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Thursday, March 15, 2018


Poor, poor Paul

by Tom Sullivan

House Speaker Paul Ryan's dead-eyed earnestness is ordinarily pretty hard to take seriously. For one thing, the man who would explain to us all how the economy works hasn't worked in it his whole adult life.

In the aftermath of Democrat Conor Lamb's special election win in PA-18 on Tuesday, Ryan's explanations for the GOP loss were comical. Slate's Jim Newell made sure readers didn't miss just how much:

House Speaker Paul Ryan, during a Wednesday morning press conference, gave credit to President Trump, who “helped close this race” by hosting a rally in the district over the weekend. It’s an interesting position to take, that the president could be lauded as a “closer” when the candidate he supported didn’t appear to … win. But Ryan had more where that came from.

“Both of these candidates, the Republican and the Democrat, ran as conservatives,” Ryan argued. “Ran as pro-gun, pro-life, anti–Nancy Pelosi conservatives. And I think that’s the takeaway we see here.”

One can think of other takeaways beyond the race being a great night for conservatism. Let’s look at that litany of issues that Ryan mentioned. On guns, Lamb did not support limits to magazine clips or a new ban on assault weapons, but he did support the sort of expansion of background checks in the Manchin-Toomey proposal, which many conservatives claim would mark the beginning of the end of the Second Amendment. He holds the Tim Kaine position on abortion: He doesn’t personally support abortion but believes it should be legally available—a position known as being “pro-choice.” In the same interview in which he told the Weekly Standard that he does not use the term pro-life to describe himself, Lamb also said that he would have voted against the 20-week abortion ban. It is true that he said he wanted “new leadership” in Congress and would not support Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi’s feelings were likely unhurt.
Not to mention Lamb's describing Ryan's signature achievement, last years's GOP tax bill, as "giveaway" to the rich and large corporations.

As an early test of GOP messaging and recruitment for November, Tara Golshan writes at Vox, "a wave of Democratic enthusiasm" demonstrated their weakness.

Republicans chalking up the loss to Lamb's looks — his it-factor — came in for a special kind of sarcasm from Newell:
Reader, do yourself a favor: Take a look-see at members of the House Republican Conference. Do you think Glenn Grothman make it to the United States Congress through sheer force of his charisma? Did John Faso charm his way into the hearts and minds of New York’s 19th Congressional District? How was George Holding able to inspire the masses in North Carolina’s 13th? Saccone just didn’t “pop” quite like Peter King or Andy Harris.
If anything, Lamb's victory on Tuesday made it clear Democrats running against Paul Ryan's economic message and Republicans' attempts to wreck Obamacare might work better for them than Republicans' perennial demonizing of Nancy Pelosi.

Although Lamb has a point in calling for new leadership. Democrats' stagnation comes from leadership not knowing when it's time to pass the baton and move on. Succession planning is not their forte. Democrats are still kicking around the idea of Joe Biden running for president in 2020. For all the Republican booga-booga, the scariest thing about Nancy Pelosi still leading the House Democratic caucus is a stroke leading to her being succeeded by Steny Hoyer.

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Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer at tom.bluecentury at gmail.