Would GOP have decided otherwise had allegations of Russian meddling not sullied intelligence committee chair Devin Nunes? Or if Democrats hadn’t put in just over 400 days into their majority?
This post has been updated to reflect midterm elections are nearly over.
On Wednesday night, Representative Trey Gowdy was caught by Fox News promoting the prospects of Republicans unseating House Speaker Paul Ryan, whose position is on the line as the House convenes on Thursday.
Fox News anchor Kaitlan Collins: “You say we shouldn’t be mad about the Republicans, that’s one of the best days for Republicans. What kind of speaker would you be and what are you hoping for when you interview new candidates?”
“I would love to see them vote to send us our president as speaker of the House,” replied Gowdy, who is set to host a fundraiser for Ryan.
Ryan’s fellow Republican candidates have seen their electoral fortunes hinge on the Russia investigations, with several facing swing districts and Trump loyalists openly threatening to vote for primary opponents just so they can rid themselves of Ryan, should they win.
Ryan has served in Congress since 2003, but has not run for re-election twice, owing to ethics concerns and an aversion to raising large amounts of money. This year he is seeking a fourth term despite calls from his party’s rank and file for him to step down.
Most recently, however, some Ryan backers fear Republican leaders’ handling of the Russia investigations could lose their party votes in November, when Democrats may gain 40 seats and retake the House. The outcome, they fear, could doom Ryan’s speakership prospects as well as House efforts to repeal Obamacare.
To be sure, Ryan faces significant challenges. Recent polls show the “polarization” of the electorate, which already ranks as one of the greatest challenges to Congress, growing and Republicans fissured over Ryan’s handling of the Russia investigations, raising concerns of the very Republicans Gowdy is banking on to vote against him this fall.
Still, a poll from Monmouth University released on Thursday showed Ryan would win reelection by double digits: 49% to 28%. Just over half of those surveyed, 52%, said the Russia investigations would have no effect on their vote.
Should Republicans indeed lose the House, the GOP’s ranks would shrink further. Should Republican wins in the Senate are smaller than expected, their number would fall to 232, out of a total 435 – 15 short of a majority.
If Democrats are elected to gain the House majority and Ryan loses, he could be next in line to replace him in the speaker’s chair. The maneuvering and maneuvering continues.
“The most recent news about former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and his possible indictment ought to be of great concern to any Republican considering the family ties he may have to the Kremlin,” said Brian Fallon, press secretary for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016.
“The idea that one GOP Senate candidate in Minnesota would push the president to support a speaker pick for his home state speaker of the House is truly astounding,” Fallon added.
“If Republicans face additional losses in the House in November, it’s not just President Trump who will suffer,” said Fallon. “Republicans are most certainly going to lose their majority, and with it, a fair number of vulnerable Republicans will not make it back. Paul Ryan is already a household name in his own right, but one candidate has already signaled he wants to turn him into a national punchline.”
Collins was unaware that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, was conducting the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, but said Gowdy’s comments likely reflected his personal views about the current Trump administration. Collins corrected herself.