Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan Wins GOP Primary to Seek Tenth Term

Defeats candidate who supported Trump more enthusiastically but didn't get an endorsement.


Speaker's Office

Speaker Paul Ryan handily won his primary today in Wisconsin, defeating challenger Paul Nehlan by a 70 percent margin in his first election since becoming Speaker of the House. Ryan won his first congressional election in 1998.

Back in May, when Ryan, who was chair of the Republican National Convention, flirted with the idea of not endorsing Donald Trump, Sarah Palin jumped in to say she was endorsing Nehlan over Ryan because of it, insisting the problem with Ryan and "his ilk" was they they'd become "disconnected" from the people they represent, "as evidenced by Paul Ryan's refusal to support the GOP frontrunner who we just said is our man." It was an early expression of the anti-Never Trump attitude that because Trump won Republican and Republican-leaning voters were obligated to vote for him, and a variation on the old "a vote for a third party candidate is a vote for the major party candidate I assume you don't like" saw.

Ryan eventually came around to endorsing Trump, and at the Republican National Convention trotted out the same argument Palin had in May. "Democracy is a series of choices," Ryan explained. "We Republicans have made our choice."

Trump, too, had eventually come around to endorsing Paul Ryan, as well as Arizona Sen. John McCain, another elected Republican official he had feuded with (Trump likes "people who weren't captured"). A few days before endorsing Ryan and McCain, Trump said he wouldn't endorse McCain and wasn't ready to do so with Ryan. In one poll, McCain held a 13 point lead (with 39 percent) in a crowded field ahead of the Arizona primary later this month, but had a high unfavorability rating with Republican voters. Were Trump not to have endorsed Ryan and McCain, their wins could only have hurt him come November.

As it stands, the AP's lead anyway framed Ryan's win as a potential sign of "doom" for the Trump campaign in November. Trump tweeted a thank you to Nehlan, raising his profile, for defending Trump as he faced criticism for comments he made about the family of an American soldier who died in Iraq and whose father spoke at the Democratic National Convention.

In his final campaign swing, Ryan praised Trump, saying he was right on trade agreements.