House Speaker Paul Ryan made headlines Tuesday by breaking with his party’s presidential nominee on foreign policy, but the speaker’s schedule this week may be the real story.
Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman who is nine months into one of the two most powerful jobs on Capitol Hill, forcefully split with GOP nominee Donald Trump at a Milwaukee luncheon. Ryan signaled strong support for NATO and free trade agreements, both of which Trump has opposed, making national news since the two men have had repeated, high-profile clashes.
But Ryan also broke with his usual wonkish style to discuss the election, arguing the country’s problems would be more easily solved with Trump as president instead of Hillary Clinton.
"We want to take an agenda to the country, litigate this in the election, talk about this, ask permission to do it, and if we succeed in the election then we've earned the right to put it in place - we've earned the mandate,” he said. “That's the kind of election we want to have so we can actually have the moral authority, and the authority to fix these big retractable problems in our country.”
By tradition, the
two major political parties have ceded the spotlight to each other during
convention weeks, making few public appearances and little news besides giving responses
to reporters. Not these Republicans. Trump on Wednesday made news, and controversy, with a wide-ranging press conference - and Ryan has been busy, too.
By mid-week alone, besides the Milwaukee speech, Ryan has released an interview he did with National Public Radio, issued a press release about a policy commission that has begun work at the Capitol, and advertised a top Republican’s trip to explore poverty in upstate New York.
Democrats fired back on Wednesday. In a statement to AMI Newswire, Brandon Weathersby, communications director for the Wisconsin Democratic Party, put Ryan’s actions in context by saying this week’s Democratic convention was more unified than that of the Republicans.
"The response in Philadelphia has been a unified party excited about their historic nominee,” Weathersby said. “After what we saw in Cleveland last week, it is no surprise that Speaker Paul Ryan is desperate enough to step outside tradition and attack the most qualified candidate to ever run for president of the United States."
Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong dismissed the idea that the speaker was trying to upstage Democrats.
“Coming off the Republican convention, the speaker has been back in the state talking to Wisconsinites,” Strong told AMI Newswire. “He frequently talks about House Republicans' A Better Way agenda.”
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton leads GOP nominee Donald Trump by 5.6 percentage points in the Badger State, 44.3 to 38.7 percent, according to the most recent polling averages as compiled by Real Clear Politics.
But Republicans are also watching the state worriedly because of its Senate race between incumbent GOP Sen. Ron Johnson and Democrat Russ Feingold, whom Johnson unseated four years ago. Currently, Feingold has a 9.3-point lead over Johnson, 50 to 40.7 percent, and Democrats believe the race could validate the “down-ballot” effect some say Trump could have that impacts GOP candidates.