In a year in which an outsider candidate seized the reins of one of the country’s two major political parties, there’s one place where folks haven’t gotten the anti-establishment message: House Speaker Paul Ryan’s congressional district in Wisconsin.
Ryan, the GOP’s 2012 vice presidential nominee and now the top Republican office-holder in the country, is facing a primary challenge from local businessman Paul Nehlen. Nehlen popped up on the political radar last month when he released a campaign video, dubbed “Truth Resurrection,” that featured him sleeveless and tattooed, riding around on a motorcycle – and challenging Ryan to an arm-wrestling contest.
On Wednesday, Morning Consult reported that the dark horse candidate had filed almost twice the minimum number of signatures required to get on the ballot for the August 9 primary, gathering 1,800 when only 1,000 were necessary.
“We’ve done what we needed to do to ensure ballot access. Now, we can devote literally every waking moment to getting our message out—putting valuable information in the hands of the voters,” Nehlen said in a statement.
Such an outpouring of support, along with the endorsement of 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, suggests that Nehlen, a tea party sympathizer, might be able to whip up enough support to threaten Ryan, who has come under a microscope for withholding his endorsement of Donald Trump.
However, while Trump has bulldozed traditional presidential contenders and repeatedly boasted about bringing new voters into the Republican Party who fervently want to change the ways of Washington and the GOP, it’s important to note that so far, not a single Republican incumbent has lost his or her primary this year.
And that looks to be the case for Ryan, even though his lack of support for Trump has rankled some within his party.
The race appears to be Ryan’s to lose but there are many milestones between now and primary day, including the Republican National Convention this summer in Cleveland, which the Wisconsin lawmaker is slated to chair.
Should Ryan choose not to endorse Trump, he could come under intense fire from his fellow Republicans. Or, if the convention goes off the rails, there could be similar demonstrations like the one that occurred at a Trump rally in Ryan’s district in March where the speaker’s name prompted boos.
“How do you like Paul Ryan? You like him?” the developer asked as the jeers rained down.