With Ryan out, GOP donors and strategists are giving up on the House and trying to save the Senate
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) may well be retiring to spend more time with his family. "Everybody's going to write the timing is just because Republicans are going to lose — and that's true," GOP mega-donor Dan Eberhart told New York on Wednesday. "But he really just wanted to go home." Like other Republican strategists, donors, and lawmakers, Eberhart argues Speaker Nancy Pelosi is already a fait accompli. "I mean, I think the House is gone," he said. GOP donors, he told USA Today, are "going to naturally shift their focus to the Senate."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his allies have been making the same save-the-Senate pitch. "It seems clear now that the fight is to hold the Senate," Billy Piper, a lobbyist and former McConnell chief of staff, tells The New York Times. Scott Jennings, a longtime GOP operative close to McConnell, agreed. "If you're a donor, and you're looking at Paul Ryan saying, 'I'm going to go ahead and retire,' it's a pretty clear signal," he told New York. "If he thinks the House is lost, who would be more in the know than Paul Ryan? ... McConnell, in the last few days, has said, 'The House is lost, we have to hold the Senate.'"
There is no guarantee that Democrats will win the House, but they need to flip 24 seats to take control, and anywhere from 50 to 80 GOP-held seats are at risk in competitive races versus 16 competitive seats for Democrats, according to Cook Political Report. Ryan's retirement is "a major symbolic blow to the party as it heads into a tough campaign season," Harry Enten says at CNN, but "the writing has been on the wall for a while now. President Donald Trump's low approval rating, Republicans' poor standing on the generic congressional ballot, and Democratic performance in special elections since Trump took office all point to a bad outcome for Republicans in November."