Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is facing an uphill climb in his re-election bid for House speaker, regardless of whether Donald Trump wins or loses the White House.
“Speculation is growing that Paul will not return,” one Republican lawmaker told the Hill. “Those who talk to Paul say he is all in to stay speaker, but if you talk to members from the South, many will struggle to vote for him — even though they like him — because their constituents are furious," referring to Ryan's hesitancy to fully embrace Trump as the party's nominee.
To win re-election as speaker, Ryan would need 218 votes in the House of Representatives — half of the lower chamber plus one.
Ryan received 236 votes when he was first elected in October 2015 with opposition from 10 of his Republican colleagues. With just four days to go until Americans vote, the GOP is projected to lose as many as 20 seats in the House, meaning that to retain his speakership, Ryan would need the support of more Republicans than he had last time.
If Trump loses, a number of Republican lawmakers who support Trump are sure to take the loss out on Ryan. If Trump wins, Ryan could face a similar scenario from Republicans who did not endorse the party's nominee. Even so, top aides to the speaker insist they aren't worried.
“He is running. The speaker's only focus until Election Day is defeating Democrats and protecting our majority, and nothing else," a Ryan spokeswoman told the Hill.
Perhaps adding to the woes of the top elected Republican in Congress is the lack of enthusiasm from his party's vice presidential nominee, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. During an interview with National Review on Thursday, Pence three times refused to say if Ryan should be re-elected.
Twice, the vice presidential candidate told the conservative outlet, "My respect for Paul Ryan is boundless." Asked a third time, Pence replied, “I’m not a member of the House Republican conference anymore. I wouldn’t presume upon what the members of the conference choose.”
Ryan's speakership, of course, requires that he first win re-election to Congress. Ryan is expected to win his home district in Wisconsin handily after a tough primary battle over the summer.