How big of a problem is Ryan’s exit for GOP?

How big of a problem is Ryan’s exit for GOP?

House Republicans scrambling to hang on to their majority this fall are trying to find a bright side to Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanElection Countdown: Trump confident about midterms in Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh controversy tests candidates | Sanders, Warren ponder if both can run | Super PACs spending big | Two states open general election voting Friday | Latest Senate polls On The Money: Midterms to shake up House finance panel | Chamber chief says US not in trade war | Mulvaney moving CFPB unit out of DC | Conservatives frustrated over big spending bills Nancy Pelosi: Will she remain the ‘Face of the Franchise’? MORE’s (R-Wis.) decision Wednesday to announce his retirement effective in January.

Some see Ryan’s exit as an enormous loss for the party that could trigger other retirements and hurt morale, and that sends an ominous signal about the GOP’s chances in November's midterm elections.

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Others say that while Ryan’s decision to announce he’s leaving isn’t helpful, it’s impact — which one headline in The New York Times described as the “nightmare scenario” for Republicans — is being overhyped.

These voices don’t dispute the idea that the GOP is facing stiff headwinds that could cost House Republicans their majority in the midterms. They just say Ryan’s exit does little to change an already difficult situation.

“I mean we can try and sugar coat this all we want, but the Speaker's decision isn't going to have an impact on the majority one way or the other,” said retiring Rep. Charlie DentCharles (Charlie) Wieder DentGOP House candidate placed on leave from longtime position after sexual misconduct allegation Election handicapper moves GOP leader's race to 'toss-up' The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-Pa.).

“We know this is a toxic political environment, and that and this election is going to be a referendum on the president of the United States and his conduct in office.”

One GOP strategist said he doesn’t believe the effects of Ryan’s retirement on the Republican Party will be quite as seismic as they have been portrayed in the media.

But “it’s certainly not a positive thing,” added Matt Mackowiak, a GOP strategist based in Texas.

There had already been a wave of GOP retirements before Ryan’s announcement, but that number is only expected to climb in the coming weeks.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if you had five or 10 more retirements,” Mackowiak said. “Filing deadlines are coming up in the next 60 days. Decisions are going to be made.”

Republicans described a somber mood when Ryan revealed his retirement plans to the GOP conference, saying there was a mix of tears and applause during the closed-door meeting.

Ryan himself pointed to his fundraising prowess on Thursday in arguing that calls for him to speed up his exit are short-sighted.

“I have shattered every fundraising record any Speaker has ever set,” Ryan told reporters during his weekly news conference. “There is nobody whose come close to being able to raise the kinds of funds that I have, and still can raise, for this majority.”

“It makes no sense to take the biggest fundraiser off the field — and I think almost all our members see it that way as well,” he added.

Ryan has developed a deep-pocketed donor list, outraising his predecessor, former Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerNancy Pelosi: Will she remain the ‘Face of the Franchise’? Jordan hits campaign trail amid bid for Speaker GOP senator says he 'regularly' considers leaving Republican Party MORE (R-Ohio).

So far this cycle, Ryan has raised $54 million — $40 million of which he’s transferred to the National Republican Congressional Committee.

GOP strategists, however, warn that Ryan’s fundraising may take a hit now that he’s leaving. They say donors may feel more inclined to shift their money toward the Senate if they view the upper chamber as a safer bet for their investments.

But Republican members expressed confidence that Ryan would still be able to bring in massive fundraising hauls in the wake of his retirement announcement.

“I think he will be a strong fundraiser. He has been, and he will be,” said Rep. Steve StiversSteven (Steve) Ernst StiversHouse Dem campaign chief presses GOP on banning use of hacked materials Trump is wrong, Dems are fighting to save Medicare and Social Security Hillicon Valley: Ex-Trump campaign adviser gets 14 days in jail | Tesla stocks fall after Elon Musk smokes weed on video | Dem, GOP talks over hacked info break down | Russian extradited over massive financial hack | Whole Foods workers trying to unionize MORE (R-Ohio), head of the House GOP’s campaign arm. “He wants to see it through.”

“[Ryan] clearly stated, ‘I think I need to be here, help to raise money and do things like that,’” added Rep. Walter JonesWalter Beaman JonesTrump approves North Carolina disaster declaration for Florence GOP says House votes will take place despite Hurricane Florence S.C. governor orders evacuation along state coastline MORE (R-N.C.). “So I think it’s fine for him to stay until January. He will still draw a lot of people.”

A small band of Republicans calling for Ryan to step down early have argued his exit could cause a drawn out leadership battle that could distract the GOP from its agenda and throw intraparty fights into public view.

“I think it is in the best interest of the conference to move forward quickly” with leadership races, one GOP lawmaker told The Hill.

On the other hand, some Republicans say, a leadership race could actually drum up some much-needed excitement in the party ahead of the elections.

“I think there’s pros and cons in terms of engaging our base,” Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerOn The Money: Midterms to shake up House finance panel | Chamber chief says US not in trade war | Mulvaney moving CFPB unit out of DC | Conservatives frustrated over big spending bills Conservatives left frustrated as Congress passes big spending bills Trump's Puerto Rico tweets spark backlash MORE (R-N.C.) told reporters. “If you have a heated [leadership] race going on in the House, it may create some energy or tension and that voter comes out.

“If that’s already been settled, then maybe there’s more of a dormant mind set.”

Scott Wong contributed.