While Republicans still like Paul Ryan, his imminent departure as Speaker — next January or perhaps sooner — won’t break too many up.
Polls running from a year ago to more recently show may Americans have become disillusioned with the friendly, wonky, optimistic Wisconsin native who walked down the gangway of that aircraft carrier in 2012 into our national life as the newly-introduced vice presidential running mate of Mitt Romney.
Almost three years ago the 48-year-old father of three reluctantly relinquished his powerful House committee chairmanship to replace the retiring John Boehner in the thankless, increasingly impossible job of House Speaker. An effective fundraiser, the young Ryan from the Heartland presented an attractive contrast to the doddering coastal elites in their seventies who lead House Democrats.
But like the GOP House caucus in general, Ryan’s approval took a huge hit with last year’s fumbling failures to repeal Obamacare. Today, a new Rasmussen Reports poll finds a majority of Americans (52 percent) have an unfavorable opinion of Ryan, including 29 percent very unfavorable. Thirty-eight percent have a favorable opinion.
Sixty percent of Republicans now hold a favorable opinion, up from 47 percent last summer, while 33 percent have an unfavorable opinion, down from 41 last August. Twenty-one percent of Republicans think Ryan’s departure would be good, 30 percent think it would be bad and 36 percent think it won’t matter.
Ryan says he’s run in his last election and is tired of the regular commute from Washington to Janesville, Wis. because he wants to be more than a weekend Dad to his three children — Samuel, Elizabeth and Charles — and weekend husband to Janna. Returning to Wisconsin would also get Ryan to more games of his beloved Packers.
He must also be tired of trying to herd the GOP’s feuding faction-ridden House caucus, that also chased Boehner from office in 2015. Much of the time, especially during last year’s failed Obamacare repeal efforts, the various GOP gangs looked like those circus clown cars with one after another climbing out, each with their own uncompromising version of pending legislation.
At the moment it appears Ryan’s No. 2, Kevin McCarthy has the leg up on becoming his successor, assuming he can placate enough Freedom Caucus members with plum committee assignment promises. That would put the leadership of both House parties on the coasts, both McCarthy and Nancy Pelosi being from California.
Already, restive Republicans are grumbling that Ryan has become an ineffective lame duck, waiting until January to depart the House, with evaporating influence in the meantime. McCarthy, however, would be crazy to agree to take the Speaker’s Office this summer. If, as history suggests and it now appears, the GOP takes a beating in November’s midterms, better to have Ryan walk away with the blame.