Politics

Paul Ryan's Primary Opponent Now Challenging Him for Speaker

Paul Nehlen announces bid for speakership after 68-point primary loss

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan trounced his Republican primary foe in August. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Speaker Paul D. Ryantrounced his Republican primary opponent Paul Nehlen by a 68-point margin in August in Wisconsin's 1st District, but that defeat isn’t stopping Nehlen from challenging Ryan again. 

This time Nehlen is vying with Ryan for nothing less than the speaker’s gavel. The speaker of the House does not have to be a sitting member of Congress, though a nonmember has never been elected to that position. 

In announcing his candidacy Wednesday, the Wisconsin businessman called Ryan “the physical embodiment of Washington’s disregard for the American people” and criticized the speaker for undermining Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s candidacy.

[Ryan Easily Fends Off Primary Challenger In Wisconsin]

“Paul Ryan is the absolute last person who should be in charge of checking and balancing the executive branch of the federal government from the perspective of the federal legislature, and over the next few months, we’ll have a conversation about the proper role of the speaker of the House and what a real leader could do were he to hold the speaker’s gavel,” Nehlen said in a statement. 

While that conversation may indeed take place, it’s highly unlikely that Nehlen will be a part of it.

The House Republican Conference typically meets in November to elect its nominee for the speaker’s race, and a floor vote takes place in January. Additional nominees can be put forth on the floor, but a member has to stand up and speak on their behalf.

[A Crowded Primary Race: One Speaker, One Newcomer and Trump]

It’s unlikely that any member would nominate Nehlen for a post that would put him second in line for the presidency given that he’s never held elected office. It’s also unclear whether Nehlen even knows any elected members of Congress other than Ryan.

The more likely scenario is that a conservative member of Congress will seek to challenge Ryan in the conference vote. Conservatives could also put forth an alternative nominee on the floor hoping to deprive Ryan of the 218 votes needed be elected speaker. 

However, even if Ryan failed to get the votes on first ballot, he’s still likely to win on second ballot, unless a viable alternative candidate emerges.

For now, Ryan is the heavy favorite to win a tenth House term next month against Democratic opponent Ryan Solen, a former Army captain.

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