrote for Right Wisconsin, a conservative blog in the state.
“Leah has stood with us every step of the way on this journey. Now, it’s time for us to stand with her.”
The move from Ryan puts one of the state’s most powerful Republicans on Vukmir’s side, and she hopes the endorsement can help her keep up the momentum in her bid against Marine veteran Kevin Nicholson.
Nicholson has outraised Vukmir and has the backing of key national conservative groups like the Club for Growth and FreedomWorks, as well as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
But Ryan just adds to the number of Wisconsin heavy hitters Vukmir has on her side. Former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, the former state GOP chairman, is in her corner. So, is Tonette Walker, the wife of Gov. Scott Walker (R).
And Vukmir won the state party’s endorsement this spring after a vote by delegates to the party convention.
Ryan’s decision to back Vukmir comes just months after Nicholson criticized the Speaker for having a “light footprint in the state” in audio unearthed by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, comments that puzzled many Wisconsin Republicans.
Nicholson has led most public polling ahead of the August primary — a Marquette University poll from last week showed him up by 5 points over Vukmir. That poll also found incumbent Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) leading both candidates in a general election match-up.
The race has at times gotten testy — Vukmir has hit Nicholson for his previous identification as a Democrat, while Nicholson questioned on the debate stage whether “some politicians” adequately respected his military record.
Wisconsin Republicans have been cautiously eyeing the tone of the campaign in hopes that the rough battle doesn’t jeopardize the party’s chances of taking down Baldwin in November in a state that President Trump narrowly won in 2016.
Democrats attempted to use the endorsement as a way to attack Vukmir for joining hands with Ryan, with Wisconsin Democratic Party spokesman Brad Bainum calling him “the worst of Washington’s corporate special interest corruption.”
Democrats have spent much of the primary campaign trying to amplify divisions between the two Republicans while also linking them negatively to the rightward shift of the state’s government.
Updated at 12:23 p.m.