Paul Ryan’s retirement could signal a disastrous midterm election cycle for Republicans

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  • House Speaker Paul Ryan on Wednesday announced he would not run for reelection, becoming the latest Republican to plan to depart Congress ahead of the midterm elections this year.
  • Ryan’s retirement could signal to other Republicans that tough reelection bids might not be worth the fight.

WASHINGTON – When House Speaker Paul Ryan told his colleagues on Wednesday that he would retire at the end of the year, he signaled what many Republicans are already thinking: Midterm elections will be rough for the GOP if it wants to keep its majority.

Ryan insisted he did not think vulnerable congressional seats and close races were “going to hinge on whether Paul Ryan is speaker or not.”

“I gave it some consideration, but I really do not believe whether I stay or go in 2019 is going to affect a person’s individual race for Congress,” Ryan said. “Look, if we do our jobs – which we are – we’re going to be fine as a majority.”

But the feeling is not mutual for some Republicans.

In this election cycle, the GOP has already seen more than twice as many lawmakers announcing departures as its Democratic counterpart, with members seeking different offices or leaving politics altogether, often offering abrupt resignations. Forty-four congressional Republicans have said they are retiring or seeking higher office, while 19 Democrats have said the same.

Losing Ryan could open the floodgates and prompt more Republicans on the fence about running for reelection to retire, said Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky.

“It may encourage other Republicans to not run again, I think, more so than affecting the money,” Massie told reporters. “We’ve already got twice as many retirements in our party than the Democrats. This may be a signal that it’s OK to retire.”

Republican Rep. Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania, who recently announced his retirement after two terms in the House, disagreed with Massie.

“It doesn’t send a message at all – he’s been here 20 years,” Costello said. “The decision on whether to run or not is a deeply personal decision.”

“It depends what district you’re coming from, I guess,” said Rep. Mark Walker, who chairs the influential Republican Study Committee.

“Maybe unlike the Senate, I think the House, you are responsible for that 750,000 people you represent” and “the relationships that you build,” Walker said. “So I think we’ll have minimal impact as a far as specific members of the House.”

Walker noted, however, the prospect of dwindling fundraising without Ryan as speaker.

Meanwhile, Ryan’s was not even the only announced Republican departure of the day – Rep. Dennis Ross of Florida told the Tampa Bay Times that he planned to leave at the end of his term.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee pounced on Ryan’s announcement. Tyler Law, a spokesman, said in a statement that Ryan “sees what is coming in November and is calling it quits rather than standing behind a House Republican agenda to increase healthcare costs for middle-class families while slashing Social Security and Medicare to pay for his handouts to the richest and largest corporations.”

“Unfortunately, for the many vulnerable House Republicans that Paul Ryan is abandoning, his historically unpopular and failed policies will hang over their reelections like a dark cloud,” Law added. “Stay tuned for more retirements as Republicans increasingly realize that their midterm prospects are doomed.”