Paul Ryan Easily Wins Primary

Notwithstanding a push by Trump supporters and hard right pundits, House Speaker Paul Ryan easily won his primary challenge last night:

WASHINGTON — The House speaker, Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, easily won his Republican primary on Tuesday, defeating a political newcomer who had received a late surge of attention after being praised by Donald J. Trump.

With more than three-quarters of precincts reporting, Mr. Ryan had 84 percent of the vote, and his rival, Paul Nehlen, had 16 percent.

Mr. Nehlen rose from obscurity in the campaign’s closing days when Mr. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, offered kind words to him on Twitter and later said that he was running “a very good campaign.”

Those gestures thrust Mr. Nehlen into the middle of an intraparty feud between Mr. Trump and Mr. Ryan, the Republican vice-presidential nominee in 2012.

Mr. Trump said last Tuesday that he was not ready to endorse Mr. Ryan, who months earlier had vacillated over his own endorsement of Mr. Trump before finally offering it. Three days later, Mr. Trump, under pressure to unify the party, reversed course and endorsed Mr. Ryan.

Speaking on Tuesday night, Mr. Ryan offered a counterpoint to Mr. Trump’s campaign, without naming him. “In times as uncertain as these, it is easy to resort to division,” he said. “It’s simple to prey on people’s fears. That stuff sells, but it doesn’t stick.”

Mr. Ryan, 46, has represented his southeastern Wisconsin district since he was 28 and remains hugely popular there. But with memories of the 2014 primary defeat of the House majority leader, Eric Cantor, still fresh, Mr. Ryan had worked in recent weeks to avoid any electoral surprise. Drawing on his nearly $10 million in campaign funds, he ran a series of television ads, and he spent last weekend appearing at events like Corn and Brat Days in Elkhorn and the Armenian Fest in Racine.

Nehlen had the support of Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter, and other conservative pundits who had also been behind the candidacy of David Brat, who beat former Virginia Congressman, and former House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor in one of the more shocking primary outcomes in some time. Ryan, however, has never been anything like Cantor. Unlike Cantor, Ryan has stayed very close to his district and could not be painted as having lost touch with its voters the way Cantor could. No doubt, Trump’s tepid endorsement of Ryan put the final nail in Nehlen’s coffin, but he never really had a chance to begin with.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, Congress, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Gustopher says:

    Well, I hope Trump is less tepid in endorsing Ryan in the general election — Ryan is a man engaged in a moral limbo in order to maintain his support for Trump, and Trump should recognize that and reward that.

  2. This just shows the power of a Trump endorsement!

  3. CSK says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Yes, indeed. His endorsement certainly powered Renee Ellmers to a landslide primary victory, didn’t it? Oh….perhaps not.

  4. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    “In times as uncertain as these, it is easy to resort to division,” [Ryan] said. “It’s simple to prey on people’s fears. That stuff sells, but it doesn’t stick.”

    And yet, his sole argument for Trump is that we need to be afraid of electing Hillary.

    “You can fool some of the people some of the time, and that’s usually enough to clear a decent profit.”

  5. @CSK: My comment was pure snark 😉

  6. CSK says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Oh, I know. So was mine.