Prediction: Speaker Ryan will retire and not run in 2018

Prediction: Speaker Ryan will retire and not run in 2018
© Greg Nash

One of the most interesting political stories of 2017 involved widely reported rumors that House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanJuan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Cheney takes shot at Trump: 'I like Republican presidents who win re-election' Cheney allies flock to her defense against Trump challenge MORE (R-Wis.) will announce he is retiring from Congress and will not run for re-election in 2018.

These stories ran in multiple publications last December, including The Hill, which also reported Ryan refuting the rumor and stating that he has no intention of leaving the House “anytime soon.”


When a member of Congress is confronted with stories about potentially not running for re-election and does not state unequivocally that he or she is running, that only gives credibility to the rumor, whatever the fact.


My view is that Ryan will indeed announce his retirement and not run again in 2018. He is holding back the announcement to avoid House Republicans being devastated by yet another congressional Republican joining the rush to retirement that plagues the GOP today.

Speaker Ryan owes it to his constituents in Wisconsin to make a declarative statement, one way or the other, to make it clear whether he is running or retiring. 

Ryan can disprove my prediction that he will not run by making an unequivocal statement about his intentions in 2018. If he does, I will return to this page and humbly admit that this prediction was proven wrong.

Throughout the corridors of the capitol in official Washington, the possibility of a Ryan retirement is generating far more buzz than the media is reporting today.  

If Ryan does retire, there will be a huge battle between different GOP factions regarding who should succeed him as speaker. Different groups, from the House Freedom Caucus to more traditional Republicans, are positioning themselves behind the scenes for what would be an epic succession battle.

Ryan would have good reasons to retire, if that is his decision. House Republicans are on the defensive politically. There is a better-than-even chance that Democrats regain control of the House in the midterm elections, which is a major reason why so many House Republicans are announcing their retirement in the first place.

There is widespread speculation that Ryan could run for president in some future election. If he does, he would be a credible candidate. He performed well as the vice-presidential nominee running with Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyTrump-backed bills on election audits, illegal voting penalties expected to die in Texas legislature The Memo: Conservatives change their tune on big government Defense & National Security — Military starts giving guidance on COVID-19 vaccine refusals MORE in 2012.  

Ryan’s longer-term political problem is that he has chosen to be one of the leading Trump Republicans in national politics, fervently supporting Trump’s legislative agenda and supporting or tolerating the faction of House Republicans who are attacking Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE, his special counsel team and the FBI. The tighter Ryan is tied to the highly unpopular Trump, the lower the chances he is someday elected president.

Ryan’s short-term problem is far more severe. If Democrats win control of the House in 2018, the House will not be a hospitable place for Ryan and House Republicans, who have spent recent years treating Congress as a one-party Republican state that is widely seen as a bastion of intense support for Trump.

Even worse from Ryan’s point of view, if Democrats gain a significant number of seats in 2018, which is virtually certain, Ryan will find the House ungovernable for Republicans.  

If Ryan spends the rest of the current legislative year sabotaging support for the "Dreamers," as one major Republican faction wants him to do, and launching a new attack against highly popular programs, such as Medicare and Social Security, the strong prospect for Democrats regaining control could become a tidal wave leading to a Democratic mega-landslide.

Having spent a half-life working for Democratic leaders in Congress, if Speaker Ryan asked my advice, which he certainly will not, it would be for him to announce he is getting out now.

He will neither enjoy nor politically benefit from the gathering storm that is facing House Republicans today and appears destined to become even worse. This is not conducive to the most happy family or professional life.

If Ryan announces he is retiring this year, the news would be devastating for House Republicans, but the longer he waits, the closer the news gets to the midterm voting, and news of Ryan retiring will create even more catastrophic damage for the GOP.

Whether he chooses to run or not, Ryan owes it to his constituents, his party and the nation to announce his intention to run for re-election and promise to serve a full term, or to promptly announce his days in the House are soon coming to an end.

I predict he leaves. Time will tell.

Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the U.S. House of Representatives. He holds an LLM in international financial law from the London School of Economics.