Speed Reads

Playing politics

Could Donald Trump cost Paul Ryan the speakership?

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is still in his first term as House speaker, but he may not get a second term depending on how things shake out Nov. 8.

His first problem is the math. At present, Ryan leads a 246-seat Republican majority in the House, more than enough to retain his role, but eight of the Republicans who voted against him the first time around will have the opportunity to do so again. If he loses their votes and that majority shrinks on Election Day, Ryan may well find himself dangerously close to the 218 votes he needs to win.

The second problem is Donald Trump, with whom Ryan has had an infamously tumultuous relationship. Trump campaign chairman Steve Bannon is an avowed Ryan enemy (that's Bannon's word choice) and a post-election Trump camp — either victorious and looking to flex its muscles, or defeated and vengeful — might pressure the House GOP to get rid of Ryan.

Ryan's fate may well come down to the decision of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative Republicans that helped orchestrate last year's ouster of Ryan's predecessor, John Boehner, and did not initially back Ryan to replace him. Seven of the eight Republicans who voted against Ryan last time are Freedom Caucus members, and they may be able to rally their peers around another candidate for speaker.