Former Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who had an uneasy relationship with former President Trump during his time in House GOP leadership, on Wednesday said Trump is causing political problems for Republicans and dragging down the party’s candidates.
Ryan warned that his party has to do “a lot of soul searching” to figure out why a red wave didn’t form on Election Day, as many Republican strategists and even Democrats had expected, given President Biden’s low job approval ratings.
Ryan told a reporter for WISN 12 News that the Republican Party is suffering from a “Trump hangover” and said that the former president’s continued prominence on the national political scene is causing problems for GOP candidates.
“I think Trump’s kind of a drag on our ticket. I think Donald Trump gives us problems politically,” he said during an interview in Janesville, Wis., his hometown.
“We lost the House, the Senate and the White House in two years when Trump was on the ballot, or in office,” he said. “I think we just have some Trump hangover. I think he’s a drag on our office, on our races.”
Ryan also predicted that Trump will not win the GOP presidential nomination in 2024 because too many Republicans don’t think he can win a general election.
“I assume he’s going to announce, but I honestly don’t think he’ll get the nomination at the end of the day,” he said. “We want to win. We want to win the White House and we know with Trump we’re so much more likely to lose. Just look at the difference between votes, between Trump candidates and non-Trump-aligned candidates.
“It’s really clear to me and the evidence is pretty stark that if we have a nominee not named Trump, we’re so much more likely to win the White House than if our candidate’s named Trump,” he added.
A Republican strategist close to Trump, however, dismissed the criticism as something that wouldn’t hurt the former president’s popularity with voters.
“Every time President Trump gets attacked by an establishment figure like Paul Ryan or [Senate Republican Leader] Mitch McConnell, it makes Donald Trump stronger because the reason he’s so popular among the base is because he had a successful agenda,” the source said.
“He secured the border, solved our immigration problems, with no help from Congress,” the strategist added, pointing to Trump’s diplomacy with Mexico and Central American countries to address the flow of illegal immigration across the U.S.-Mexico border.
Ryan also said he was “very happy” to see Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) reelected to a third term but had hoped that more Republican candidates would have won.
“It was a mixed blessing night, but we should have done better than we did,” he said.
Republicans were expecting to pick up 15 to 30 House seats amid polls showing that more than 70 percent of voters are dissatisfied or angry over the way things are going in the country today.
Local officials are still counting the votes in 28 districts, but NBC News projects that Republicans are likely to pick up only nine seats.
Ryan said Republican Party leaders need to undertake a careful review of the disappointing results to learn lessons ahead of the 2024 presidential election.
“I think we’re going to have to do a lot of soul-searching and head-scratching, looking through and parsing the numbers as to why we didn’t perform as well as we would have liked to,” he said.